Don't Tread on Me
by Jeff Henderson·
Designing for Everlane
In the Fall of 2017 the folks at Frame introduced me to the CEO of an online retailer I’d never heard of. Michael Preysman started Everlane in 2010 on the radical idea of being transparent as a business. He wanted to know if the $400 t-shirt was better than the $4 t-shirt and why it had to be $400. He discovered that the $400 t-shirt was better than the $4 t-shirt, but that it didn’t have to cost $400.
As Everlane grew their product line they skipped over one of the pillars of most fashion businesses - the sneaker. So Michael and his team began ideating on Everlane’s answer to what everyone else was already tackling.
My contribution to their conversation started out by learning who they were — their brand and their customer. I was fascinated by the way they interacted with real people about real topics in real time. I had lived with the two book ends of product creation with Nike and Yeezy. Most brands landed on the linear path between the two.
Over the next year I enjoyed working through the conversations of product design and manufacturing with a goal in mind that their consumer believed in. By no means was this the Utopian corporation where everyone agreed on every facet of saving the world no matter the business implications. Yet, there was always an intrinsic value to the conversations that wouldn’t be discarded for the sake of fashion or profit. The vibe of doing the right thing for the right reason and you will make money was never more clear in my career.
There’s a point in every project where the product has its own personality. As this project evolved — before it even had a name — I simply wanted the shoe to be an Everlane shoe. Visually we found the language and the vibe that connected with their overall line. The color and material vibe carried a gender neutral finish that worked with everything they sold.
But it was the transparency with which Michael broke down the $400 t-shirt that helped my see how the finished shoe would ultimately connect with their consumer. And their storytelling aligned with that vision.
During the year and a half that we worked on this project, I had to explain to my sneaker-industry friends who Everlane was. Like Allbirds, the brand had very little overlap in the worlds that were connected to Yeezy or LunarGrand. Most would see the finished shoe and shrug their shoulders. It wasn’t for them.
Because it wasn’t for them.
After the shoe launched I received well-wishes from folks I hadn’t heard from in years. “Did you design that shoe?” they asked. “I bought 3 colors already.”
This shoe was for them.