Sustainability

Reformation debuts fiber focus in digital answer to fashion week

The cult-favorite fashion brand staged a “fake” runway show to highlight sustainable innovation.
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Reformation, Grant Thomas

· 4 min read

“This show never happened,” Reformation’s Fall collection page proclaims. “Sorry, we faked it.”

That’s the tagline for the brand’s most recent marketing campaign, a “fake” fashion show that debuted online in the midst of New York Fashion Week after being shot without an audience across the country in Los Angeles.

Reformation—which has ambitious sustainability goals, including greenhouse-gas reduction targets and a transition to recycled fabrics—staged the “no show” to highlight sustainability issues in the fashion industry, which is estimated to be responsible for up to 10% of total global greenhouse-gas emissions.

“Our short lead time will forever prohibit us from participating in fashion month in the traditional sense,” Kathleen Talbot, Reformation’s chief sustainability officer and VP of operations, told Retail Brew via email. “We wanted to create a campaign that gave the audience insight into our business model and highlight the reasons we operate as we do.”

Traveling designers and fashion show sets (which make for NYFW’s at least 40,000-ton carbon dioxide output) aren’t major contributors to fashion’s heavy environmental footprint. 70% of the industry’s emissions come from fiber production and fabric manufacturing, which is an area Reformation has made a focus in its climate goals, but where it admits it has a ways to go.

  • “We’re always working to use more innovative, sustainable fibers,” Reformation’s “Climate Positive Roadmap” states. “What we’re really excited about isn’t 100% commercially available yet, or may have quality and other trade-offs. So we’ll have to take a longer-term view."

Fiber sourcing: the key to a small footprint—even for digital shows

Reformation, which says it has been carbon-neutral since 2015, has pledged to become “Climate Positive” by 2025. That means creating negative-carbon emissions (through carbon-reduction initiatives) and meeting internal greenhouse-gas reduction goals, the company said.

Many of Reformation’s goals are focused on fiber sourcing and production: It has committed to using 100% recycled, regenerative, or renewable fabrics by 2025, and to using only dyers and printers with a clean chemical certification by 2024.

  • According to its Q2 2022 sustainability report, the brand is currently at 71% of its recycled fabric goal, which is down from the 92% it reported in Q1 of this year.
  • 47% of Reformation’s dyers and printers currently have a clean chemical certification.

Fabric innovation: The fake fashion show’s lighter footprint may not have solved the biggest contributing factors to fashion’s footprint (NYFW is a drop in the bucket of the billions of tons of greenhouse-gas emissions produced by the industry), but it highlighted two new materials Reformation hopes will help it meet its goals, which include eliminating conventional cashmere by 2023.

  • Cashmere represents less than 1% of the material Reformation purchases, the company claims, but it accounts for almost half of its footprint.
  • The “no show” featured 90% recycled cashmere (last year’s sweaters were 70%,) which is 87% less carbon-intensive than conventional cashmere, and 80% les water-intensive, Reformation said.
  • The company also has a goal of 100% supply chain visibility for raw, animal-derived materials. The “no show” featured one of the brand’s efforts on that front, in the form of sweaters made with traceable Merino wool from the brand NATIVA.

Instant gratification: Turnaround times for Reformation items are speedy, with just 45 days to take a dress from sketch to production. That timeline, which Talbot referred to as “fast fashion” in a 2019 Insider story, isn’t typically associated with sustainable methods. Or with runway shows.

  • Talbot said the fake fashion show avoided waste and travel emissions for talent, crew, and audience.
  • Reformation rented production materials, used recycled wood that was repurposed to another set afterward, and used nearly 100% biodegradable materials, with the exception of set fastenings, she added.
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It’s the elusive meeting of fast and sustainable that Reformation targets with the digital show, Talbot said. Shoppers can buy the collection’s $178 wide-legged pants and $328 silk dresses right off the virtual runway, “without the excess waste typical within fashion.”—MA

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