While most womenswear brands pride themselves on dictating trends to their customers, Reformation is an L.A.-based sustainable brand that's reversing the age-old dynamic between designers and clients. “Where are people not getting what they want? That’s how we think about it,” Yael Aflalo shared with The FADER over the phone. That line of questioning is how the Los Angeles resident came to form Reformation, a beloved cult-turned-mainstream label that specializes in easy, flattering, sustainable clothing. It’s also how she arrived at Reformation's latest line, a collection geared towards women with cup sizes between C and DD who struggle to find a blouse that doesn’t pull apart at the bust or sag at their waist. Titled “I’m Up Here,” the brand’s latest capsule collection, pictured below, is a radical move in an increasingly one-size-fits-all mass marketplace. The FADER caught up with Aflalo to find out the inspiration for this bust-friendly collection and how she's keeping sustainability chic.
What was the inspiration behind the “I’m Up Here” Collection?
There’s a lot of ladies out there that have a bigger chest size and we wanted to create a collection tailored for them. We got some fit models as well as women from the office who have a D and DD cup and we made the collection with them in mind.
Did you have this idea for the collection from personal experience or friends, or was it something you were noticing that was missing in the marketplace?
It came from women in the office who have larger chests that would sarcastically be like, “That’s cute, I wish I could wear it. Thanks Yael,” and also from Instagram comments.
How did you approach the design differently than previous Reformation collections?
The important thing is not to presume how people feel. So we started off with a focus group and a survey and we started to ask people what they like, what they don’t like, what they have problems finding. We really used that information as a springboard for design. The incorrect misconceptions is that women with larger chests want to dress really modestly or on the flip-side they want clothing that really shows off their chests. It’s actually somewhere in the middle like, “I want clothes that flatter me but I also don’t want to expose my whole body.” The perfect example is blouses where the buttons are pulling. We were conscious of that.
The Reformation has been really good at noticing holes in the marketplace—the idea to do easy, flattering sustainable clothing was another concept that was missing when you first started Reformation. Where did the idea behind doing that first come from?
I was visiting China and I came into contact with an area that was manufacturing predominantly fashion and it was extremely polluted. I started to realize through more investigation that fashion is the most polluting industry in the world. I thought, “Okay, I can’t take part in this anymore. I’m going to go home and start shopping consciously.” Then I realized there weren’t any options for my style and that there was definitely a need to do this.
Since opening the first sustainable sewing factory in Los Angeles, are some of the other sustainable practices that you've implemented at The Reformation that people might not be aware of?
We measure everything that we do, from energy to weight, and we’re always looking for improvement. Our director of operations is also our director of sustainability and she’s amazing and comes from a sustainability background. Because she handles both, it’s inherent in every business decision we make. In other companies, sustainability is usually done by a consultant or an analyst making recommendations of which the operational people decide if they want to adopt those policies.
As an creative that's been on the fashion side of the industry and the sustainable side as well, do you think the growing pains are different for each? Are there more challenges when you’re working in a sustainable frame?
It’s not any harder to make sustainable clothing. The premise of sustainability is using more resources. It requires more thoughtfulness and innovation. It’s easy to say, here’s how everyone else is doing it so let’s just mimic that. But we don’t do that. We look at it and say, how can we improve this? Generally it doesn’t cost anymore, it just requires more investigation.
On the design side, it gives you certain limitations of what you can and can’t design. Coming from a design background, I find that really freeing. When you’re going to design something and there are no boundaries, it’s almost like being in a vacuum where you can do anything. I find the parameters of sustainability make it easier to figure out what to do.
The Reformation prides itself on seasonless collections. Does that allow you to be more creative?
I never really understood seasons. I was always like, Why would I make coats in July? Because of sales? Well, let’s just get rid of the sale and the coats.
How do you stay inspired when you’re not designing season-to-season?
Most companies create a concept for the season and a lot of it is based in fantasy. That’s not how we approach design. Our clothes are concerned with what girls want right now. We have a group of women at the office and we come up with great ideas based on what we want to wear and where we’re going to be.