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Reformation’s First Fall Footwear Line Offers Sustainable Boots

Reformation’s new line of boots is made for walking—and recycling, too.

This week, the California cool label released its first fall line of footwear, including combat boots, lug-soled loafers, knee-high silhouettes, neoprene, square-toe ankle boots and western-inspired mid-shaft styles. Made to complement the brand’s apparel—from printed peasant dresses to high-waisted denim—the shoes come in a range of warm beiges and browns, army green, black and snow white. The line is punctuated by an array of animal prints created with repurposed deadstock materials, and includes new inputs like traceable stretch leather and suede.

The drop follows the spring launch of Ref Shoes 2.0, which incorporated recycled and bio-based components and 75 percent less virgin plastic than Reformation’s first footwear offering in 2019. Like the spring line, this fall’s boots and dress styles will be recyclable through a take-back program benefiting partner Looptworks, a Portland, Ore.-based organization that finds industrial uses for pre- and post-consumer waste.

Starting this month, customers can bring their pre-loved Reformation shoes to any U.S. store and receive a $25 credit per pair towards their next purchase. The company is also working with Looptworks on the first-ever dress shoe recycling program in the U.S., which will make use of all the styles’ parts and pieces. “Recycling dress shoes isn’t easy, and finding a secondary life for each element is taking work and ingenuity on our recycling partners’ part,” Alison Melville, Reformation’s general manager of footwear and accessories, told Sourcing Journal.

The Katerina lug sole Chelsea boot.
The Katerina lug sole Chelsea boot. Reformation

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But Melville says consumers have been asking Reformation for boots, which range in price from $248-$398, as well as additional silhouettes slated to drop throughout the fall. “We’ve seen a clear appetite for fashion-forward styles across categories—whether that be our trend-driven activewear, our novelty printed denim, or our spring shoes lineup, as consumers are excited to shop and get dressed up again,” she said. The trans-seasonal boot styles are versatile enough to be worn throughout the year, she said.

“There’s always a learning curve when launching—or relaunching—a new category, and it took some fine tuning to get these right from a quality and sustainability perspective,” Melville added. Refirmation’s first footwear launch over two years ago came with valuable learnings—namely, that making sustainable shoes was “even tougher than we thought.”

“Compared to our original Ref Shoes collection, we’ve launched our 2.0 boots with new manufacturing partners, reduced virgin plastics in major components, and expanded supply chain traceability,” Melville said. Designing boots in particular comes with some inherent challenges. “There’s a higher customer expectation of durability when it comes to boots, so that adds an additional requirement to our material sourcing criteria,” she said.

“For our launch of Ref Shoes 2.0 in the spring of 2021, we rehauled our supply chain and found new supply partners that upheld our core values and sustainability standards,” Melville continued. Reformation sources its leather hides and produces its footwear in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil—the country’s southernmost state—and has developed product and material traceability down to the farm level. The company works “exclusively” with Leather Working Group Gold and Silver rated tanneries certified in best-in-class water, energy, and chemical management practices.

“We have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to leather produced in the Amazon biome,” she added, and Reformation’s traceability efforts serve as an essential tool to ensure that the brand does not contribute to the rampant deforestation that has devastated much of the area’s ecology.

“For our boots components—such as lug soles—we’ve continued our commitment to focus on bio-based and recycled alternatives to plastic,” Melville said. Those materials, like rubber, are also sourced in Brazil in order to minimize the carbon footprint from transporting overseas components.

While Reformation has long hoped to launch a footwear line for cooler temperatures, developing this network of suppliers and producers has been essential to bringing it to fruition. “We are thrilled to be working with partners in Brazil who take sustainability as seriously as we do,” Melville said. Those partners “are willing to experiment and innovate with us to continue to push the industry forward.”