Most of the time (but not always), price in the fashion world is associated with higher quality—your sweater from H&M may look nice, but it probably won’t last as long as one from Barney’s or Banana Republic. And while the recession may have scaled back the number of people who can afford to buy pricey, high-quality clothes, it hasn’t changed the amount of people who still want these items. The evidence: Everlane, a web-only brand that offers designer-quality goods for under $100, already has 100,000 members since launching November 1.
Everlane, which is billing itself as the first major lifestyle brand to be built entirely online, offers "luxury essentials"—T-shirts, ties, bags—at H&M prices. It’s all made possible because Everlane eschews any sort of physical presence; because Everlane sells direct to the consumer and doesn’t have a physical store, it can remove 50% to 75% of traditional retail costs.
Every month, Everlane reveals a new collection. This month is T-shirts. "We go after products we think are essential items that are often overpriced. We said, Barney’s has $50 t-shirts we love, we know they actually cost $6 to make, so why don’t we bring [similar quality shirts] to consumers for $15?" explains Michael Preysman, the cofounder and CEO of Everlane.
The Kleiner Perkins-funded company doesn’t open up its own factories, either. "We try to find factories that are already doing the same things we’re looking for with brands that you’ve heard of," says Preysman. The company discovered, for example, that one of the oldest (and most well-known) tie manufacturers in the U.S had capacity in its factory. So Everlane wedged its way in, and now sells the same quality tie for $30.
Unlike traditional retailers, Everlane doesn’t overproduce its products. Instead, it underproduces, with only 1,500 shirts made for the brand’s 100,000 members (membership is currently capped). Eventually, Everlane plans to crowdsource its collections. "Six months ahead of time, we’ll create 50 [pieces] of six different styles, put them up for sale to a small group of people, see how well they do, and then determine whether to make more," says Preysman. Not only will that prevent waste, it will also save cash for everyone involved.
Everlane will open up to the general public in December. In the meantime, Preysman says, "we’re okay with things selling out and learning from our consumers."