Pros: innovative supply chain, good quality for price, slow-fashion
Cons: accused of union-busting, performative social justice activism
In all, $78 is a reasonable price for a high quality and environmentally conscious pair of jeans. However, if you have the money to spend, I would recommend shopping at more sustainable brands such as Kuyichi, which has been using only organic cotton since 2001, and Outerknown, which has numerous certifications that ensure the fair treatment of their workers and even repairs and recycles their jeans for their customers. The promise of “Radical Transparency” is ambitious and even admirable, but Everlane needs to make a greater effort to ensure the welfare of their employees and be more honest about where their materials come from before being able to truly claim that.
These signature Everlane jeans are 100% cotton. This is surely a step up from other jeans which may use synthetic materials like elastane, which releases harmful plastic micro-fibers into our water ways when washed. However, it is disappointing to see that the cotton used for these jeans is not organic. Cotton is notorious for its pesticide-intensive farming process. In fact, cotton farming is responsible for 16% of the world’s insecticide use and 6.8% of the world’s herbicide use even though it only occupies 2.5% of the world’s agricultural land. The extensive use of pesticides has disastrous results. They pollute the soil in which the cotton grows but can also seep into and contaminate vital water ways.
Creating denim is one of the most environmentally damaging processes in the fashion industry. One reason is because of the water-intensive process of farming the cotton and then processing the denim. At Saitex International, Everlane’s denim manufacturer, they have managed to cut down the amount of water used to produce a pair of jeans from 1,500 L to 0.4 L by creating an in-house Effluent Treatment Plant that allows for the factory to recycle 98% of its water. Saitex has used technology and innovation to reimagine other usually harmful steps of the denim-making process as well. For example, they use lasers to soften their jeans as opposed to the more labor-intensive and toxic technique of “sandblasting”, which releases fine dust particles into the air that can cause respiratory problems for workers. Saitex repurposes its waste products as well, turning the “sludge” from its water treatment plant into bricks to be used to build affordable homes. Something I wish Everlane and Saitex would provide more transparency on, however, is the dyes they use to color their jeans. Certain synthetic dyes like TiAzo dyes are known to release carcinogenic compounds into the air and have already been banned in the EU, China, Japan, and other countries.
Everlane is seemingly every socially conscious minimalist’s go-to clothing brand. Founded on the promise of “Radical Transparency”, Everlane tries to tackle both the environmental harms of the fast-fashion industry and the often out-of-reach pricing of high-quality clothing. From the outside looking in, they seem to be living up to their promise. They’ve vowed to eliminate all new plastic from their entire supply chain by 2021 and to use only certified organic cotton by 2023. They’re vocal and proactive about social issues as well, donating over $150k to justice organizations for the #BLM movement and speaking out about LGBTQIA+ rights. However, the company is not as radically transparent as it claims to be. For example, it has recently come under fire for its poor treatment of employees. Retail store workers have continuously brought up concerns about their lack of benefits and low wages. Former employees have also reported that Everlane did not allow them to unionize. In terms of their supply chain, Everlane has been inconsistent at best with citing where it sources its materials from, even though this is one of the most ethically and environmentally detrimental parts of clothing production.
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