Everlane Performance Chino

overall rating:

0.8

planets

Ethan Coyle
11/21/2021
No items found.

I recently ordered a pair of the Men’s Performance Chino by Everlane, and seemingly overnight they have become my new favorite pair of pants. They look good, they fit good, and they are made of this awesome stretchy material that is so comfortable. Despite their strengths as clothing, I’ve come to wonder about the sustainability of these pants. I have no idea where they were manufactured, and no clue if the workers who grew the fibers and stitched the pants were paid a fair wage. I don’t know how much water may have been used to grow the cotton that would eventually hang from my waist, and I have no idea what the material is that makes these pants so loveably stretchy — what is chino anyways? Consequently, I’ve decided to jump in the deep end with Everlane and discover if the Performance Chino is sustainably produced. What I’ve found is that Everlane has made strides to be better than the typical clothing brand, however, the Performance Chino is not sustainably produced like some of their other popular items, and the company has some shortcomings in terms of fairness and behavior in the offices.

What it's made of:

0.5

On their website, Everlane lists that the Performance Chino is made from 94% cotton and 6% Elastane. It is no secret that global cotton production can use huge quantities of water as well as be one of the dirtiest industries in terms of pesticide use, but Everlane is making strides to engage in healthier practices. I couldn’t find estimates for the amount of water used to produce one pair of cotton pants online, but it is widely accepted that about 400 gallons of water are used to produce the cotton in one t-shirt and about 1800 gallons for a pair of jeans. I think it is a fair guess to say that the water used to produce a pair of chino pants is in between those 400 and 1800 gallon estimates. No matter the exact value, this is a huge amount of water, and over-usage of the world’s water resources in the cotton industry has led to the drying-up of bodies like the Aral Sea, posing a threat for the future. In fact, a global analysis of the cotton industry found that by 2040, 75% of cotton-growing regions will experience increased heat-stress, meaning lower yields and increased water usage. With this future in mind, it seems that cotton production is self-fulfilling in its negative environmental impact. What’s more, cotton production uses 16% of the world’s pesticides, despite being grown on only 2.5% of the world’s farmland. These pesticides leech into waters that run off into surrounding land and are hazardous to the wildlife that depend on these lands as well as the humans who work with the crops, so it is clear that cotton production is wholly unsustainable at the aggregate level.

In spite of all this, Everlane is taking initiative to convert their cotton to organic, countering the effects of the $2-3 billion spent globally on pesticides for cotton growing each year. In their Environmental Initiatives section of the website, they describe how by 2023 they plan to source only organic cotton that has been thoroughly certified, and they claim that they have already transitioned to 54% organic cotton use in their supply chains. Unfortunately, the Performance Chino, a product that they list as the second best seller in men’s clothing, is not yet made of this certified organic cotton. With the absence of the certified organic stamp of approval, I am left to assume that the cotton used to make my Chinos was not grown sustainably. Despite my love for the pants, I must admit I was disappointed to see that Everlane’s self-asserted second bestseller has not yet transitioned to using clean materials.

As for the 6% elastane, the material that grants the chinos their signature stretch, it is a poor choice of material for a brand that boasts such high environmental standards. Elastane, also known as spandex or lycra, is chemically created from fossil fuels that are turned into polyurethane, a known carcinogen, and then into the final product. In addition to the harmful effects polyurethane can have on humans, chemical dyes are also used on elastane that can damage waterways. Overall, there is no way for a product that depends on the extraction of fossil fuels to be sustainable, and Everlane claims that technological advancements are required before elastane can be replaced with a sustainable alternative. I won’t hold my breath for a sweeping change to the $7 billion industry of elastane, but if Everlane found a way to generate their desirable stretch from a natural fabric, I would be more inclined to purchase their clothing and recommend it to others.

A few positives to note is that 97% of Everlane’s synthetic fabric used for apparel comes from certified recycled fibers, and most of the remaining virgin plastic used in their supply chain cannot be eliminated without tech innovations. This progress is impressive and likely more than most clothing companies, and it is also commendable that Everlane informs the consumer of their shortcomings, not only their successes. Additionally, the cost of production for each product is broken down on the website, and for the Performance Chinos ($78) a few interesting figures are: $10.18 for materials, $2.76 for hardware (buttons, zippers), and $7.44 for labor. This transparency is important for the consumer and the planet, and credit should be given to Everlane for providing this.

How it's made:

1

Each Everlane product lists the factory where it was manufactured which showcases great transparency for the consumer. Clicking on the factory where Performance Chinos were made, Springdale Fashions in China, brought me to a page describing the factory in detail. Springdale Fashions employs 500 workers, who on average stay at the factory for about 10 years each, 4 times the standard retention. This highlights the owner’s prioritization of high labor standards. Additionally, the owner of the factory donates some profits to primary schools in rural China, and provides scholarships to students in the area, emphasizing the factory’s impressive social initiatives. Overall, the factory where the product is manufactured seems highly ethical and forward-thinking, although transportation from China to the US likely contributes to unwanted carbon emissions.

Another important factor to consider is product life cycle. Everlane boasts that their products are made to last consumers years, if not decades, and that they avoid trends. This is the opposite of how brands like H&M and Old Navy operate, companies that employ fast fashion models and manufacture clothing that is only designed to be worn a few times. Since all of Everlane’s clothes are classic styles and high quality, they can be worn for years on end, and are emblematic of a sustainable method of clothing production.

Who makes it:

1

As a brand, Everlane prioritizes lasting quality, radical transparency, and social initiatives in their factories. Their website boasts loads of progress towards reducing environmental impact, down to the 100% recycled plastic and recyclable packaging used to ship each product. In their factories, they complete yearly audits and they have environmental certifications for many of their production methods. Moreover, many of the materials they use are certified to be non-harmful for humans and the environment, and Everlane describes their progress in eliminating the environmental impacts of each material used to craft all of their products. In the office and in stores, the company uses 100% renewable energy, does not use single-use plastic, and takes extra steps like installing carpet tiles made of recycled rubber. Another important factor is transparency, which is seemingly everywhere on Everlane’s website, although I was unable to find information on where the company sources raw materials. I suggest that Everlane includes this information to follow through on their claims of radical transparency.

Despite all these great things, there seem to be serious issues with the workplace culture. In 2020, executives got called out by several employees for hypocrisy, anti-black behavior, and union-busting, among many other individual instances of negative behavior towards employees. The New York Times researched the brand, and concluded that “the most radical thing about Everlane is the marketing”. Despite their environmentally-better materials and some progress towards sustainability, NYT thought that their marketing schemes may be a facade for what really happens inside the company. In my research, I have adopted a fond opinion of the company, but it is clear to me that some behavior from Everlane executives does not live up to their proclaimed standards, and that they need to do more to be the company their website says they are.