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Why Reformation’s Staging a ‘No-Show’ Fashion Show

Reformation kicked off the fall season with its first-ever “no-show” digital fashion event.

On Wednesday, the Los Angeles brand debuted its autumn 2022 line at an online-only virtual showcase streamed on its e-commerce site. Models in dresses, sweaters, separates and outerwear walked the runway in an empty L.A. warehouse for an audience watching from their digital devices.

Reformation wanted to highlight new styles and material innovations without staging a full-scale runway show and the waste and carbon footprint it typically generates, Kathleen Talbot, the brand’s chief sustainability officer and vice president of operations, told Sourcing Journal.

The brand recruited ‘90s-era supermodel and environmental activist Carolyn Murphy to serve as the face of its campaign. Murphy has worked with the Surfrider Foundation, Ocean Unite and No More Plastic on clean ocean initiatives, and recently launched her second collaborative collection with Mother Denim in support of the Saves The Waves Coalition. “It was sort of like the dream come true,” Talbot said. “We thought, ‘This an awesome person to help bring this elevated collection to life.’”

The digital exhibition was “an opportunity to introduce our fall collection and still have fun” while underscoring “what a nimble, less conventional supply chain lets us do,” she added.

Reformation launched in 2009 with a goal of giving new life to deadstock fabrics and still prides itself on small-batch manufacturing and speed-to-market capabilities. Over the past decade, Reformation has not only adopted more sustainable materials, like Tencel lyocell and recycled cotton, but worked with material innovators looking to upend the traditional fashion supply chain. “It’s been a fun challenge to go after some of these better materials that we knew we needed to drive our climate-positive commitments and our circularity goals,” Talbot said.

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This fall Reformation will introduce a 90-percent-recycled cashmere sweater that builds on last year’s launch of sweaters made with 70 percent recycled content. “The last 10 percent is Good Cashmere Standard certified yarn, so it’s a step in the right direction,” Talbot said, though Reformation plans to sell fully-recycled options in the near future. “We’re working through the innovation process and starting to test the limits on recycled content in a way that doesn’t jeopardize the product quality and function.”

Most of the cashmere fibers used come from pre-consumer fabric mill waste, she added. Reformation, which debuted its RefRecyling program in 2015, announced a partnership with reverse logistics and textile recycling firm SuperCircle in 2021 to provide a fiber-to-fiber recycling solution for pre-owned clothing. Talbot described the existing take-back program as a feedstock channel for future collections, though Reformation is working to scale the effort. “We are building the pipeline to be able to actually close that loop in our sourcing, so we are accepting sweaters back though RefRecycling, and working with the same mills and yarn producers to integrate that post-consumer cashmere waste as well,” she said.

The fall collection will showcase Reformation’s expanded partnership with traceable wool provider Nativa and its rising regenerative agriculture program. Reformation has been sourcing certified regenerative wools for knitwear through the organization since last fall, and is now “doubling down on that relationship and increasing our investments in on-farm practices” like promoting soil health, biodiversity and animal welfare, Talbot said.

The company has concentrated its support on a wool farm in Uruguay called La Magdalena, which is currently transitioning to regenerative farming and undergoing a certification process. There are too few regenerative and organic producers available to brands, so scaling product output beyond capsule collections has been a challenge, Talbot said, adding, “This is our chance to grow that capacity, grow the movement and invest in getting more farms on track for regenerative certification.”

Reformation will soon introduce a more new outerwear options focused on recycled wool coats made with MWool from Italian supplier Manteco, which collects pre- and post-consumer wool scraps, sorts them by color and reprocesses them without dyes or additives.

Outerwear “has been such a small part of our business, in part because we didn’t feel like we had a great low-impact material” outside of deadstock fabrics, which can only be used for limited runs, she added. Bringing MWool to the range enables Reformation “to introduce some consistency for our consumer and grow this part of our business,” Talbot said.

Circularity-focused suppliers like Manteco that mirror Reformation’s mission help the company transform its material lineup. “We’re definitely not alone in this now,” Talbot said. “I think that is really at the heart of the ‘no show’—how can we continue to challenge the status quo and really push for things that are smarter and more sustainable?”

The unorthodox approach to the runway event challenges the traditional fashion business model, she said. Brands still mounting massive bi-yearly fashion shows are placing high-stakes bets on what they believe shoppers will want to buy next season, when tastes change at the pace of TikTok trends.

“We don’t know what consumers are going to be asking for from us in six months,” Talbot said. “If anything, the inflationary environment and the other macro changes we’re seeing this summer are a reminder that brands and retailers have to be really careful and reactive to those demand signals.”

Failure will lead to “significant inventory liability and waste,” she said. “We have to start to break that cycle.”