Today, I’m thrilled to have Liz of And We Evolve to chat about her sustainable Philadelphia clothing business! You may seen And We Evolve on the blog before, and I’m really excited to learn more from Liz more about how this business began and what her and her business partner Alisha’s goals are.
I had the opportunity to take some photos for And We Evolve (the lovely Susan styled the shoot!), and one thing I love about this company is that they have a variety of styles for every body type. I felt incredible and fabulous in every outfit I tried out.
I love doing posts like this to a.) feature awesome female entrepreneurs and b.) to encourage others to go after their own goals. So without further ado, let’s get to know Liz!
How did And We Evolve begin?
I have always loved secondhand clothing. When I was in my mid-twenties in New York City, it really bothered me that I lived in a city where you can really use the sidewalk as your runway, but most of my clothes were from Forever 21 because that’s what I could afford. But it’s hard to feel great about the life choices that have brought you to that moment when you’re buying pants for $9.80. So, I got really into thrift and vintage. I used shopping for thrift and shopping vintage as a way to express myself through my clothes and add some really unique, beautiful, funky pieces to my wardrobe.
A few years ago, in 2014ish, I started to become aware of a few different companies selling secondhand clothes online: Poshmark, Tradesy, thredUp, among a few others. I tried all of these companies, but to me, each of them were missing something in their delivery. (I have some Poshmark horror stories!) I really wanted to launch my own secondhand clothing company.
In moved to Philadelphia in June last year; part of my motivation in moving to Philadelphia was that I wanted to launch this company in a city with a strong startup community (and a do-able cost of living!). My second week in Philadelphia, I attended a Girl Develop It class called Building a Brilliant Brand. The teacher had everyone go around the room and introduce themselves. When it was my turn, I told the class I was there because I wanted to start a secondhand clothing company.
After the class, a woman named Alisha Ebling came up to me and told me that she also came to the class because she wanted to start a secondhand clothing company. In addition to becoming fast friends, Alisha and I started business planning together, and we launched And We Evolve together in November 2017.
The biggest lesson I have learned so far with And We Evolve is the importance of the buddy system. I don’t think I’ll ever launch another project without a partner. Having a business partner makes entrepreneurship–which can be very hard and lonely–much more fun and easy.
Where do you find most of the clothing? How can people donate?
Virtually all of our clothing is donated by women who have clothes in their closet that they no longer wear anymore; a lot of donations came from our friends and a lot of donations came from my involvement in Facebook communities for entrepreneurial women, especially Tech Ladies.
For people interested in donating, we have two options: people can come by our showroom and drop off their bags, or they can request a prepaid UPS shipping label. Then, they can bag up the things they want to donate, and either drop the bag at UPS or schedule a pickup. Anyone who is interested in donating can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or can contact us via Facebook.
My modeling debut
What are some of your goals with And We Evolve?
Something I’ve learned in talking with women who have donated clothes to And We Evolve is that a lot of women are really, really bored with their clothes. I’ve been surprised by how much clothing that comes in with the tags still on or in perfect condition, and I think that’s because women are really motivated by sales to make purchases, as opposed to, “Do I really love this item that I’m buying and can I see myself wearing it for the next year or so?”. Of course, we as shoppers feel triumphant when we find an epic sale, but I would love to see women buy only clothes that they really love and slowly, over time, invest in wardrobes that they’re really proud of.
Our ultimate goal is to create a movement where women drastically change their shopping habits, by building their wardrobes primarily with secondhand pieces, and supplementing with new athletic gear, intimate apparel, and occasional “trend” pieces as necessary. This will ease the significant stress that clothing production (and textile waste) puts on the planet and it would also help us develop a really tuned-in understanding of our personal style. If we feel like we can say “No, thanks” to trends that don’t work for us, we’ll save ourselves a lot of space in our closets and money! That self-knowledge about knowing what we truly like to wear and what makes us feel really comfortable and beautiful will help us become the best dressed version of ourselves.
In terms of business goals, we recently launched And We Evolve’s membership program. So we have three different tiers of membership, ranging from ($14.99/month to $49.99/month) that give women 50% off everything in our collection, as well as access to two racks of clothes just for borrowing (for free!) and a rack of fine evening clothes for renting (which is $30 an item for a three-day weekend). I love the concept of Rent the Runway, but I think their price point isn’t realistic for women who have eight weddings to go this summer. We are also launching a subscription box; on the first of the month, we send members three or four pieces in their sizes–a full outfit–and they keep what they like and return the rest. It’s admittedly a lot like Stitch Fix, but we’re making use of the clothes that already exist, that are ready for their second life in a new wearer’s closet. #adoptdontshop!