When Eco-Friendly Got Cool
Yael Aflalo Is Building an Eco-Friendly Fast Fashion Empire, and It Looks So Good
In the early days of going green, sustainable fashion was anything but stylish. “One of my goals for creating the line was to change that stigma, that eco-friendly can’t possibly be cool,” says Yael Aflalo, CEO and cofounder of Reformation, the perennially on-trend label of vintage-inspired sundresses and baby tees. When the former model first set out to establish her green brand, she was encouraged to downplay her Earth-conscious initiatives for fear that “people would automatically roll their eyes.” Nevertheless, Aflalo persisted, creating her It label and proving that you can change the world without sacrificing your style.
By combining the best in fashion with technology and sustainability, Reformation has earned cult status with very little environmental impact. Ahead of the launch at Nordstrom, we spoke with Aflalo to learn more about her green factory, her goals for zero waste and what makes her ’60s-style frocks so darn irresistible.
Tell me about the Reformation look. Who is the girl you are designing for?
We don’t design collections with just one girl in mind—our customers are multifaceted, confident and cool. We love seeing women with different styles in our clothes, and that diversity continues to grow with the brand.
Vintage seems to play a large role in the design process…
There’s nothing more sustainable than vintage; you’re giving a second life to something that was once destined for the landfill!
How do vintage designs inspire Reformation?
I find a lot of inspiration for new collections from vintage shopping ‘90s minidresses, easy denim pieces, perfect T-shirts or, my favorite, ’60s playsuits. We play off these styles when designing our collections and create silhouettes that fit well and celebrate the feminine figure—they also happen to be super sustainable.
Reformation celebrates the female form in all sizes. Can you tell me more about your size-inclusive capsule collections?
Reformation has always been about making women look and feel beautiful, with sexy, flattering fits and supercomfortable fabrics. Over the years, we have made efforts to address size inclusivity through collections for our larger-chested and petite customers. In our quest to make sure women of all shapes can wear Ref (and look good doing it), we were thrilled to have launched our first extended-sizing collection this March.
How do you make your working environment a more nurturing, sustainable place too?
Our employees are the engine that makes Reformation run. We’re proud to offer opportunities to people from all around the world with varying backgrounds, and we’re focused on creating a better work environment at our production factory—offering fair wages, career advancement opportunities, massages, English classes, legal support, Metro passes and health care.
You've said before that sustainability must start at the very beginning of production. Walk us through your sustainable model.
Fashion is the third most polluting industry in the world, and we’ve made a significant effort to reduce our impact on water, materials and energy systems across our supply chain and business practices.
We make our clothes from three sustainable fabric sources: environmentally friendly and recycled-content fibers, repurposed vintage clothing and excess fabrics made by other fashion companies. This shift away from conventional fabrics like cotton or polyester yields some crazy statistics. Like, a typical cotton T-shirt uses about 200 gallons [of water], and our Tencel tee uses 6 gallons. Because Tencel is manufactured in a closed-loop process, our T-shirt is also 200-300 times less toxic to rivers and oceans. Another example is that a typical pair of jeans uses over 900 gallons of water, but our vintage jean only uses about 5 gallons!
And our sustainable practices extend beyond our clothes too. There’s also our factory in L.A. It’s the first sustainable sewing factory in the U.S., 120,000 square feet, and allows us to create our own rules as we design, manufacture, photograph and ship all under one roof. One hundred percent of our electricity comes from renewable sources, and we offset all carbon emissions associated with our shipping. Everything from the pens to cleaning products to packaging is eco-friendly. Reformation is about changing the world’s view on the fashion industry and educating consumers about the powerful effect we can all have on the environment through sustainable choices—it is imperative that we set an example and make sustainable choices across our entire supply chain, from the ground up. Every little bit helps.