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Moms cannot catch a break when it comes to fashion. If you wear something tight or revealing, you’re slut-shamed — or at least whispered about behind your back. Yet if you dress conservatively, you run the risk of being boxed into that “moms are frumpy” trope. And don’t even think about wearing yoga pants while with your offspring, lest you get branded the dreaded “soccer mom.” And need I say anything about mom hair and mom jeans?
According to recent census data, there are currently about 85 million moms in the United States, which means there are women of all ages and all stages of child rearing running around out there (I’m one! I sometimes wear yoga pants when not working out and my kids play soccer!) wearing, you know, mom clothes, whatever that means. Evereve is trying to define exactly what it does mean, at least for a rather specific mom demographic.
Evereve, which has 68 stores throughout the US as well as a website and a box subscription styling service called Trendsend, explicitly and proudly markets to moms. While stores like Loft, J. Jill, and Eileen Fisher are merely (and stereotypically) assumed to be mom havens, Evereve fully commits to the demographic. The tags on its clothes read, “Show off your smarts, then show off your beauty. Be your kids’ first teacher, then their loudest cheerleader. Remember your passions, then live your dreams.“ The tagline is: “Give life. Then live it.”
The Evereve mom stands somewhere in the middle of the virgin/whore continuum of womanhood. “We call it wholesome sexy — mom sexy,” laughs Megan Tamte, who founded Evereve in 2004 in Edina, Minnesota with her husband, Michael. She finally settles on, “Hot and wholesome!”
“My husband would never tell me what I should wear or what I shouldn’t wear. But he loves when I shop [at Evereve] because the clothes aren’t too conservative,” says Lauren, 30, a mom of two who lives in Columbus, Ohio and runs a blog and Instagram account called Farmskinny. “Farm” is an acronym for “fashion, athletics, recipes, mommy.” (Though her husband also owns an actual farm.) Her accounts frequently feature Evereve clothing. “You’re not showing too much, but you’re showing just enough to catch your husband’s eye. It’s not anything that’s too revealing and if you’re running around chasing your kids, you’re not showing your midriff or your top isn’t hanging down too low. It’s just very flattering.”
“Hot and wholesome” translates into a lot of strategic cut-outs and off-the shoulder pieces. There’s nothing that reveals a lot of leg or cleavage, but flashes of scapula are definitely acceptable, ideally accessorized with a Free People racerback lace bralette. These $20 to $48 bralettes do insanely well for the retailer, and multiple colors and styles are laid out like a mini-lingerie store in cubbies in the brick-and-mortar locations. Skinny ripped jeans are still going strong here, too. Flowy sweaters and flannel shirtdresses provide a comfy, cozy vibe, next to the graphic concert tees that give a touch of boho aesthetic. The store is rounded out by an abundance of beaded jewelry, some suede and fringed pieces, and shirts that proclaim “I love brunch” (presumably not cooked by you, the mom).
Evereve stocks brands like Free People, Splendid, and Michael Stars, as well as premium denim like Citizens of Humanity and Hudson, which has been popular at the retailer since the golden days of denim in the early aughts. You’ll also find several exclusive house brands with names like Braeve, Peyton Jensen, and Allison Joy. Sorel’s hidden wedge boots rule the shoe page right now, but Kenneth Cole, Sam Edelman, and Lucky are also well represented.
Full-priced items range from $48 for a Junk Food tee to $60 to $80 for the store brands, to several hundred for a leather jacket. My sister-in-law thought the prices were a bit steep, particularly for what she called “brands I’ve never heard of before.” Lauren also says that some of her friends have balked at the price point. She says that the brand does give out coupons to use at subsequent visits.
The customer service and family-friendly environment are what Tamte is most proud of, though. Every store has a children’s play area near the dressing rooms and staff have snacks on hand to offer to whiny kids. Lauren, who has become friends with the women who work in her local Evereve, says that the salespeople have run out to the mall and brought back popcorn for her kids and will entertain them while she tries on outfits.
“All of them are great with your kids and they really have a relationship with the customers who come in,” says Lauren. “I shop at a lot of different stores and online and they’re really one of the very few stores I go into anymore because of their customer service. It allows you that comfort of really shopping and not having your kids nagging or pulling on you.” Both Lauren and a sales associate in an Evereve shop in suburban Chicago that I popped into told me that they would name Nordstrom as Evereve’s biggest competitor, in terms of both brands it carries and customer service.
Tamte says that while her customers want to be fashion-forward, they need help getting there sometimes. The salespeople at Evereve are called “stylists,” and their job is to get you to try on something instead of your usual boring T-shirt. “You’ll find that we are going to guide you to fit your body type and lifestyle pretty quickly,” says Tamte. “Our customer wants help. She’ll go in, we’ll spend time educating her on trends, we’ll definitely dare her. We’ve learned that this customer wants to be dared. She likes that about us.”
Eighty percent of Evereve shoppers work outside of the home, either full- or part-time, according to Tamte, based on a poll the brand did. She notes that Evereve doesn’t carry what you would traditionally think of as careerwear. “She’s working, she’s taking care of her family, she’s juggling a million different things,” she says of her customer. “These women want casual clothes they can wear every day, whether they’re at work or a meeting at school.” About ten percent of Evereve shoppers aren’t moms.
