Green Chic: How Reformation Made Eco Cool

In a world where “environmentally friendly” = “unfashionable,” Reformation founder Yael Aflalo is showing the world that Eco is cool.



Mission  Founded in 2009, Reformation was created because of founder Yael Aflalo’s desire to make a difference. After a particularly eye opening trip to a factory in China where she started to see the detrimental effects the fashion industry was having on the environment, Aflalo set out to create a company that would change the way fashion companies thought about sustainability. She says, “All these dresses I was making…they were all made out of fossil fuels”[4].  “I started to make the connection: This is me, I’m making clothes and I’m a big part of this…I felt I actually needed to go and create a company that solves this problem, even for purely selfish reasons that I want to buy a dress and I don’t want to feel bad about it”[1].

The fashion industry is “…the third most polluting industry in the world. Global production of textiles consumes 1 trillion gallons of water, 33 trillion gallons of oil, and 20 billion pounds of chemicals annually” [5].  “Every year, around eighty billion garments are produced worldwide, and they leave an enormous environmental footprint” [7].  Reformation aims to start a movement to decrease the industry’s carbon footprint. “We make killer clothes that don’t kill the environment,” it proclaims on its website. How does it do this?


Materials  Approximately 65% of Reformation’s collection is made from eco-fabrics (developed in-house), 20% from re-purposed vintage clothing, and 15% from dead stock fabrics (extra material other designers would throw away). This procurement strategy has a direct impact on the environment: “…while the average t-shirt sold by a fast fashion competitor might take about 200 gallons of water to product, Reformation’s takes only six…” [2].

Reformation employs a model of low inventory and fast speed to market. The company only produces in batches of 200 units and launches new product on its website every week. With the goal of selling out of product each week, this strategy minimizes Reformation’s carbon footprint.


Reformation4Production  Approximately 70% of Reformation’s collection is produced in a company-owned factory in L.A. and the rest is produced in another factory a couple miles away. Reformation’s factory takes sustainability seriously: “It gets all of its energy from renewable resources, so it’s off the grid. We do different things across the board, from not using plastic to using recycled material to using recycled packaging products or not use packaging at all, not using harmful soaps and dyes, all that kind of stuff” [6].

Owning the supply chain allows Reformation to manage its quality and it gives the company the flexibility to respond to trends in the market.


Product  Sustainability is what makes Reformation unique, the product is what has made it successful. “ ‘There are sustainable fashion brands, but they’re not fashionable. That’s really the issue,’ she (Aflalo) says” [4].  “We always go product first. I think a lot of the problems that sustainable brands have had is that they always go sustainability first and maybe the product is not as important. I don’t think people buy things because they’re sustainable. People buy things because they’re a great product…” [6].

With a cult following from “it” celebrities like Taylor Swift, Rihanna, Alexa Chung and Karlie Kloss (she is even a part owner!), Reformation has made Eco “cool.”


Distribution  Reformation operates a website and a handful of brick and mortar stores. “On average, e-commerce uses about 30% less energy than traditional retail…In our NYC and LA stores, we lessen our environmental footprint by installing energy-efficient fixtures, using recycled hangers and reusable tote bags, limiting our inventories and waste, and cleaning with non-toxic, biodegradable products” [7].

Results  “The company’s revenue in 2014 was $25 million, and that number is expected to double or triple by the end of 2015, Aflalo says” [3]. Reformation’s success can be attributed to an effective alignment between its brand mission and its operating model. Reformation’s mission “to make killer clothes that don’t kill the environment,” is supported by every aspect of its supply chain. Each step in the chain is owned and managed by Aflalo, giving Reformation the flexibility and leverage to make responsible and sustainable decisions. This synergy between the operating and business models has allowed Reformation to create something truly special – it has made being eco-friendly “fashionable.”











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Student comments on Green Chic: How Reformation Made Eco Cool

  1. Great post! A few questions came to mind as I was reading it. Our generation cares about the environment, but is this just a fad? How can Reformation ensure that it will maintain its relevancy among its core customer base who most likely will have a constantly changing list of “causes” they care about? Another question that came to mind was one of quality and price. How does Reformation ensure that its quality is just as good or better than other fashion companies that are not as environmentally friendly in their production processes? Does Reformation charge a premium for its clothing to message “high quality” or does it charge lower prices to make its clothing more accessible? Finally, does the current operating model allow for flexibility in terms of design innovation? Are there any hurdles that Reformation faces in terms of being able to meet the demands / tastes of its customers given its focus on sustainability?

  2. Awesome post! I am a fan of Reformation myself and own a few of their dresses. I absolutely agree that its product has been a critical driver of success. I actually did not know Reformation was an eco-friendly company until I received the dresses I purchased based on their packaging (which is also remarkable – dresses come folded flat in recycled paper envelope) and bunch of “informative” slips that were included. I also have a few questions that come to mind, one of which Sam mentions above re: quality. I’ve noticed myself that after only a wear or two, the dresses lose their shapes. Could the eco-friendly production / material sourcing be influencing the quality / durability of the product? I also wonder if there is a limit to which this company can grow and compete in the general clothes category, etc. I am not that knowledgeable about the retail scene, but I assume they will have to continue expanding its product offerings, and are they limited in a way due to their eco-friendly mission? Thank you!

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