How art gets generated.

Reformation: YaYa Designer Takes an Eco-Friendly Turn




After 10 years designing, producing and selling a contemporary collection through the traditional business model, Yael Aflalo wants to transform the way apparel is manufactured and distributed to consumers.

The founder and creative director of Los Angeles–based Reformation, Aflalo is creating sustainable clothing and educating consumers about the importance of taking a green approach to fashion.

“I think there needs to be more transparency and awareness in the fashion industry,” Aflalo said, referring to fashion’s impact on the environment.

Aflalo started Reformation in 2010 after closing her previous venture,YaYa, a women’s contemporary clothing line that sold in better department stores and small boutiques worldwide.

For Reformation, Aflalo has taken a different approach, using recycled and upcycled apparel and fabrics, producing locally and distributing through three Reformation boutiques in Los Angeles and New York.

The garments are made in their Los Angeles factory in a space that also houses a clean, airy office full of textiles, vision boards and samples for next month’s collection.

Reformation clothing is sold in the company’s flagship store in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood, as well as at a store located in New York’s Lower East Side and at the company’s Los Angeles boutique on Melrose Avenue.

Reformation apparel is composed of three collections, all of which include dresses, skirts, tops and bottoms, and jumpsuits, the company’s most popular item. The vintage collection includes recycled, upcycled and repurposed pieces. The second collection is made from surplus materials, and the third features items produced from sustainable fabrics, Aflalo said.

The latest collection—an ode to the 1990s supermodel “babes” Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell and Linda Evangelista—includes turtleneck and mock-neck long-sleeve tops, cropped tees, pleated skirts, cashmere sweaters, maxidresses with cutouts, and sportswear bomber jackets with the word “boys” embossed in the back.

The retail price points are accessible, with most items priced under $300. “We have tops from $75 to $165, including a gorgeous silk top under $100,” Aflalo said.

Reformation boutiques reflect the brand’s visual aesthetic with a modern and effortlessly cool interior design that draws a cult following of consumers.

Aflalo launched YaYa when she was 21 and ran the company for 10 years. “For the first five years, I was really focused on building the company. There were a lot of challenges, but I respond well to them, so I put a lot of energy into growing my business,” she said.

But Aflalo became disillusioned with running a traditional apparel brand. “I couldn’t exactly pinpoint the different things that were going on, but I knew I didn’t like the fashion calendars, traditional markups and the excess involved in production,” she said.

By the time she closed YaYa, Aflalo had a warehouse full of samples, lookbooks, fabric and rejected production. She became uncomfortable with the amount of waste involved in the industry and with the idea of using fabrics made from fossil fuels.

Reformation started out as a side project, but Aflalo was charmed with the idea that she could sell vintage pieces and still maintain her sense of morals. The designer became more aware about environmental issues after a trip to China while designing a shoe collection for Urban Outfitters. She started watching documentaries and researching the oil industry and water crisis.

“After that experience, I realized with Reformation, I really had an opportunity to make a difference, making clothes that have a low impact on the environment. If I dedicated 110 percent of my attention to this and really focused, I could create a fashion label that was truly green,” she said.

Aflalo cites jaw-dropping statistics: Fashion is the second-most-polluting industry in the world, after the oil industry, because of the excess use of water and pesticide, she said, adding that fashion is second only to agriculture in its water usage.

“You have anywhere from 400 gallons to 600 gallons for a single cotton T-shirt,” she said. “And 25 percent of the world’s pesticides go toward growing cotton, even though it only represents 2 or 3 percent of the world’s agriculture,” Aflalo continued.

The company recently conducted an environmental-impact report. “We already knew we were green, but it is really hard to quantify,” she said. “We have this really great third-party adviser who we work with. They did a comprehensive report on us and gave statistics around certain elements of our brand.”

It takes 6 gallons of water to make the Reformation “Green Tee.” Their vintage silk blouse is made with 1,100 gallons less water than a new silk T-shirt, Aflalo said.

The market for eco fabrics is largely dominated by activewear companies—such as NikePatagonia and North Face—rather than contemporary collections, such as Reformation, Aflalo said.

“I am really happy with this company,” she said. “It feels good, real and purposeful. I want to revolutionize fashion. I think the organic-food movement is a really powerful movement, and it totally redefined what organic foods are. I would like to do a similar thing with fashion.”

By Sarah Wolfson,, February 14, 2013.

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