United States: The subscription box world has blown up to the point that now there’s almost no need to buy anything in the store, anymore. I get the appeal, though the shipping materials and fuel make them less than sustainable. Modern women are expected to juggle so much, whether they have children or not. There’s an expectation of grooming and appearance that just isn’t there for men to the same degree. To get ahead in life, work, or dating, women are all but required to be contentious of how they look and that requires hours of exercise, shopping, and grooming, to name a few. It’s no wonder that women succumb to self-esteem and body dysmorphia disorders.
Social critique aside, I know multiple people who recently subscribed to monthly style boxes to try new clothes and build a professional wardrobe without having to spend time or energy looking. Shopping is a chore when you’re already over-extended, and spending so much time on outward appearance is exhausting and even anxiety-inducing. I’ve always been curious about them but never tried because they almost always had something about them that I found untenable, either their clothes were unethical or the business model didn’t seem sustainable. And We Evolve wants to fill that niche.
And We Evolve is a monthly subscription box that curates a collection of 4-5 secondhand items based on your style profile. You pay $20 for the box, which goes towards anything you keep from it. It’s a standard payment plan as far as clothing boxes go. The idea isn’t that you’re getting samples like beauty product boxes, but that you’re getting a chance to try something new and in the comfort of your home. No pushy clerks, no trick dressing room lighting. This company is unique in that their clothes are 100% secondhand, so it supports the circular economy rather than fast fashion. The relationship with clothing they hope to inspire is in their name: clothes can have more than one life; they change owners, are altered, and evolve. The clothes we wear shouldn’t have a short life expectancy despite evolving trends, and the way we think about clothing should progress into a comprehensive approach to style rather than trends.
Related Post: What I Learned From Quitting Fast Fashion 12 Months Ago
I got a chance to talk to the co-founder, Liz Funk, about the business and had a delightful time. She called from their showroom and office that are operating out of a loft warehouse in Philadelphia. Right now, the only employees are the two co-founders, Liz along with her partner Alisha Ebling, and a few interns. For Liz, thrifting was personal. She went to college in New York City in 2006 and frequented the fantastic thrift stores in East Village. Thrifting wasn’t just about being frugal for her, but a way to be creative and expressive with her clothes. She still remembers her first little black dress she found for under $20. She became involved with sustainable fashion after reading Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth Cline, realizing that Western women have a responsibility to the women in the developing world who are exploited in the name of $5 tee-shirts. However, And We Evolve doesn’t rely on scare tactics to guilt their customers to shop ethically. Instead, they do so with positivity.
Clothes, she said, are the skin we choose. Loving your wardrobe is reminiscent of childhood, for being excited to go to school because you’re wearing your favorite top or shoes. It’s playful yet refined; they want to encourage women to treat their closet like an art collection, to slowly add carefully chosen pieces over time.
Most of their clothes are sourced from donations. By relying on donations, they divert clothes from the landfill. Even some other charitable agencies that collect clothes send literal tons to the developing world, creating mountains of unusable waste and a surplus of textiles, putting artisans out of business. Liz told me that she’s not concerned with finding enough clothes to keep up with demand, but rather that they’ll end up with too many donations. They can’t sell every piece they receive, from the too-worn to the simply unstylish, but they don’t let those go to waste. Instead, they use them for cleaning rags or other uses around the office. She said that sometime in the future, they might explore finding other ways to reuse the textiles from the unsellable pieces.
They use a style quiz, which was actually fun to take, to decide what to send subscribers. It was developed with the help of a professional stylist who, along with Liz and Alisha, decided that most modern women’s clothing can be organized into one of three categories: edgy feminine, boho chic, and classic. From those basic categories, they try to figure out what the woman would like by asking for more information like style icons, trends liked or disliked, and what purpose the clothes will be used for. Apparently, I’m one of a notable amount of people who wrote that Claire Underwood from House of Cards is one of my style icons, but you really can’t go wrong with minimal, monochrome feminine outfits. They also ask for the users’ social media profiles and look through them. They use this to get more information such as the kinds of clothes the person tends to wear or lifestyles to keep in mind (like, a new mother would have a lot of trouble with white clothes or a CEO would need more professional clothing).
Once they have an idea of what a woman’s style is like, they put together the box of 4-5 pieces and hit a combined value of between $130 and $150 at their secondhand prices. They try to include at least one complete outfit with related or swappable items.
The box they sent me exemplified my personal style in that the pieces were mostly black and played more with textures and fabrics rather than loud prints or graphics. I was sent a maroon dress, a sheer top, a vest, a blouse. It shipped incredibly quickly, and I was happy with the packaging and quality of the items. They are really practically new.
My only complaint is that only one of the pieces fit me. I am heavy, but with sizing discrepancies between brands, I usually wear anywhere between an 8 and a 12 in US sizes. However, when trying to find new clothes from different brands, those sizes mean almost nothing, especially for curvy women. For instance, the H&M vest was a size 10 and honestly wouldn’t fit my friend who typically wears a size 6. That’s what I’ve come to expect from H&M and other fast fashion brands whose clothes fit a narrow range of bodies. Looking at their website and Instagram, And We Evolve does feature some plus size styles, so I don’t think my sizing troubles are for lack of inventory. Honestly, part of it might be that I rarely post full body photos of myself on my social media, and it’s hard to conceptualize how someone looks just by a description of “size 10.” If I were to get another box from them, I’d send my measurements to give a better idea of what would fit me.
Overall, I would recommend this subscription box to someone who wants to try new styles of clothes while also supporting a circular economy. These pieces are much less expensive than some of the new sustainable or ethical brands that are out there, so the company works especially well for someone starting a new job or who wants to refresh her entire wardrobe sustainably.