Sustainability in Fashion, Part 3: Interview with founder of Reformation, Yael Aflalo

Sustainability in Fashion, Part 3: Interview with founder of Reformation, Yael Aflalo

Join the reform

Text: Tracy Phillips

Image: Instagram | @reformation
Image: Portrait of Yael Aflalo by Celeste Sloman

LA fashion label Reformation makes killer clothes that doesn’t kill the environment while matching fast fashion’s trends and quick turnaround times. Buro speaks to the founder to find out how they do it

In recent years, Reformation has been capturing the hearts of young women in New York and LA with their stylish, vintage inspired and eco-friendly fashion. Rihanna and Taylor Swift regularly shop at its boutiques and last year, the LA label managed to raise 12 million from investors, counting supermodel Karlie Kloss and Buro's own Miroslava Duma amongst them.

Launched in 2009, the label now boasts more then 25 million in revenue and has an even faster growing fan base around the world thanks to its online store, which accounts for more than 65% of its sales. From the very beginning, founder Yael Aflalo has made sustainability a core tenant of the brand, opening a factory in downtown LA to better manage her own supply chain.

Sustainability in Fashion: An interview with Yael Aflalo

What brought on the decision to make sustainability a key focus of your brand?
I had a more traditional fashion brand for about 10 years before I started Reformation. On a trip to China for work, I saw the overwhelming amount of pollution created by the industry and knew that I had to make a change and help break the cycle. At the time, there weren't many other brands that were making sustainable clothes that I would actually want to wear, so I created Reformation to really fill this void at the intersection of design and sustainability. First and foremost, we're trying to make great clothes that everyone will love, which also happens to be sustainable.

What are you doing differently at Reformation as compared to other fashion brands? 
We incorporate sustainability in every aspect of our business. We do everything from design and production to fulfillment and operations under one roof at our headquarters in Downtown LA.  Everything from the pens, to cleaning products, to lighting is eco-friendly. Our three boutique store locations reflect our green initiatives too, by using recycled hangers, reusable tote bags and LED lighting to name a few.

We are incredibly transparent with our customers and want them to become educated and take steps in leading a more sustainable lifestyle. Last April, we launched RefScale, a feature on our site that informs customers of the impact of their purchases. We're really proud of the RefScale as it helps us keep our true environmental costs in mind when making design and business decisions, and also motivates us to create better solutions. More importantly, it's showing people the real effects of fashion, empowering them to make informed purchasing decisions.

Reformation Operations

What have been the biggest challenges in sticking to your ethos?
Our biggest challenge is maintaining the purity of our sustainability mission as we continue to grow. But we are passionate about clearly defining our practices so that they can be scaled as our business expands into new markets.

Do you think your stance on sustainability has helped in your businesses growth or hindered it?
Our sustainable mission isn't necessarily what has made our business grow. Our growth is mainly from designing and manufacturing beautiful clothing that women want and love to wear. When women shop Reformation, we take that opportunity to educate and inspire them to make more sustainable choices in their daily lives. Doing things in a more sustainable way doesn't always mean there is additional cost or hindrances. We look for ways to integrate sustainability into our business practices and look for efficiencies where possible. For example, our fabrics can be cheaper than some conventional options because we use deadstock or recycled fibers that are lower cost and have lower impact on the environment.

Do you have any advice for brands looking to make sustainability a brand focus? 
Fully integrate sustainability into what you do and how you operate, versus it being only a marketing campaign or a one-off initiative. Also, oftentimes, there are cost-savings and other benefits by taking a more sustainable path, and it's easier to get a full company buy-in if you can make a strong business case for it.

Reformation Store

How much of your online business caters to this part of the world? Any plans to expand into Asia?
Right now we're only selling via our website and our two stores in NY and one in LA. We do ship internationally for free, though!

What are the future plans for Reformation?
We're really excited about the future of sustainability and the technology that comes along with it. Our long-term view is that we will be the go-to fashionable lifestyle brand for all things sustainable. We're always releasing new, limited-edition collections and look forward to continuing to offer great sustainable products.

To read all articles in the Sustainability in Fashion series, click here