In the Pursuit of Circularity: Reformation's Circularity Goals

circularity environmental impacts innovation materials recycling social impacts sustainable fashion Aug 14, 2023

Reformation, the premium brand that originally got its start in deadstock, has grown exponentially over the past few years. 

Worn by celebrities like Kendall Jenner, Emily Ratajkowski, Hailey Bieber and many more, Ref has become the brand synonymous with the “it girls.” As a Gen Z consumer (McKenzie here 😁)  I will admit that I love Ref, following them on almost every platform and subscribing to their marketing emails - I check all the boxes that make me an obsessed fan. Aside from their gorgeous designs and superb marketing that cracks me up, as a sustainability nerd at heart, their initiatives are where I really start to lean in, and you should too.

When I started my sustainability journey with Derek almost 2 years ago, I had a chip on my shoulder toward Reformation. I thought they were just another overpriced brand that catered to a very small demographic. Today, I can admit that I was wrong and my thinking on the brand has made a complete 180. 

Not only is Ref doing good sustainability work, but they’re also a leader in the sustainability space. I would argue (dare I say) that they’re on par with Patagonia, which is a pretty hard standard to match.

We could spend hours (yes, hours) going through their sustainability initiatives, but I leave this to you. Read their Q2 Sustainability Report here - I highly encourage you to dive in and examine all the work they’ve done and will continue to work on in coming years. 

“What’s next?” is the big question on everyone’s mind when looking at Reformation and it looks like they have their sights set on circularity. A couple of months ago, Ref announced they plan to be circular by 2030, but how they actually plan to achieve that has everyone on the edge of their seats.

Under the circularity section of their website, Reformation has laid out a high-level plan of how they plan to achieve circularity by 2030. First and foremost, we can let out a sigh of relief because they have aligned with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s definition of circularity. The three guiding principles are:

  1. Eliminate waste and pollution
  2. Circulate products and materials
  3. Regenerate nature

Ref is first exploring how they reduce impacts associated with their materials. Their plan is to get as close to 0% virgin fibers as possible by prioritizing deadstock, vintage, recycled, and next-gen fibers. They also want to incorporate materials that are recyclable through their RefRecycle program and, excitingly, they also claim to be researching compostable fibers.

It’s exciting to see a brand so, well… excited about circularity, and materials are just the start. To see how they will follow the Ellen MacArthur guidelines, check out what they’ve listed in their roadmap.  

One principle of circularity that a lot of brands stumble over is clean or green chemistry. Ref is not excluded from this. 

They do have an RSL in place, which tests for hazardous chemicals in the end product, but what every brand should invest in is an MRSL. This tests for hazardous chemicals at every stage of production and protects the most amount of workers across just about the entire production system. And while they are partnered with Oeko-Tex and Bluesign, the next step is to align with ZDHC*.

As we round out Ref’s commitment to circularity, it’s important to note that all this would be moot without the proper accountability measures in place. They thought of that too - they have partnered with Circulytics to measure their progress and will continue to work with Ellen MacArthur Foundation to establish a baseline and scorecard for 2023.

Until then, we’ll have to wait for Reformation’s next quarterly report to see how the progress is going and we’ll be keeping a watchful eye. As a fan, I’ll be cheering them on and as a passionate sustainability advocate, I’m hopeful they’ll be the ones to guide the industry in the right direction. Watch out Patagonia - there may be a new North Star brand on the horizon… 

What do you think of Reformation as a brand? Are they in the same court as Patagonia and other sustainability champions? Something to think about before your next shopping trip… 

*Note: Ref claims to have adopted the MRSL and aims to have 100% of materials come from suppliers with clean chemistry certifications or ZDHC compliance under the MRSL by 2025, however, they are not listed on ZDHC’s website.

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