Tamte came up with the idea for a mom fashion retailer back in 1997 after a horrendous department store shopping trip with her newborn daughter. Tamte had been a third grade teacher and became a stay at home mom after her daughter was born. She was having an identity crisis and wanted a fashion fix to boost her mood. It didn’t go as planned. “I came home feeling less beautiful and less powerful and in tears,” Tamte tells me on a call. “I thought it would be really cool if there was a retailer who owned moms and wanted to make fashion accessible to moms by understanding the lifestyle.”
It took one more baby and another seven years before Tamte could make her dream of a mom-friendly fashion retailer a reality. She finally opened up her first outpost in Minnesota in 2004. The store was originally named Hot Mama, after a neighbor of Tamte’s whom she secretly admired. “I called her ‘hot mama’ behind her back, because I saw her love her family fiercely but I also saw her take care of herself. She was this role model to me.”
The store in Minnesota blew away sales expectations, so Tamte and her husband expanded throughout the Midwest, thanks to investments from friends and family and a small business loan. Tamte says the stores have been profitable since the seventh one. In 2014, the duo wanted to offer liquidity to their original investors, so they took on outside investors. Gordon Segal, the now-retired founder of Crate & Barrel, became an investor through his Prairie Management Group, as did the Lewis family, which owns the River Island fast fashion company in the UK.
In 2014, Tamte also changed the name of the chain from Hot Mama to Evereve. She says that women frequently mistook it for a maternity store. And there was an even bigger potential problem: “Hotmama.com was a porn site,” Tamte says.
After rejecting any name that contained the word “mom” because it will always mean maternity to customers, the team stumbled on the name Eve because she “is the mother of humanity and she was the first mom.” After several iterations, Evereve emerged. Tamte loved it because it features the word Eve twice, and it’s also a palindrome. Sales have not dropped off at all since the new name was adopted.
The website is the brand’s best-selling “store” of the group. The Trendsend service, which allows customers to put in a style profile and then get a box of clothing options sent to them at intervals of their choosing, is also growing briskly. The volume is equivalent to opening seven stores in a year, according to an article this past summer in the Star Tribune. Evereve is currently on pace to open between eight and 12 brick-and-mortar stores this year.
Evereve does not carry plus sizes, which is sure to be a point of contention as the brand continues to grow. Tamte says, “We comfortably fit size 0 to 14. We shop at contemporary markets and in the contemporary clothing world, that’s the size range.” It’s also Lauren’s biggest complaint, even though she’s a size 4. “I do have a couple girlfriends who have a hard time shopping there because they don’t fit into the size 14 or XL and it is a little discouraging for them. They love the style and they’re like, ‘I just wish I could wear it,’” she says. “It makes me feel bad because I love the company but I think that’s the one thing they really should work on.”
As a retailer, it’s ballsy to say you want to dress moms, because we all know that moms aren’t cool, right? Tamte says that in the beginning she had a hard time getting brands into the store. “I had to go to LA and New York and really fight hard for some of those brands. Now they’re taking us out to dinner,” Tamte says. “Things have changed. In the beginning it was very tough.” The message? It’s dumb to ignore 85 million moms, clothing brands. Tamte says that the store’s new spring campaign will be a riff on this.
Obviously you can’t pigeonhole every single mom in the country, though, and Evereve really isn’t doing that either. Its 68 stores are currently only located “north of the Mason-Dixon line,” as Tamte puts it, primarily in the Midwest. The closest store to NYC is three hours away, in Connecticut. Based on store locations, the brand seems to cater to a suburban, upper middle class, primarily white clientele. I can only conclusively speak for the Illinois store sites because I grew up in the area, but the stores are in towns like Naperville, Lake Forest, Oak Brook, and Burr Ridge. Evereve will find this exact audience based on the demographics there.
To boost its name recognition outside of its own homebase, Evereve is working on its social media presence and growth. The brand has almost 30,000 followers on Instagram and the #evereve hashtag yields a respectable 7,500 posts of women in cute jackets. It has about 69,000 followers on Facebook. But Tamte says the company hasn’t focused on it the way they should and it’s something it will prioritize in 2017.
Similarly, the mommy blogger circuit would seem to be a potential untapped resource for the retailer’s growth. Lauren says she gets a decent amount of affiliate income from Evereve using liketoknow.it links and Rewardstyle. She goes into stores, gets styled with five or six outfits, photographs them, then returns them with the store’s blessing. She says she has no formal paid influencer arrangement with Evereve, though she did receive a box of clothes from the company for Mother’s Day.
The demographic we think of as moms is changing. It’s clear, at least from taking a non-scientific poll of the non-mom millennials here at Racked, that when these women think of mom clothes, they still think of what their own moms would wear. Among millennials aged 25 to 34, though, there are now over 10 million households with children. The very generation that made traditional mom jeans ironically cool is now becoming moms themselves. Evereve may not quite be “Reformation for moms,” but it’s likely the precursor. Either way, mom jeans definitely aren’t what they used to be.