U.K.-based T-shirt startup Everpress, which allows global designers, musical artists and philanthropic organizations to bring their creations and messaging to market, has achieved B-Corp certification.
It was a goal more than two years in the marking for founder Alex Econs, a graphic designer by training who has been screen printing professionally since 2010. In launching Everpress in 2016, Econs sought to provide an easy-to-use sales platform for creators that also serves as a vehicle for social impact.
“It’s basically a global fashion marketplace where consumers can buy unique, sustainable T-shirts and other products from independent artists,” he told Sourcing Journal. “We handle all the production, logistics and customer service,” allowing artists to focus on building their brands and championing the causes that are important to them, from earthquake relief in Turkey and Syria to environmental issues. “I think T-shirts have always been a great tool for activism,” he added.
“As soon as I saw the B Corp concepts, I knew it was something that I wanted us to do. I think there’s a lot of alignment with our values,” Econs said. Everpress achieved a score of 92 out of 100 in its B Lab assessment, scoring highest for its efforts regarding workers and community, as well as for diversity, equity, inclusion and economic impact.
The company also aims to upend the traditional retail model with an on-demand approach to production. T-shirt, long-sleeve shirt and hoodie designs are released as limited campaigns, with thousands of options running on the site for a matter of weeks, during which time shoppers can pre-order their selections. Garments are only produced and screen-printed once they’re sold, eliminating inventory waste.
Econs has developed a network of blank producers across the U.K., Europe, the U.S. and Egypt. Factories are vetted based on their sustainability certifications, including Europe’s Supplier Ethical Data Exchange’s (Sedex) audit program, and their ability to provide products made from preferred materials like organic cotton. Everpress launched production of its own Classic Tee in Egypt in 2022, with an eye toward creating “the perfect blank T-shirt,” Econs said. The organic combed-cotton shirt provides a smooth surface for printing, lending both precision and longevity to designs. Shirts are inclusively sized from XXS to 5XL, and the factory minimizes waste by using just a single polybag for 100 garments, waiting until orders reach a critical mass before shipping the shirts off for printing. With the advent of the in-house design, Everpress also overhauled its packaging, switching to a low-density polyethylene made from industrial waste.
“One of the challenges we have as a business is that end consumers could be all over the world,” Econs said. The group tries to manage production semi-regionally, sometimes splitting campaigns so that a certain portion of products are produced in Europe while the remainder are made in the U.S., for example. Buyer locations “can be really diverse,” but Everpress is intent on reducing shipping distance to cut carbon and costs. Today, about 60 percent of T-shirts are still printed at the company’s London facility.
These are considerations the company takes off the plate of its artisan partners, including graphic designers and illustrators who desire a commercial outlet but don’t have the bandwidth to run businesses of their own. “They may already have tons of designs, and maybe they’ve thought about selling merch before but hadn’t because the inherent risks,” he explained. About 12,000 creative partners have joined the Everpress community over the past seven years, 20 percent of whom are part of the music sector, including artists and record labels.
“I made my first T-shirt on Everpress because I wanted to make my art into a T to buy for my family for Christmas presents,” artist Harriet Gillett said. “Afterward they reached out to me with words of encouragement, so I designed another.” Gillett said she was attracted to the waste-free, risk-free process as well as the organic cotton options.
The artist has now managed to launch a bona fide side hustle from what began as a passion project. The platform allows her to “make a version of my work that is more accessible, and reach audiences I never would have been able to by myself,” she said.
A percentage of creators include charities and non-profits, and any artists who sell T-shirts on the site can choose to divert all or a percentage of sales to the causes of their choice. This week, 30 percent of sales from a T-shirt by @ganyem.io will benefit Shelter, a U.K. based housing charity, while a design by Sam Corlett will fund Choose Love’s Turkey and Syria earthquake relief efforts.
Carlos Oliveras Colom’s “Do It For Mother” T-Shirt, designed for Earth Day this month, depicts a flower with Earth at its center. The Puerto Rican artist said the design was “a commentary to be a bit more conscious of our actions and if we don’t do it for ourselves, we should do it for our families, friends and the well being of future generations.” Meanwhile, a T-shirt by Aley Wild, which reads, “Your Ego is Not Your Amigo,” designed for World Mental Health Day in October, will see 50 percent of profits donated to the Crisis Text Line. The Sydney, Australia-based illustrator said she pulled the catchphrase from graffiti scrawled on the wall of a club, bringing it to life with a bold, graphic, cobalt blue design.
According to Econs, designs like these generated about $435,000 for philanthropy and aid groups during 2022 alone, including around $62,000 for Amnesty International, young adult cancer charity Trekstock and U.K. fund Justice4Grenfell, which benefits the victims of a fire in London.
“We’re a mission-driven business,” the founder said. “It’s not all about profits; that greed is not the right way to run a business. Nowadays, it’s about putting people and planet on equal par.” Econs said engaging with B Lab will help the company continue to hold itself to account for its impact. “The process has given us lots of really useful insights on areas for us to work on, and it helps us attract the right sort of employees and customers who share our values.”