If CEO Andrea O’Donnell’s track record is any indication, Everlane is on the brink of a glow-up. Most recently, O’Donnell was president of fashion lifestyle at Deckers Brands, where she drove record levels of consumer demand and brand consideration for Ugg, among other accomplishments.
“When I landed at Ugg, it wasn’t the hottest brand in the universe by any stretch of the imagination. It was very much defined as a cold-weather boot, and it was my responsibility to think about the brand and the product opportunity in a different way,” she said. “And it became a thing.”
In late 2021, O’Donnell left Deckers to take on the role of Everlane CEO, a position formerly held by founder Michael Preysman. Preysman, who stepped down, now serves as the brand’s executive chairman and climate lead.
Regarding what drew her to Everlane, O’Donnell credited Preysman, who she called a “bold and provocative thinker.” She also pointed to the company’s strong team, growth potential and sustainability focus.
“If you want to be a progressive brand, and you want to be modern and relevant, you have to take climate change really seriously,” she said.
Now, 18 months in, her initial ideas for taking the company to the next level are coming to fruition — though the path hasn’t been without obstacles. In January, Everlane laid off 17% of its corporate staff, largely within its customer service and creative teams. In a company email, it owed the cuts to “the inflationary environment and recessionary risk.”
In this week’s episode of the Glossy Podcast, O’Donnell breaks down how she’s been balancing Everlane’s popular sustainability focus with her style vision for the brand. She also discusses her plans to reach profitability and tackle expansion.
Below are additional highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited for clarity.
Sustainability meets style
“Our focus really has been evolving the brand expression. Back in the day, the Everlane story was radical transparency, disruptive pricing — it was much more left-brain and rational. And our consumers told us that we had the opportunity to be more style-driven because that’s more of a driver of purchasing decisions than anything overly intellectual. So we had an opportunity to be more style driven, more emotional and more aspirational, and we’re moving in that direction. And we’re building a product strategy that’s based on the idea of a forever wardrobe, timeless style, conscious craft, purposeful design. And that has been a work in progress, probably since [chief creative officer] Mathilde [Mader] started in 2022. And we’re seeing that product strategy and brand strategy come into the market now. But we don’t have all the answers yet, and we’re still feeling our way toward what this looks like. Obviously, nobody has the answers — otherwise, the IPCC wouldn’t be saying what they’re saying. But we’re working hard to do the right thing. For us, the opportunity is to get our own, kind of, ecosystem right and in good order, and then to really start growing beyond where we are at the moment. Because the more we can evidence that this works — that there is this idea of sustainable style that does excite consumers and actually does reduce CO2 emissions so that you can be healthy and profitable and not oversupply the market — then the more influential we’ll be. That’s the intention.”
The path to profitability
“We’re on the path to profitability. And we’re making really strong progress, and there is a lot to be proud of. Going into 2023, for most brands, it was a very uncertain outlook. We thought 2022 was very turbulent, and then you started speaking to people at the end of 2022, talking about the outlook for 2023, and the consensus view in December, as I was advised by various, very well-educated finance people, was that it was gonna get worse. So, [we prepared for] another 12 months of hard work, of three steps forward and two steps back on a good day. But we set the budget for 2023 — even in the context of people saying the macroeconomic environment is going to get worse, not better — with cautious optimism. We felt very confident in where we were taking the brand, and that the product was value-additive to existing customers and also for those people that didn’t understand the Everlane brand or weren’t aware of it; it was positioned really well. There’s this whole kind of zeitgeisty moment, and it’s reflected on all the catwalks — it’s a return to timeless style and a respect for craft. There is a lot going on now in fashion, and — whether it’s a reflection of what the apparel industry is doing to the planet or whether it is just a recognition that consumers want something that feels long-standing and timeless and trustworthy and appropriate — we’re very well positioned in the context of that. We don’t express ourselves as a trend-driven brand, and that is very appealing to a large number of people. So we came into this year feeling very confident about it. We had a product strategy with more design intent in various categories, [including] dresses. … And we’ve had some really promising signs. And that’s all in the context of the hard work that the team has done on multiple different levels, including materials, margin, et cetera, et cetera.”
Growth and expansion
“[The focus for] this year is: Let’s work out what we have in all of the work we did last year, so: new product strategy and new brand strategy, plus we have a new lead of e-commerce who is doing an amazing job and we opened a couple of shops. So we’re working on that. And then 2024 is really about growth, which will mean diversification. That will mean more shops, it will probably mean wholesale, and it will mean a more concerted effort on international. We know there’s a significant opportunity in the U.S. Every time we’ve done the calculations and consultants have come in to advise us, they’ve talked about an addressable market of more than a billion for us, and I really believe that. Many conscious consumers out there don’t have a lot of alternatives, and Everlane will give them that alternative. So, I think if we can improve our awareness and consideration, and some of that comes through from opening shops, we can access that addressable market in the U.S.”