The textile industry is one of the most chemically dependent industries on earth, and the second-highest polluter of clean water. It is a billion-dollar industry that we all take part in.
It’s not all doom and gloom though, there are companies like Reformation who are actively changing the ways in which they impact the environment within the industry.
The first Reformation store opened in Los Angeles in 2009 where vintage garments were turned into one-of-a-kind silhouettes by in-house sewers. Reformation CEO, Yael Aflalo, opened a second store on New York’s Lower East Side nearly a year later, and shortly after opened a third in New York’s Soho. When demand for the re-worked designs exceeded New York and Los Angeles, Ms Aflalo launched Reformation’s online website in 2011. Ever the forward thinker, in Los Angeles in 2013 the CEO opened the brand’s own factory and the first sustainable sewing factory in the United States.
Reformation wasn’t born out of nowhere. The brand’s sustainability manager, Kathleen Talbot, said that Ms Aflalo founded her first clothing brand in 1999 called Ya-Ya, before closing it down a decade later after visiting Chinese factories and being appalled with the destructive impact that overseas production was having on the environment. She then dedicated herself to transforming current retail practices by leading a sustainable revolution in the fashion industry.
Everything is designed, manufactured, photographed, and shipped from the same Los Angeles factory, so sustainability and ethics on where and how the clothes are being made never comes into question.
There have been hardships in creating a completely green brand, such as hiring talent who have both sustainability and fashion experience, finding suppliers who are as innovative as Reformation want to be, and learning to scale their eco practices and fabrics as the company grows.
It is Ms Talbot’s job as the sustainability manager to make sure Reformation’s factory and offices are consistent with their sustainable mission, and what can promote their triple-bottom line – cost savings, positive environmental and social impacts. “Our factory uses the most efficient, eco-friendly and pro-social technologies and practices available. We invest in green building infrastructure to minimise our waste, water, and energy footprints,” said Ms Talbot.
Reformation stores and headquarters in LA source electricity from 100 per cent renewable power suppliers, designed for day lighting, and LED lights and Energy Star-rated appliances are installed. There is a cool roof that reflects heat and light away from the building, Ms Talbot explained, “The cool roof offsets about 150 tons of CO2 equivalent emissions a year because we can turn down the A/C.”
The company endorses an Environmentally Preferred Purchasing Policy across office supplies, shipping materials, manufacturing equipment, and janitorial supplies, and prioritises products with recycled-content, that are recyclable or biodegradable. “As part of our Environmentally Preferred Purchasing Policy, we source locally first. All local and domestic suppliers represent over 80 percent of our products,” said Ms Talbot.
“When it comes to shipping, we aim for the most efficient, lowest impact solution. We purchase carbon offsets to cover the inevitable impacts of getting our goods to your door,” Ms Talbot added. Packages are almost completely plastic-free and made from 100 percent recycled paper products, garment bags are the exception, although are still reusable and made from 30 per cent recycled plastic.
Reformation is known for using dead stock and vintage materials to promote material reuse and divert textile waste from landfill. They also reduce unnecessary purchases or packaging and buy products in bulk.
In addition to making the office a green and environmentally ethical workplace, employees are also treated with the same caution and care.
“We invest in people by providing on-the-job training and opportunities for growth,” Ms Talbot said. Further coinciding with environmental and employee ethics, over half of the management team is from underrepresented populations, and Reformation provides health benefits to full-time employees, and encourages the use of public transportation through purchasing passes for employees.
“Our goal is to revolutionise the fashion industry and motivate changes in the supply chain and with competitors by showing that being a sustainable brand does not need to sacrifice good design and a profitable, viable business,” Ms Talbot said.
Celebrities who have been spotted wearing the brand include Taylor Swift, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Emma Watson, Alexa Chung, and Candice Swanepoel. Reformation sells dresses, tops, sweaters, bottoms, outerwear, two pieces, jumpsuits, and a selection of wedding party dresses. – Simone Poole
Top photo from Reformation’s Instagram account.