Stella McCartney has long been an advocate for responsible, sustainable fashion and was one of the first high-profile luxury labels to put forth products that struck the perfect balance of aesthetics and ethics. Unfortunately, as a luxury label, the brand is out of reach for a majority of the masses. Affordable alternatives do, however, exist yet the marketing of responsible threads has largely focused on claims — organic, Fair Trade, etc. — rather than the clothing’s sartorial appeal, representing missed opportunities to connect with consumers.
Los Angeles-based direct-to-consumer brand Reformation has managed to master the two, creating trend-right and affordable fashion that resonates with Millennials and Gen Z — and their wallets.
Reformation has developed a reputation for its flirtatious dresses made with sustainable fabrics and carbon-neutral manufacturing processes (each product is also accompanied by stats on its environmental footprint), but now the brand is expanding into new territory: denim.
“With Reformation jeans, we wanted to tackle the worst polluting type of clothing: denim. Denim and basics are also garments that literally everyone wears. So, we wanted to create more affordable pieces to reach more people with Reformation Jeans,” said Yael Aflalo, CEO and Founder of Reformation. “The Ref Jeans line meets our same material standards and manufacturing practices main line, but we are able to make more and keep the styles simple to help lower costs. Limiting the amount of steps, chemicals, energy and water usage actually helps reduce costs at the fabric and manufacturing level.”
The brand has worked its eco-magic on the traditional dirty business of denim, reducing water usage by a third and eliminating chemical waste by using deadstock fabric and sustainable fabrics such as Lenzing Tencel and Modal. What’s more, Reformation purchases offsets to balance its water consumption and has partnered with BEF and the National Forest Foundation, pledging to clean 1,000 gallons of water for every pair of jeans sold.
The real kicker, however, is the running rate for a pair of Ref’s jeans. The priciest pair on offer is $148, with plenty of styles ringing in under the $100 mark. Paired with the brand’s marketing know-how and popularity with the under-35 set, it’s a recipe for success.
“Making great products has always been the primary goal,” said Aflalo. “It’s in the way we present our clothes: If you look for 10 more seconds, you see the sustainability messaging everywhere. But we don’t lead with that. People don’t buy clothes because they’re sustainable. It’s our job to make clothes people want to buy, and then make them sustainably.”
Meanwhile, surfer Kelly Slater is furthering his mission to deliver ‘Sustainability for all’ by unveiling a new collection with a more accessible price point for his Outerknown label. The menswear label focuses heavily on reclaimed materials and sustainable fibers, such as ECONYL®, responsible sourcing, transparency and empowering communities.
While Outerknown has traditionally been carried by upscale retailers, the new line — Project Nomadic — will tread into surf market territory, with surf shops being its main target, thereby opening up opportunities for more consumers to connect with its sustainably produced duds.
In an interview with Transworld Business, CEO Mark Walker explained that the brand’s ability to offer its high quality, sustainable apparel at a more affordable price comes down to its network of partners and suppliers, as well as a shift to a more direct-to-consumer approach, which will ultimately allows Outerknown to run a higher margin business and pass the cost savings onto consumers — without comprising on quality. Walker also named bulk commitments and the relationships the company has fostered with its vendors as a major contributor to its ability to keep costs down.
“Sustainability for all is why Outerknown was created. We want Outerknown to be a brand for everyone that everyone can participate in,” Walker told Transworld Business. “This means being inclusive around our style, offering and price point. Our goal isn’t to be a niche fashion brand; we want to create a line of clothing that anyone can enjoy and appreciate and help move the needle in sustainability.”