Reformation is a US-based women’s brand that combines stylish and vintage-inspired designs with sustainable practices. Its goal is to prove that fast fashion and sustainability can coexist, hmm 🤔. Reformation confronts the general view that ethical fashion is "not cool" by making clothes that will get you compliments. Because of its signature dress line, the name of the brand has become nominal. It offers a range of feminine and chic silhouettes - everything for a party, wedding, office, or just a casual night out. Reformation also has size-inclusive collections for petite and ladies with curves.
Is Reformation Ethical?
Reformation is a genuinely ethical brand that is transparent about its practices. It makes an effort to measure its overall impact and releases quarterly sustainability reports.
Reformation is mindful of its carbon and water footprint and buys offsets to become neutral. It recycles waste and handles chemicals responsibly. Nearly half of its fabrics are sustainable, but it also uses a lot of conventional materials such as viscose, linen, etc. It also offers fabrics that are not vegan-friendly - including silk, wool, cashmere, alpaca, and leather.
Reformation is a member of the Fair Labor Association (FLA) and it has an FLA-compliant Code of Conduct for its direct cut, sew and finish suppliers. The brand traces most of its supply chain (except for the raw materials) and conducts regular audits. On the negative side, its international factories are located in countries with a high risk of labor abuse. In addition, only a few suppliers are certified (SA8000, WRAP, Fairtrade) and only 22% of them pay a living wage to their workers.
Want to dive deeper? Just keep on reading to find the details...
Given its impressive collection of dresses, almost half of Reformation’s fabrics are cellulose-based. It also uses organic cotton, TENCEL, recycled animal fibers, and even some deadstock. However, more than half of the materials are conventional which means they are not organic, recycled, or made sustainably. Although it aspires to be a circular brand with a goal to make 75% of its production out of natural, renewable, and recycled materials, right now more than half of its garments cannot be recycled because they are made of mixed fibers (containing spandex and other synthetics). Luckily two-third of their materials are biodegradable.
Reformation is testing all its dyes against a Restricted Substance List to eliminate hazardous substances and ensure product safety. It also works with Bluesign® and OEKO-TEX® Standard 100 certified dyeing facilities. In addition, 43% of their printers and dyers have a clean chemical certification.
Different types of packaging are available: fully-compostable bags made of bio-degradable materials; 100% biodegradable recycled LDPE bags with a biodegradable polymer that breaks down in landfills. They also offer reusable totes in their stores.
Reformation strives for a zero-waste production process – right now they recycle, donate and compost 75% of their organic and textile waste. In addition, deadstock fabrics account for ~5% of its raw materials.
Here are some Reformation initiatives that try to battle the impact of fashion:
- RefRecycling program to recycle Reformation shoes launched after April 2021
- thredUP partnership to sell or donate old clothes
- Deadstock collections to keep fiber go to waste
Around 40% of Reformation clothing is cut and sewn locally in LA. Raw materials come from China. Each country has a different minimum or prevailing wage which is often different from the living wage. In Reformation’s Code of Conduct it is stated that “employers must pay workers at least the minimum wage or the prevailing country wage, whichever is higher”. This means that despite the brand’s desire to pay a living wage, it is not guaranteed. In fact, only 22% of the suppliers meet the living wage criteria. Future goals towards a living wage are summarized in the Q3 report.
Developing countries present a high risk of labor abuse. Currently, only seven Reformation suppliers and factories are FairTrade, SA8000, or WRAP certified. This is insufficient given a large number of suppliers and parent companies they cooperate with. Factories, especially in developing countries, need to be audited by certified companies because of the risk of forgery.
Reformation does independent domestic audits and finds 44% of their Tier 1 facilities to meet all their standards. The frequency of these audits depends on what the findings are - facilities that meet all the standards are audited once every 12 months while facilities with safety, health, or labor-related issues are audited every 3 to 6 months. Reformation performs mediation and together with their partners seeks a way to improve the conditions.
The brand requires their cut, sew and finish manufacturing partners to adhere to the Code of Conduct of the company in order to ensure fair labor conditions and fundamental labor rights, including no child labor and forced labor, health, and safety protections.
Reformation is not vegan – it uses animal fibers (silk, wool, cashmere, alpaca) and leather for part of its shoes and outerwear collection. It doesn't use down, fur, or exotic animal skin.
On the bright side, Reformation traces most of its raw materials from animals and requires all suppliers to comply with its Animal Welfare Policy. That means wool should come from non-mulesed sheep, animals should be treated in accordance with the Five Domains Model covering nutrition, environment, health, behavior, and mental state. The brand only works with leather tanneries that are rated Gold and Silver by the Leather Working Group.