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What is the point of clothing brands being ethical if they're not also inclusive?

Fast fashion has become less appealing to shoppers who are conscious of the ethical implications of their choices. Brands like Everlane and Reformation, for example, have cornered a market for people willing to spend a bit more money for less of an environmental impact. Everlane even goes a step further and markets their product as radically transparent. They show you where each item is manufactured, provide information about the working conditions of the factory — including its location and how many employees it has — and even detail the charity your money goes to.

But how those brands engage with the diversity of the people who are purchasing their clothing still remains an issue. For the first few years after their respective launches, both Everlane and Reformation didn’t carry above a size 12 in women’s clothing. Amanda Mull pointed this out in 2017, noting that “apparel startups are so profoundly averse to fat people that the vast majority of them won’t deign to take their money.”

Since then, both Everlane and Reformation have expanded their collection of sizes. Everlane now carries a 23 to 35 in some of their denim, and 23 to 33 in the rest; their dresses and tops range from XS to XL, and size 0 to 16. Reformation has extended sizing from 10 to 24 for much of their collection. These attempts at size inclusivity are an improvement, but the coordinating brick and mortar experience, where you'd expect face-to-face interactions would increase empathy, is still severely lacking.

When Nicolette Mason, a fashion and brand strategy consultant, arrived at Everlane's new Brooklyn location, she was told by an employee that the store only carried up to a size 31. Mason was understandably frustrated by this, considering that she had been invited to preview the store by the brand's public relations team.

“Do better, @everlane,” Mason wrote in a tweet. “Your new store plans should’ve included your entire size range - it’s actually absurd to include all about 2 or 3 sizes on the floor. What’s the point? Your PR even invited me to a store preview... why? So I could be directed to shop online?”

Everlane responded to the tweet, assuring Mason that this was an issue they were working on. “Sorry your size wasn't available, Nicolette,” the company responded. “We definitely hope to carry the full-size range of denim soon for try on. We would love to have you back in when we do!”

Reformation experienced similar struggles with the rollout of their extended sizing line. Initially, the only items offered beyond their original range of sizes (which notoriously run small to begin with) was their denim line, which was released in November of 2018. When they finally added select dresses and tops in March 2019, they weren’t made available in stores. When contacting their support line, Mic was told that their extended sizes were only available online. A member of the company's public relations team reiterated the same sentiment.

"Hi! Our extended sizing is only available online right now!" the spokesperson said via email.

For Everlane’s part, its logic for carrying only select sizes is data-driven: they stock the sizes they sell the most. But there’s something undeniably disrespectful about deeming some customers unworthy of the same shopping experience on the basis of their size. The result is that many customers looking for extended sizes will have to take a gamble on getting the clothing delivered to them, try it on in 3-5 business days, and then ship it back if the fit is not right. The process of trial and error could take weeks of time and energy to find the right size; customers in Everlane stores who are looking to try on clothing in sizes 0-12 aren’t faced with the same difficulties.

The issue highlights how companies that are “sustainable” and “ethical,” in theory, can still fall short when dealing with human beings in reality.

Reformation and Everlane haven’t announced the exact date they plan on stocking their stores with the full range of sizes. When reached for comment, Erika Edelson, VP of Merchandising for Everlane provided the following:

“We fell short in stocking our full denim size range at our Williamsburg opening. We’re fixing the issue as quickly as possible in the coming weeks.”