Everlane’s CEO Says Internal Culture Is Just as Important as External

Michael Preysman spoke about wanting to make changes after the company weathered a summer of negative attention

Michael Preysman took the virtual stage at Adweek's Brandweek. Adweek
Headshot of Diana Pearl


DTC fashion brand Everlane rose to fame for its “radical transparency” tagline and promise to share details about its manufacturing and supply chain processes. Now, it’s applying that tagline internally, too.

Michael Preysman, the founder and CEO of Everlane, took the stage at this year’s Brandweek to discuss how the company is transforming and dealing with current challenges. Besides the coronavirus pandemic, those hurdles have included several allegations of a negative culture at the company, particularly in regards to its customer service employees. At the end of July, the company was the subject of a New York Times article about its internal culture, which included allegations of racism. A group of anonymous employees, who call themselves the “Ex Wives Club,” published a seven-page document detailing those allegations.

“We built the brand so well externally, and all of that was organic,” Preysman said. “We also built our culture organically, and that worked for a time, but the expectations we created for the brand were up here. And it was really around radical transparency and doing everything right. Of course, internally, it’s a little different when you don’t have proxies in place and you don’t have the right leaders in certain areas, you can create experiences for people which aren’t equitable.”

That imbalance, he said, went against what Everlane set out to do in the first place: Create a more equitable world.

Preysman added that there’s more awareness around the fact that brands can’t just focus on what they need to do for their customer, but what they can do for their employees as well.

“Transparency has really made it so that you’re accountable to every stakeholder inside and outside,” he said.

And that responsibility, according to moderator Jonathan Mildenhall, co-founder and CEO of TwentyFirstCenturyBrand, said extends to the marketing department.

“The chief marketing officer [role] is just as responsible for the employee experience as it is for the customer experience,” he said. “Your customer is now the team. You can’t do things externally and not be doing things internally.”

Preysman said that in order to try and move in the right direction, being open to making internal changes, adopting new processes and more, leaning into the “difficult moments” will “make an impact.”

“Businesses started for a reason: to make the world a better place,” he said. “Always go back to what you’re doing to make the world a better place. There’s a reason you exist—you have to find it. But you have to be open to rewriting your code of ethics.” 


@dianapearl_ diana.pearl@adweek.com Diana is the deputy brands editor at Adweek and managing editor of Brandweek.