Everybody in New York Wanted to Check Out Everlane's First Permanent Brick-and-Mortar Store
At least, that's what it felt like.
The first time I tried to visit Everlane’s first-ever brick-and-mortar store in Nolita, I couldn’t get through the door. Well, not without standing in a barely moving line spanning an entire block of Prince Street.
Considering the store had only opened the day before (on Saturday), and it was nearing closing time, I decided to return on Monday evening to scope out the raved-about space.
Around 6 p.m. the following day, I walked straight through the glass doors and into an Everlane oasis where I was greeted by a cheery woman with bangs wearing a gray and white-striped sweater. Though there was no line, the store was again teeming with people — and the toll of the insane foot-traffic was evident.
The white floors were scuffed, piles of sweaters laid out on pine shelves were in disarray and shoe boxes belonging to the brand's best-selling Modern Loafers and Day Heel littered the floor near the try-on benches, tissue paper stuffing spilling like guts onto the ground. The bitingly bright lights — reflecting off the stark yet pristine white walls — served to only intensify the look of chaos rather than inspire the calm you would expect based on the number of potted plants dotting the walls.
Sure, the product was right there, ripe for IRL interaction and appreciation, but unlike the easy-to-navigate, clutter-free website, the store was jumbled at the hands of die-hard Everlane junkies. Oof.
As a former retail employee, my immediate instinct was to grab a folding board and get to work on a pile of fisherman sweaters heaped unceremoniously on the entry table — however, I refrained, instead choosing to occupy myself by touching the $100 cashmere sweaters I’d lusted over online but had been too chicken to pull the trigger on without so much as a cheek-to-face rub (the ultimate test for softness, in my opinion).
It was precisely this type of consumer interaction with the product that inspired Everlane founder Michael Preysman to finally concede to opening a permanent brick-and-mortar space this year, with a second to open in 2018 in the company’s home base of San Francisco. (After notoriously telling The New York Times in 2012 that Everlane would “shut the company down before we go to physical retail," Preysman was forced to grin and bear it while his words were repeated back to him again and again.) “Online you can do things that are very different than in a physical manifestation,” Preysman told WWD in October, adding that a physical space also helps customers escape the "ADD world" of a cellphone shopping experience.
Unlike traditional retail, not all of the products displayed in store are available for purchase. A denim wall, for example, displays product in all cuts and sizes for the purpose of trying on; transactions, however, are actually conducted online.
Being a digital-first company, Everlane also implemented several tech-savvy perks, including buzzers to alert shoppers when a fitting room has opened up and an easy checkout system that utilizes existing Everlane customers’ shopping information. A wall featuring postcards with information about the company's various factories in Los Angeles, Peru and Vietnam reminded shoppers of the brand's commitment to transparency and ethical production.
In addition to acting as a vehicle for customers to connect IRL with the product, the store also will serve as a tool for Everlane to grow and interact its customer community by hosting panels and presentations.
One can only assume that once the initial fervor of rabid Everlane fans subsides and associates adapt to the high volume of customer traffic (Disclaimer: In no way am I placing blame on the associates for the store’s messy state of affairs), the space will become a less stressful shopping destination. After all, shoppers can only appreciate the on-brand minimalist and unfussy designs if they can see them.
28 Prince St., New York, NY 10012; (415) 506-7691