Wardrobe Crisis: Why Don’t More Brands Detail the Cost and Profit Breakdowns of Their Products?

This week on the Wardrobe Crisis Podcast, Clare Press meets Everlane founder Michael Preysman.

Do you have any idea how much it actually costs to make your clothes? Most brands would rather you didn’t. Where Everlane led with price transparency, almost no one followed, says the brand’s founder Michael Preysman. 

Why not? “I think at the end of the day, they would be revealing that they have a much larger mark-up than we do at Everlane,” he says. 

Listen to the interview here.

If price transparency was the norm, it would blow sale culture out of the water. Brands routinely mark-up pre-sale items more than necessary, so they can wear the discounts come sale time. What’s more, much of the supposedly “sale product” in outlet stores has actually been manufactured and priced with outlets in mind, making us think we’ve scored a bargain, when in fact the item in question was never supposed to sell for more. Tricky! 

It’s been eight years since Everlane, the American basics disruptor, unleashed what it calls “radical transparency”, sharing their cost breakdowns for each garment on their website. 

Considering buying a pair of their jeans? You can read that they cost $9.60 to make in labour, $14.76 in materials, and $3.49 in hardware, and that duties added another $4.62, transport another $1.75. According to the website, that adds up to a “true cost”, of $34. Everlane’s retail price is double that.

They also share supply chain info, detailing which factories make their clothes and accessories, and where they are located.

Asked to define radical transparency, Preysman tells Wardrobe Crisis: “For us it means there’s nothing that we hide from the customer. If you look at a typical product online…there’s just a price (maybe it’s on sale, maybe it’s not) then it says ‘imported’. You receive it and the label says ‘Made in Vietnam, or whatever. That’s all you know.”

Everlane is different, he says, because: “We tell you the cost of the material, the labour, transportation, duties, every bit of it, then we tell you our profit. What it does is build trust, because we are accountable to the customer.”

Andrew Morgan’s film, The True Cost, has centred in the public consciousness the idea that someone always pays the cost of too cheap. That someone is usually the garment worker. But who pays the cost of too expensive? It’s an interesting question, especially in the context of fashion’s increasing speed and disposability. Preysman says it’s the customer. What do you think?  


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