Everlane: Where we go from here.
As promised, I wanted to publish my thoughts on Everlane and my relationship with them moving forward after a group of anonymous former Everlane employees formed an Instagram account called @Ex.Wives.Club and outlined, in detail, their upsetting experiences encountering racism while working at Everlane. I posted stories addressing this shortly after, but I will sum up here prior to diving into more details, in case you missed it.
First, I absolutely stand with those former employees who spoke up about their experience, and I’m thankful that they came forward because that is the only way change can be possible! Listening to these experiences (and not making excuses as to why they may have occurred, no matter how much we love the brand) is imperative.
Second, I’ll be honest in that processing what happened has been a bitter pill to swallow. Everlane was my brand! I was the Everlane poster child. I believed so hard in their mission, I ADORE their clothes. They are beautiful, functional, and well-made. I love the team I get to work with and have only ever had wonderful things to say about the company. I have been a fan since day one. (LONG long before they ever paid me.)
Candidly, I also make a significant portion of my income from Everlane–both from affiliate commission when someone buys the brand through my links (Everlane is far and away my #1 converting retailer) and because they are an ongoing sponsor of mine and compensate me well for our ongoing partnership. (The only brand partner I’ve had continue on with their regular partnership when the pandemic hit, I might add.)
But this has also been a tough exercise in checking my own bias and blind spots. I am always the person who looks on the bright side, who gives people the benefit of the doubt, and who believes people’s “intentions” are good–but good intentions can still be harmful.
My initial reactions when reading the @Ex.Wives.Club post were anger and heartbreak that acts of racism could happen at a company I respected so much–one that was founded on high values. I then thought, “surely not ALL of this was intentional?” but the truth is that it doesn’t matter what was or was not intentional, or what can be chalked up to white fragility and ignorance. Me making excuses as I processed everything going on is textbook gaslighting. The point is that it happened. People were hurt. Racism exists whether or not white people say it was “intentional.” We need to listen to them, and so does Everlane.
It was also an opportunity to reflect on my privilege as a white “influencer partner” who got a major reality check–in that I cannot assume MY positive experience with the company was representative of every employee, especially BIPOC employees.
The first time I addressed this on stories, I shared that I had a call scheduled with the Everlane team and that I hoped it would give me more clarity as to how/when they will respond and what actions they will be taking.
I also shared that the future of my relationship with the brand will be determined based on how they address this with their customers, former employees, and current employees (not how they address it with me as an influencer).
I let you know that I would keep you posted coming out of discussions with them. But I wanted to make sure you knew that I view this as an issue that is bigger than my pride and my paycheck. And that my end goal is that hopefully Everlane can move forward, make big changes to their company culture to become an inclusive work environment for all of their employees, and grow into a much better company as a result. I hoped that I could play an active role in getting them to that place.
So–that’s why we’re here today, where I plan to share more details as to why I’ve decided to step away from my Everlane partnership at this time and hit pause on creating sponsored content until changes are made.
Holding brands accountable vs. Canceling:
I want to first make a distinction between holding brands accountable and canceling them, because I think it’s most helpful as an influencer (and a consumer) to hold brands we are close to accountable rather than outright canceling. I want to be able to use my influence for good–to get companies to a better place for their employees and their customers. This is why I was not quick to react (or cancel) Everlane publicly without giving myself time to process. (Thus…here we are today).
What do I mean when I say “I want to use my influence for good?” In most instances, I am closer to a brand’s customers than they will ever be, because I am having one on one discussions with hundreds those customers (or potential customers) every week. I am both a customer AND a representative of thousands of customers at the same time.
So when the first post went up on the @Ex.Wives.Club account, I voiced my concerns to Everlane and was thankful to be able to get on a call with their CEO, Michael Preysman, and four other influencer partners. He debriefed us on the actions being taken behind the scenes in order to address these very troubling concerns and assured us that this was something Everlane was taking seriously.
First, they had hired a third party to investigate the concerns laid out by the @Ex.Wives.Club and also to conduct an audit of the existing company culture to identify areas that needed immediate attention and to ensure that no current employees shared this same sentiment.
He also shared that they are upping their training to include not just implicit bias training but also active anti-racism training. They developed a hotline/text line where employees could report any issues and information anonymously and that each matter would be taken seriously. The company also hosts company-wide town halls on a regular basis where employees can voice any concerns with the CEO and leadership team members.
(I know there were more, but these are just the immediate actions I can recall off the top of my head. In hindsight I should’ve taken better notes, because they really didn’t share all of them in the statement they made later.)
Of course, the white privilege I hold obviously needs to be taken into account when assessing this situation (as well as the fact that there was not one Black person on the call) but to me, this SOUNDED like the right things were happening. (At least, as someone from an outside perspective.)
But when myself and the other influencers asked, “when and how are you planning to address this with your community and communicate the action plan you have in place? How you will hold yourselves accountable?” they had no answer.
I guess I’m sharing this all to say, I’m not stepping away from my partnership because I have reason to believe they aren’t taking this seriously behind the scenes. I’m stepping away because they aren’t taking the necessary steps in their communication to own where they messed up, and it does not seem like they are working to make things right with their employees, existing customers, and their community.
How we got here:
Michael seemed genuinely surprised (I may even use the word “shocked”) upon hearing our feedback that the brand seemed out of touch with its customers and two Instagram stories they had posted in response to @Ex.Wives.Club did not suffice as a meaningful response.
To his credit, he listened and thanked us for our candid feedback as we, for lack of a better term, *respectively lashed* into the brand, how poorly they had handled themselves and their perceived lack of humility and empathy. I left the call simultaneously cautiously optimistic that what we’d shared had resonated and hopefully would motivate them into further action and also a little taken aback that a company could be so out of touch with reality and its consumers.
This conversation inspired me to take to IG stories to ask many of you some questions on brands (not specifically Everlane but much of the feedback was Everlane specific given this dialogue we’ve been having) and how they’re speaking out against racial injustice, and what kind of communication you expect from them moving forward (especially from those who mess up). I’ll be compiling that into a “report” of sorts that I will publish separately (so I can send it to any brand who will listen!!) but I wanted to pull a few bites I received from you all last week.
Coming out of our call with Michael, I followed up with an email to reiterate my thoughts, and in that thread also included the following feedback I received from many of you via DM. (These were the exact reader quotes in the email that I sent him):
“I would like to see more behind the scenes from brands. This is who we’re employing, this is where we source from, etc.”
It took five more days after our phone call for Everlane to post a statement to their feed, which went up past midnight in most timezones. I’ll include that post that you can scroll through below and you can also read it here. In the meantime, they sent out marketing emails like business as usual, and continued to ignore comments from their Instagram followers.