ADVERTISEMENT

How Reformation won over 'cool girls' by filling a void left by H&M and Forever 21

For the past decade, fashion brand Reformation has aimed to redefine sustainability by building a company with eco-friendly principles at its core.

reformation compostable bag
  • Business Insider talked with Kathleen Talbot, Reformation's vice president of operations and sustainability, to learn more about how the "cool girl" brand maintains its sustainable edge.
  • Fast-fashion brands like Forever 21 and H&M continue to take heat for wasteful practices, including in a 2018 report that found H&M had an estimated $4.3 billion worth of unsold inventory.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories .
ADVERTISEMENT

Reformation, the trendy eco-friendly clothing brand also known as the unofficial uniform of cool girls everywhere, is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.

In 2009, Reformation hit the scene not by using sustainability in a marketing campaign like some competitors, but instead by incorporating it as a core tenet of the company.

As Reformation took off, drawing in fans like Rihanna, Taylor Swift, and Karlie Kloss, the company proved that sustainability could not only be cool, but also good for business. Reformation's estimated revenue in 2017 was more than $100 million , and it raised a $25 million Series B funding round in December of the same year.

While traditional fast-fashion players like Forever 21 and H&M continue to receive criticism for acting as a catalyst to the 26 billion pounds of textiles that end up in landfill each year, Reformation has looked for ways to turn the process on its head. Part of the company's success has been in using a quick production process to make changes that prevent waste in real time, Kathleen Talbot, Reformation's vice president of operations and sustainability, told Business Insider.

"We are a fast-fashion brand. That might seem like an oxymoron, but we've actually taken the things that are really innovative and help further sustainability from the fast-fashion model [such as] making limited collection runs and making more of something only after it performs," Talbot said.

Still, sustainable fashion comes at a cost to the consumer, and Reformation's price point is significantly higher than its peers. While a shopper can snag a stylish dress at H&M for as low as $9, Reformation dresses range between $98 and $248.

We took a look at how Reformation has become a leader in sustainability, all while maintaining its cult-like following:

Bethany Biron/Business Insider

Reformation starting as an online-only direct-to-consumer brand. Currently, its headquarters and Los Angeles store locations are green business certified .

Melia Robinson/Business Insider

Additional locations are slated to open in Chicago and Toronto in the coming years. Reformation incorporates features like LED fixtures, recycled fabric insulation, and secondhand furniture into its stores.

Reformation

"We want to understand what our impact is as a brand and our products, everything from materials to manufacturing, packaging to garment care, and ultimately to what customers do with it when they're done wearing it," Talbot told Business Insider. "Within each of those life cycle stages, there's tremendous impact and there's also tremendous opportunity to make a difference."

Reformation

The company has already recycled 66,119 garments in the first quarter of 2019 alone, a Reformation spokesperson told Business Insider.

Bethany Biron/Business Insider

Melia Robinson/Business Insider

Reformation

Its garment bags are made from 30% recycled plastic and are always reused when possible.

"It's the best we could find, but we want it to be better," the Reformation site states .

Reformation

The campaign includes a partnership with Arcadia Power, allowing consumers to switch their electric bill to wind energy for a $100 credit to Reformation.

Reformation

The climate credits, or carbon assets, fund NativeEnergy's efforts projects to reduce carbon emissions.

Reformation

"Unfortunately it does feel like sustainability and some of these fuzzy programs can be used more as a marketing initiative and it's something that we're really sensitive to," she said.

"Greenwashing is definitely a thing, and we're seeing it more and more in fashion. We encourage and challenge customers to scratch below the surface and make sure that a brand is really aligned with their values and what they're looking for."

Bethany Biron/Business Insider

"Across the industry, we have a lot of work to do in materials and answering questions like, 'How do we develop lower impact fibers?' 'How do we make sure that our dyeing and finishing practices are really focused on both environmental and human health?'" Talbot said.

Reformation

Reformation

Select products are now available in sizes 1X to 3X and 14 to 24.

Bethany Biron/Business Insider

"Patagonia is the Holy Grail, started-it-all sustainability guru ... Bow down," the Reformation site reads .

Rent The Runway

Bethany Biron/Business Insider

Melia Robinson/Business Insider

Though Reformation states a majority of its knit fabric is purchased in the US, the remaining is sourced from overseas.

"Our goal is to one day bring this know-how back both internally and domestically," Talbot said.

Melia Robinson/Business Insider

"There are opportunities to rethink and reimagine the business model to support some of these bigger industry issues," she said. "A lot of clothing that gets made never even makes it to a consumer, and it's either incinerated or scrapped."

As Reformation looks to lure new consumers, its next challenge will be in maintaining its reduced carbon footprint while it expands its physical retail locations, rolls out collaborations with wholesale partners like Nordstrom , moves into plus-size apparel , and launches new product categories like footwear .

See Also:

SEE ALSO: Instagram has revolutionized the way we shop for clothes and these previously unknown brands are turning out to be winners

JOIN OUR PULSE COMMUNITY!

Unblock notifications in browser settings.
ADVERTISEMENT

Eyewitness? Submit your stories now via social or:

Email: eyewitness@pulse.com.gh

ADVERTISEMENT