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The Philosophy, Economics Behind Sourcing Retail


And the deaths in Bangladesh have prompted a number of American clothing companies to disclose where their products are made. Everlane is an online clothing retailer based in San Francisco that has always done that. Michael Preysman is the CEO and founder of Everlane, and we asked him where and how his company's T-shirts are manufactured.

MICHAEL PREYSMAN: So, we make our T-shirts in Los Angeles, California. We generally work with factories that have been around for at least 10 years and folks who have been in the industry for 30 years. And before we work with any factory, we really go in and try to get to know the entrepreneur. Because if the entrepreneur has been doing this for 30 years and is really in the spirit of building a great working experience and a great product, it's ultimately a better form than any sort of paperwork that you can get.

SIMON: So, typically you'll get the fabric from overseas and it'll be assembled, stitched together here in the United States?

PREYSMAN: It depends. On our woman's products, we actually use a supima cotton, and that is actually grown in the U.S. and it's certified to do so and then it's delivered in the U.S. Our cotton that's used on the men's T-shirts, as an example, is sourced in India and then delivered or knitted in the U.S. and then cut and sewn in the U.S.

SIMON: Do you think it's important to provide jobs both for Americans who work for you in this country and do you feel you're also filling a role by providing jobs overseas?

PREYSMAN: I think it's critically important. The way I like to talk about things, and the way we talk about things at Everlane, is we're globally made, not locally made. There has been a big movement over the past 10 years towards local. And I think that's a call to action because many people don't know where the products come from. And they assume that if it's overseas, you have low wage and you'll have poor products. And I don't think that's true at all. And we found that actually trying to manufacture many products in the U.S. is very, very difficult. So, we've been able to go overseas and provide phenomenal product to the consumer while still using a factory that has great conditions.

SIMON: I have to ask you about cost, Mr. Preysman. Your T-shirts - men's T-shirts - cost $18. So, if you're buying T-shirts for a family of four - $16 at Wal-Mart, 40 at the Gap or Target, but almost 72 at your store. Now, can you see where it might be really critical for a family of four, especially in these times, to save more than $30 in something as basic as T-shirts?

PREYSMAN: Our product is catered towards a much - I guess you could say compared to a much higher-end product. So, we've come into the industry saying that a $50 T-shirt from a very high-end brand or a $60 T-shirt costs $8 to make. We make that same product, and by being online only, we can sell them for $15. We have one that sells for 18, but generally they're 15. I completely understand that for a family buying those products for a pack at $30 for four is completely reasonable. The challenges around that are the product won't last as long, the quality won't be as high and you don't know the working conditions. So, there's things that actually affect the consumer, like the quality, and there's things that affect the rest of the world, which is the working conditions.

SIMON: Michael Preysman is the founder and CEO of the online clothing retailer Everlane. Thanks for being with us, sir.

PREYSMAN: Absolutely. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.