Everlane’s “Choose What You Pay” Sale: What is the Value of Transparency Pricing?

Online subscribers of the ever-so-popular Everlane brand e-commerce site received an email last week giving them exclusive access to an exclusive shopping event stating that “This is not a sale—it’s better” and emphasizing that the consumer would be the one setting the price.

For those of you not familiar with Everlane, it’s an online store that emphasizes radical transparency and continues to prompt their customers to ask themselves questions pertaining to ethically produced and cost transparency.

“Know Your Costs” from Everlane’s About section

We believe customers have the right to know what their products cost to make. At Everlane we reveal our true costs, and then we show you our markup.

In traditional retail a designer shirt is marked up 8x by the time it reaches the customer. By being online only, we eliminate brick-and-mortar expenses and pass these savings on to you.

Example of transparent pricing breakdown. Information provided for every item:

With documentaries such as True Cost and organizations such as Fashion Revolution asking consumers the hard question, “Who made my clothes?” Everlane continues to challenge you to #KnowYourFactories and offers a comprehensive look at the various factories they use across the world from San Francisco, USA to Dongguan, China. Everlane’s commitment to transparency does not end with just the cost breakdown but also supplies information on each of the factories that produce their garments including the number of employees at each factory, information about the owner and highlights their specialities while showcasing the facilities in an array of photographs.

Example of factory information. Information provided for every production factory:

Screen Shot 2016-07-10 at 9.12.05 PM

“Choose What You Pay”

Sales are often used to liquidate old stock, work as traffic incentives or to help build repeat purchases but this approach to discounted shopping highlights their commitment to transparency as well as forcing consumers to ask themselves a moral question: “What am I willing to pay for?”

Do you want to pick the highest discount option? Covering the costs of just production and shipping? Maybe pay a bit more and help pay their staff? Or perhaps the lowest discount option, which would cover everything previously listed as well as help Everlane’s continuing investment and growth?

“If you’re honest and transparent with people, then they’ll sort of treat you with decency in return.” – Everlane CEO Michael Preysman

Like events that are admission by donation, by allowing customers to set their price Everlane is also asking their customers what’s in the value of a mark-up and gives customers a real choice in the fight for ethically produced fashions by spotlighting their core tenet. Or is it too much for customers?

Only half a year ago, during Christmas 2015, Everlane was still using prompts clearly explaining what each sale price entailed for the company: “$9 extra to Everlane. This helps cover production, shipping, and overhead for our 70-person team.” According to NY Mag,  “People feel bad paying less than what they feel the item is ‘worth,’ but at the same time they feel conflicted about choosing to pay more than they have to.” Additionally, “People are less concerned about how other people view them and more concerned with the way they see themselves.”

Last time a “choose what you pay” sale was available on Everlane roughly 10% of people chose to pay more than the lowest listed price. Why wouldn’t you go for the most bang for your buck? Pay-what-you-can can even backfire. The author of the NY Mag article ended up not buying anything, because that way she wouldn’t have to make a decision. However, Everlane CEO Michael Preysman is optimistic and believes that, “If you’re honest and transparent with people, then they’ll sort of treat you with decency in return.”

Kudos to Everlane for effectively using a “pay-what-you-want” model. Even if it’s a marketing gimmick to appeal to the budget-conscious and it makes you cringe a little when you have to decide on the value of clothing’s “true cost,” one thing is apparent: transparency is the new black.

Vicki Duong


Vicki Duong is a self-proclaimed multifaceted fashion hustler. Since moving to Vancouver in 2013 she has styled editorial shoots, costumed for film and television, worked in fashion distribution and wholesaling and wardrobed for world tours. When it comes to shopping she keeps the planet and its inhabitants in mind by purchasing sustainable, ethically produced, or second-hand whenever possible.

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