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Web-only Everlane deals in quality fashion without steep markup

April 26, 2012 |  6:01 pm

Everlane
With the deluge of daily-sale blasts coming over email from designers, stores and flash sites like Gilt Groupe, plus new, lower-priced designer collaborations for such retailers as Target and H&M born every hour, when it comes to fashion today it's easy to be overwhelmed by choice and confused about what things really cost. 

Enter the Web-only clothing and accessories company Everlane, founded on a less-is-more philosophy of offering a pared-down selection of high-quality men's and women's "luxury basics" with very little markup in price. That means, for example, a garment-dyed, Supima cotton T-shirt made in Los Angeles that a designer might sell for $50 in his own boutique, costs just $15 on Everlane.com. 

While fashion labels and retailers typically mark up prices as much as five times the production cost, Everlane saves money by being an online-only operation and passing the savings, as they say, onto the consumer, offering items at markups only 2 to 2 1/2 times the production cost.

BeltTo demonstrate the company's message of quality at the right price, the Everlane folks, who are based in Los Angeles, are hosting an online "at-cost pop-up" deal Friday at 7 a.m. PST/10 EST, offering Italian leather belts for $15, which is exactly what they cost to produce with no additional markup.

"[Flash sale sites] Gilt Groupe and Ideeli opened consumers' minds to the idea that if everyone is putting this stuff on sale, how much does it really cost to make?" said CEO Michael Preysman, who worked at private equity and tech firms before starting Everlane six months ago with co-founder Jesse Farmer.

"We're not going to be the cheapest place in the world," he said. "We’re trying to do high quality at a price point you’ve never seen before. "

So far, the site sells simple crew and V-neck T-shirts in soft watercolor shades ($15), French terry sweatshirts ($35), tote bags ($30) and reversible bow ties ($35), all with a minimalist appeal similar to that of Japanese brands Uniqlo and Muji. The info graphics on the Everlane site -- similar to something you might see in Wallpaper magazine -- explain the company's simplified supply chain, which involves production in small factories in California, Texas and New York.

It would seem that Everlane taps into several current cultural conversation points -- curation, local sourcing and thrift among them. It's the opposite of throwaway chic.

"We're not about fashion or trends. The word we use is 'taste,' " Preysman explained. There are no logos or labels, and that is by design. "There is more and more focus today on the brand versus the product," he said. "And the general complaint I hear is that people can't find quality. What does quality even mean anymore?"

Everlanechart

Preysman's challenge, of course, is getting this message of quality and taste across to shoppers who cannot touch or try on the items he's selling, because they are only available on the Web.

And although the at-cost belt is available to all, there's currently a waiting list to shop the rest of Everlane.com, something Preysman insists was not a bid for exclusivity, but rather a necessary step in the early stage of the business, to make sure there was enough inventory to satisfy the demand. (Several items are currently sold out on the site.)

More than 200,000 new members have signed up since the launch in November, he said. By the end of May, when inventory levels are adjusted, the site will be completely open.

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-- Booth Moore 

Photos and graphics from Everlane.

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