EXCLUSIVE: Reformation Pledges to Be Circular by 2030, Lays Out ‘Net Positive’ Clothing Plan
Reformation’s latest impact report highlights circularity goals, with the aim of being a circular fashion brand by 2030.
The brand has been charting its renewed sustainability roadmap since the pandemic. In 2020, Reformation pledged to be “Climate Positive by 2025,” and now equally ambitiously, it hopes to be “Circular by 2030.” Last month, Reformation launched handbags made to be recycled as evidence of its commitment.
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“Sustainability has been so integral to our DNA from the beginning,” Kathleen Talbot, chief sustainability officer and vice president of operations at Reformation, told WWD ahead of the report’s release.
As a certified Climate Neutral company, each year Reformation measures its carbon emissions and offsets 100 percent of its footprint. The measurements incorporate its “RefScale,” a methodology developed by the brand in 2015 and verified by Sustainable Business Consulting.
“We’re not trying to create our own measuring stick,” Talbot reiterated, pointing to its verified science-based targets and ongoing work with the Carbon Disclosure Project.
The brand centers future hopes on circular fashion around its clothing being designed for circularity, worn often, kept in use and made with better materials. It anchors this definition in the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s wider one of a circular economy as one that eliminates waste and pollution, circulates products and materials, and regenerates nature.
Talbot said circular design is an “under-leveraged” and “less clearly defined ambition” in fashion, and one the company is betting on.
Brands like Reformation, Rent the Runway and Everlane are all among the values-led cohort of young sustainable apparel companies that had hit the scene by 2010. For Reformation, the company, according to a recent Bloomberg report, claims to be profitable, with sales doubling in four years to $300 million.
Its sustainability roadmap is close in line with growth. By the numbers, 0.5 percent of Reformation garments were excess inventory from direct product that were donated, 16 percent of business is circular (resale, rental or vintage), 15 percent of materials are textile-to-textile recyclable, 68 percent of materials were recycled, regenerative or renewable and 17 percent of materials were deadstock, recycled or next-gen fabrics.
Reformation predominantly relies on organic cotton, viscose and Lyocell as its top fibers but said it is transitioning away from virgin fiber use given high water and emissions impact. Certified silk and Leather Working Group-certified leather make up a much smaller portion of Reformation’s sourcing, or 7 percent of its material footprint, but have higher impacts (per the Higg Index data cited in the report).
“One of the things that, hopefully, comes out with our materials mix is we’re not just trying to look for pilots and capsule collections here. We’re talking about fundamentally making some sourcing transitions,” said Talbot. “The most notable, from a climate perspective, is our 90 percent recycled cashmere quality which ended up becoming the core 2022 sweater program.” Recycled silk alternative (made of wood pulp and recycled plastic), specifically Eastman’s Naia “Renew” acetate, was another callout in the report for material substitutes alongside a number of regenerative sourcing programs like C4.
“The dream of a sustainability program is that it can be a true win-win. It can help further your mission and it also is accretive to margin,” Talbot continued.
Reformation was one of the first to partner with ThredUp under its Resale-as-a-Service model in 2018. In 2021, Reformation made a pledge to recirculate 500,000 garments in five years — the brand is already 80 percent there through its partnership with ThredUp. (This is separate from the 0.05 percent figure in the report, which is from direct production).
On-demand tailoring service Hemster began a pilot last year with Reformation that is now live for e-commerce customers for free if the item costs at least $118, and in 14 stores across the U.S. “We can confirm it is a value-add program, not just a sustainability initiative,” Talbot said.
Reformation and Everlane were among the few brands endorsing the Fabric Act, per the 2022 Remake transparency report. Reformation also received praise in the Remake report for its progress on living wages and financial aid to help decarbonize its suppliers under its “Factory Forward” initiative, which launched in 2022. The program currently helps five factory partners in measuring, reporting and assessing their impacts. Its significance is that the factories are responsible for nearly half, or 47 percent, of Reformation’s tier one production.
It’s not all straightforward, though the brand aims to make its climate impact data as digestible as possible for its Insta-worthy “Refbabes” (a hashtag used by shoppers and influencers alike).
Reformation said it is on track with the 1.5-degrees Celsius pathway to decarbonize its supply chain per the Paris Agreement, and as vetted by the Science Based Targets Initiative. Reformation produced 36,822 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents in 2022, which is up 8 percent from 34,028 mtC02e the previous year.
“There’s two things there to unpack,” Talbot said. “We have intensity targets with the Science Based Targets [Initiative] for our Scope 3 emissions. Because we’re not a heritage and mature business, we know we’re going to be growing. Our total emissions from 2021 to 2022 went up 8 percent, but our business grew nearly 5 times that. We’re really committed to say we need to bring down the carbon intensity of our products. You can still decarbonize in line with these targets even as you are growing and establishing the company.”
“We fundamentally believe if you can achieve those things, you can — and should — have a net positive impact even while you are producing clothes,” she added.
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