Yael Aflalo didn’t set out to be the eco-warrior fashion mother for the A-list and beyond, but if you dig a little into her fashion roots, you’ll find the beginning buds of Reformation.
Prior to the eco-conscious label that counts influencers like Taylor Swift and Karlie Kloss as repeat Ref'ers, Yael founded her first label, Ya-Ya, in 1999. “Towards the end of my time at Ya-Ya,” she shares, “I started to dislike a lot of the things that I had become a part of - overprinting lookbooks and tossing 80% of them, yards of leftover fabric getting thrown out. In 2009 I created Reformation with the goal of changing the way people see ‘green’ fashion and to offer eco-friendly designs that don’t sacrifice style.”
Prior to Ya-Ya, Yael kickstarted her career in fashion by hand-making skirts from pashminas and selling them to Fred Segal. It was her first business foray into repurposing fabric.
Today, Reformation uses sustainable fabrics and vintage garments, manufacturing a large swath of their want-it-all-outfits in their environmentally friendly sewing factory. Based in LA, investing in green building infrastructure to minimize waste, water, and energy footprints, was a must. The company uses 100% recycled packaging for all shipments. And in a move toward transparency, they track their environmental footprint with what they call RefScale.
It’s a move Yael says is one of the riskiest she’s ever taken. “Making the decision to step away from traditional fashion was a terrifying but incredibly rewarding experience. It allowed me to let go of what I knew and begin to develop new and innovative practices that didn’t harm the environment.” She's grateful she listened to her gut.
Though “green” dominates fashion conversations today, Yael was initially told to “play down the fact that we were an eco-clothing brand,” noting that concerns arose that “people would automatically roll their eyes at us and associate ‘green’ with ‘granola.’” She also shares that, “At the time, many eco brands weren’t looking at trends or focusing on fit,” another strong motivator for her to do something different with Reformation. So she did. Now her career goals include pioneering sustainable technologies in fashion and cheekily, “becoming a billionaire.” She encourages women “to seek solutions to problems they want to fix. If you don't like something," Yael says, "create a path to change it.
Today for the new mom that includes changing some of the culture and contradictions around female empowerment. “We as women, are holding on to some inherently sexist practices and calling them ‘old fashioned’ and yet demanding to be treated as equals,” Yael says. “My favorite example of this is women who insist that men should pay for dinner on a date. Then in their very next breath complain about the wage gap. Men used to pay for women because women weren't employed or had very low paying jobs. If women want to be paid exactly the same as a man then why should men pay for us on dates? When I ask this of a lot of women they reply, ‘Oh I'm old fashioned like that. I expect a guy to pay for me on a date.’ Why shouldn't higher ups at corporations say, ‘I think 74 cents on the dollar feels right. I'm old fashioned like that.’ Anyway, what's more empowering than being a superstar in your career, making good money, going on a date and saying. "Oh no really I have the check!”
The CEO admires thinkers like Elon Musk. “[He] said something a few years back that was really impactful,” she says. “‘The path to the CEO’s office should not be through the CFO’s office, and it should not be through the marketing department. It needs to be through engineering and design.’” And calls Patagonia, a brand that is helping destigmitize eco-fashion (and one she’s had in her wardrobe since youth) “the holy grail, start-it-all sustainable brand. They have pioneered some of the most innovative materials and production methods, motivating other companies to do the same. And that's what I hope to do with Ref.”
From the looks of it, she’s doing it, and doing it well.