Los Angeles and New York-based fashion company The Reformation has been able to make coveted dresses, meme-worthy graphic sweatshirts, a bridal collection, and more while practicing sustainability. But before its founder (and self-titled Ref Babe) Yael Aflalo started her own eco-friendly line in 2009, she was already a fashion designer for the past decade with her first company Ya-Ya. In an interview with Grist, Aflalo revealed that she found the traditional practices of the fashion industry wasteful and “claustrophobic” with “a lot of room to improve:”
I just think it’s the blatant disregard for the environmental impact of the product. It sucks, because usually sustainability people inside companies are just not very operational. I mean, there are analytical reports that are submitted, but I’m not sure how much they’re being listened to. There are simple things to change that people just don’t do.
Aflalo creates her Reformation collections using vintage, deadstock materials, and her company’s own developing line of sustainable fabrics. While this might seem limiting for a designer, it actually helps Aflalo make choices of what to produce. (“It’s really nice to have starting points, to say OK, this is what I have to work with and let’s start here. I prefer it.”) The Reformation also now has its own sustainable sewing factory, the very first of its kind in the country, with all energy-efficient fixtures. Opening a sustainable production headquarters after five years could come off as backwards thinking, but Aflafo’s primary concern of creating desirable clothing first is what makes Reformation so successful in the first place:
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, because there’s a high value proposition. The mission or sustainability is just sort of tertiary.