Reformation is one of today’s fastest growing fashion brands. Their success is in part attributed to their sustainable practices. Reformation takes a holistic approach to their business, by partnering with upstream industries they have been able to monitor and influence their production methods and environmental impact.
Great Parts of Reformation:
Brick & Mortar Practices
Reformation utilizes many sustainable practices in their brick and mortar stores. One of their central practices is recyclable or biodegradable packaging. Their garment bags are made of 30% recycled plastic, and they also strive to reuse as much material as possible. The bags they use for instore purchases is 100% compostable, with not residue or toxic chemicals to fear. You can either compost it yourself, or drop it off at the nearest Reformation store and they will compost it for you.
Reformation also utilizes green building infrastructure to minimize their waste, water usage, and energy consumption. This is implemented in both their stores and factories and include everything from their LED light fixtures to recycled fabric insulation. All these efforts have earned them a green business certification and a place in the California Green Business Network.
Many of their sales also come from their online division. E-commerce uses approximately 30% less energy than brick and mortar stores, however they also calculate everything form the environmental impact of their services to your laptop and include them in their ecological footprint.
Reformation uses their own formula for grading the environmental worth of each material they utilize. They use this scale to communicate to their clientele their goals and efforts in sustainable fashion. The most valuable materials are their ‘Allstars’ which receive an ‘A’ grade. These are renewable plant-based fibers with potential for recycling. Their worst grades are ‘D’ and ‘E’, for materials that require particular certifications, such as ‘organic’, or are too environmentally disastrous to consider at all.
One of their most popular fabrics is sourced from the rayon family, an alternative to cotton fabrics. For example, they utilize Lyocell. This fabric is virtually indistinguishable from cotton, yet it is made from eucalyptus plants, which uses much less water and fertilizer. There are many examples of similarly sustainable fabrics. However, they also monitor the raw materials used and ensure their fabrics do not contribute to deforestation or other such practices. To help in this effort, they have paired with non-profits like Canopy to help ensure forests are sustainably managed.
Reformation has also incorporated recyclable materials into their own garments. In addition to using recycled cotton that would have ended up in a landfill, they also utilize deadstock fabrics. These fabrics are waste products from other garment production facilities, and they currently make up 15% of Reformation’s products.
Reformation does not use fur, down, angora, or other exotic animal skin, however they have been known to use other animal products. They use recycled wool and, occasionally, Alpaca wool. The Alpaca is a great animal to source wool from as they are only sheared once a year under humane conditions. The animals also leave a gentle impact on the environment and are not as taxing as other wool-bearing animals. Most of their Alpaca wool sources come from the Peruvian highlands and are maintained by small family run farms. Alpacas also saves 400 lbs of CO2 and 1,500 gal per pound of wool, when compared to conventional wool sources.
Reformation instills a strict preference for a high code of conduct and ethics in their direct partners. All of their employees are expected to be treated with integrity and humane working conditions. They also work towards keeping their manufacturing and sourcing as close to home as possible, which is why many of their factories are located locally, in Los Angeles. You can even take a tour of one of their factories if you are interested in seeing their practices up close.
Fabric scraps are reused and recycled as much as possible during manufacturing. They also mainly utilize non-toxic products during the manufacturing process. This includes dyes and finishings, which are known for being one of the most toxic parts of garment production. Reformation ensures their chemicals are as safe as possible and not hazardous. This serves to protect both their workers and the environment. They also use a closed water cycle during manufacturing, so waste water is reused as much as possible and not simply released back into the community.
Although Reformation strives to be as transparent as possible, they hardly have data available about their out sourcing methods and foreign factories. They do not seem to provide much data on the working conditions or wages in their factories, beyond a simple statement that it is up to their requirements.
In the past, Reformation has had to sacrifice some of their sustainable practices in order to meet the demand of their customers. This has also been the case for some aspects of their garment production as well. For example, they deplore cotton, but have been known to use them in one off garments.
Garment Durability and Longevity
Despite the undoubtable environmental benefit their cotton alternative provide, they have been known to be of a lesser quality. Cotton is used to widely, and for so long, for good reason, cotton is a very durable material. Although Reformation’s alternatives are of a very high quality, they simply do not last as long as more conventional materials, and this can work against its sustainability.
Fast fashion is also a particularly unsustainable lifestyle. Reformation boasts their short production times, rivaling even Zara, however this works against the minimalist and environmentally conscious mindset they strive towards. Instead of buying into fast fashion culture, they ought to focus on durable materials and long-lasting styles, not the trends of the minute.
It is clear from their efforts that Reformation is serious about their environmental impact and producing viable sustainable fashion. Overall the company is working towards a brighter future and is slowly making progress on that goal. Despite their current shortcomings, they have shown their ability to adapt and their dedication to sustainable fashion.