How Reformation is approaching sustainability in 2023

Its head of sustainability says in 2023, the fashion world will be all eyes on regenerative agriculture and fiber innovation.
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Reformation, Grant Thomas

· 4 min read

If you read about fashion brand Reformation in the headlines last year, it was probably because J. Lo sported not one, but two of their dresses while honeymooning with Ben Affleck in Paris.

Kathleen Talbot, the company’s chief sustainability officer and VP of operations, would probably prefer Reformation’s year was defined by its climate efforts rather than by a Page Six story (Reformation reports being carbon-neutral since 2015, has pledged to become “Climate Positive” by 2025, and releases quarterly reports outlining its progress toward that goal.

We couldn’t land an interview with J. Lo about her outfit choices, but we sat down with Talbot in November to chat about the brand’s climate vision, and what’s coming down the pipeline for fashion in 2023.

Milestones and momentum

Low-footprint fibers play an important role in Reformation’s plans for sustainability, Talbot explained. The company has committed to using 100% recycled, regenerative, or renewable fabrics, and to using only dyers and suppliers with a clean chemical certification by 2025. And its targets have been approved by third-party reviewer Science Based Targets Initiative, a partnership between nonprofit CDP, the UN Global Compact, the World Resources Institute, and the World Wide Fund for Nature.

Talbot said 2022 saw some major movement on Reformation’s goals:

  • The company has pledged to eventually phase out virgin cashmere and, in 2022, introduced a 90% recycled version.
  • In Q3 2022, 73% of Reformation’s fabrics were from recycled, regenerative, or renewable materials. That’s up from 71% in Q2, according to the brand’s reports.

On the horizon: Talbot said she and her team have a few big items on their plates for 2023, including addressing their transportation emissions, which Talbot said is an area they haven’t focused as much on, and which currently accounts for about 20% of the company’s total emissions.

  • Reducing Reformation’s transportation footprint will involve rethinking planning cycles to avoid air shipping (which the brand uses for about 40% of its products) and move toward slower modes of transport, Talbot said.
  • “I’m optimistic, but it also feels really hard because a lot of it might be out of our direct control,” Talbot said. “At the end of the day…you’re just more constrained to what technology is available.”
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Fashion’s future: Talbot, who has been involved in Reformation’s sustainability efforts since 2014, said the brand’s focus on supply-chain transparency and fiber innovation is likely to be reflected in the broader fashion industry in 2023.

“I think there’s two other things…that are just becoming more mainstream or… are very cool, so it ends up being the good headlines and the things you want to anchor [sustainability efforts] around,” Talbot said.

The first is regenerative agriculture, which Regeneration International defines as “farming and grazing practices that, among other benefits, reverse climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity—resulting in both carbon drawdown and improving the water cycle.”

  • “I’ve seen so many brands making a commitment to shift to a certain percent regenerative,” Talbot added. “That’s a coalition of brands that are actually in a pre-competitive way investing in farms directly. It’s kind of revolutionary when you think about it, because there’s brands that are investing in fiber before it’s a raw material. It’s a very different way to engage with your supply chain.”

The other thing Talbot is predicting will take over fashion headlines in 2023 is “next generation materials.” For example, Reformation is part of a brands cooperative working on a mushroom-based leather alternative, she explained.

“These are things that are really cool, really interesting, [and] have the ability to really disrupt the industry and some of these materials that we’ve all been relying on.”—MA

Retail news that keeps industry pros in the know

Retail Brew delivers the latest retail industry news and insights surrounding marketing, DTC, and e-commerce to keep leaders and decision-makers up to date.