For many brands in China, both foreign and domestic, collaborations are becoming a popular way to reach new consumer segments while reflecting brand values in often unexpected ways. To mark the first anniversary of its entry into the Chinese market while highlighting its commitment to sustainability, American direct-to-consumer (DTC) fashion brand Everlane partnered with Alibaba-owned online delivery service Ele.me and Shanghai boutique roaster Seesaw Coffee to produce an environmentally friendly “lunch” set that included a bento box and t-shirt made from recycled materials, along with a package of Seesaw’s sustainably sourced coffee.
Developed by Everlane and the integrated luxury agency Gusto Luxe, the collaboration is a good example of complementary brands coming together to create something that looks and feels more organic than, say, coffee and insect repellant.
This week, we connected with Everlane’s International General manager, Agustin Farias, to learn a little more about the brand’s recent campaign and its takeaways from the past year in China.
CCI: Can you start by telling us a little about how the collaboration with Ele.me and Seesaw came together?
To celebrate our one-year anniversary in China, we created an interactive experience to build a deeper connection with our growing community by showcasing recycled materials both in the package and Everlane product. This campaign is our largest yet in China focused on sustainability.
Consumers in China are increasingly aware of their own environmental impact and looking to make informed purchases that are less wasteful. Everlane wants to inspire and empower our customers to reduce their impact.
We collaborated with Ele.me relab and Seesaw to make a gift box made from 100% recycled materials. Each box is made from Ele.me’s takeout plastic and Seesaw’s coffee waste, and includes a QR tracking code so that customers can see the environmental impact of the box. The box also contains a limited-edition Everlane ReCotton T-shirt, organic coffee, and plant seeds.
The box set was heavy on promoting sustainability — what does sustainability mean to Everlane, and do you expect in terms of its possible impact in the fashion industry over the next 10 years?
We all leave an impact on the planet, and we should all play a part in cleaning up our footprint. The fashion industry has a massive impact on the environment, and as a company, we have the opportunity to lead the change in fixing the problem.
We are building an ethical and sustainable supply chain that creates high-quality, low-impact, long-lasting products. We carefully consider our materials and work with our production partners to reduce waste, chemicals, and plastics that endanger our planet’s ecosystems. Our timeless basics are designed to last—so making the right choice for the planet can be as simple as putting on an Everlane t-shirt.
How did the message of sustainability in the collaboration land in China? What kind of reaction did you get?
The campaign was very well received by our customers. We know that our customers increasingly care about our planet and are eager to learn ways that they can contribute.
We wanted consumers to understand that every purchase matters and has an impact on the planet. We can all take simple actions towards reducing our environmental footprint. This starts with fashion choices, but also in all aspects of life, like ordering takeout or a cup of coffee every day.
By partnering with two leading sustainable brands in China, we are able to connect with a broader audience who cares about sustainability and tell them Everlane’s story.
What associations do you hope audiences in China have towards Everlane as a result of the collaboration?
We are here to drive and empower our customers to make positive changes. As we continue to grow our community in China, we want to amplify our values through beautiful products made of sustainable materials at transparent prices and activities that encourage our customers to join us in living a more sustainable lifestyle.
What “best practices” could foreign brands learn from collaboration?
Be authentic and be true to the brand and your customers.
China is one of the most important fashion markets in the world but is crowded with never-ending campaigns and collaborations. A brand has to find the right partners that resonate with your customers.
The Chinese market is rapidly evolving and consumers there are becoming the most sophisticated in the world. Chinese consumers are willing to embrace unique ideas, so there is an opportunity to present your brand voice through surprising and fun collaborations.
What are some of the key things Everlane learned about China since entering the market one year ago?
The majority of our customers are millennials from tier-one and -two cities. We’re excited about the growing prominence of eco-friendly lifestyles in China and that customers are looking for more sustainable options. We will continue to offer high-quality products made of sustainable materials at transparent prices.
However, we also acknowledge that China and Chinese consumers are unique. There is a tremendous opportunity for us to provide a more local product selection and easy customer experience tailored to the needs of the Chinese market. We are constantly listening to our customers to improve our offerings.
Has Everlane found that the brand’s focus on supply chain transparency resonates in China?
Absolutely! We have seen that our customers truly appreciate our value of being transparent. Consumers in China are increasingly more aware about the things they purchase and how this purchase will impact the environment and society.
Being transparent builds trust with our community, and allows people to know they are getting a high-quality product.
Does Everlane have any additional brand collaborations coming up, or plans to open physical stores, in China?
China is evolving fast and trends change quickly. We will continue to engage with our customers in new ways to build strong connections through brand experiences and new product launches. In the future, our focus will be to open up new sales channels, invest in digital marketing and social e-commerce, and create new campaigns that bring the brand both online and offline. We will also continue to offer the same high-quality, ethical products that we know our customers value, and explore releasing exclusive products that speak directly to the Chinese consumer.
How has Everlane’s experience in China over the past year influenced what the brand plans to do there, as well as globally, in the year to come?
As a mission-driven company, Everlane will continue to put our values of transparency, ethics, and sustainability at the forefront of everything we do. We believe these values are global and transcend borders. Yet, when it comes to China, we are only beginning our work here and plan to be in the country in the long run. As an international brand, we are taking a measured and deliberate approach as we grow our presence and better understand and adapt our brand to the Chinese customer.
A special thank you to Chloe Reuter and Olivia Plotnick for facilitating this interview.