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.
- 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.
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.
Read more: This apparel startup fixed the worst part of shopping for clothes in stores - and it could defy retail's curse
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:
While Reformation does most of its business online — an estimated 80% of its revenue comes from e-commerce — the brand has worked to ensure its physical stores are as eco-friendly as possible.
Reformation has 14 physical retail store locations, which expanded from its first locations in Los Angeles and New York City to include shops in Miami, Austin, Boston, and Washington, DC, among others.
Reformation offers public tours of its sustainable Los Angeles factory on the first Friday of every month. It also works with a variety of sustainable factory partners in the US, according to Talbot.
Reformation's current goal is to recycle 100,000 garments in 2019. According to Talbot, when Reformation first started it exclusively made its clothing using deadstock material, an industry term for discarded or leftover fabrics.
Inside Reformation stores, shoppers can find signs dedicated to the company's sustainability efforts.
Pretty much everything in the store, from the hangers to adhesive tape, is sourced using bio-based, non-toxic adhesives. The hangers are made from recycled paper.
Reformation's packaging is made from 100% recycled paper products and compostable bio-based materials, so "it'll disintegrate and completely return to the Earth just like organic waste, leaving no toxic chemicals behind," Talbot said.
In February 2019, Reformation launched its "Carbon Is Cancelled" campaign. The program incentivizes shoppers with gift cards and discounts for showing proof of reducing their carbon footprints.
As part of the campaign, Reformation also added a section on its website where shoppers can purchase "climate credits."
Moving into the next decade, Talbot said the company has been especially mindful to avoid any efforts that could be misconstrued as gimmicks.
Talbot said improving material sourcing remains one of Reformation's top priorities.
Sourcing will continue to be top of mind as Reformation continues to expand into new product areas like shoes, which hit stores in February 2019 ...
... as well as extended sizes, which Reformation debuted permanently in March, after first testing a limited-edition size-inclusive capsule collection in 2018.
Reformation has also strategically sought out like-minded partners such as outdoor clothing company Patagonia. Here, a small selection of Patagonia products are featured at the store in the Soho neighborhood of New York City.
Moving forward, Talbot urged a "diversity of solutions" when it comes to industrywide sustainability. She said this includes rental programs, noting that Reformation currently lends occasion dresses to Rent the Runway.
As the business continues to grow, Talbot said the brand's next challenge will be to ensure Reformation can scale its business model to maintain its status as a leader in sustainable fashion.
Reformation sources from vetted suppliers that adhere to specific standards on environmental impact and fair labor.
Looking to the future, Talbot encourages fashion brands to work together to stop particularly egregious practices like burning excess inventory.
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