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In Conversation with The Reformation

The Reformation, an “environmentally sustainable fashion brand that repurposes vintage and surplus materials to create chic, limited-edition collections,” is well-known throughout New York City and Los Angeles—more so for its updated vintage style than its values. The brand’s inspiring origins and philosophy remain largely unknown. So, in honor of The Reformation’s new Ludlow Street location in Manhattan, designer Yael Aflalo reveals the method behind her team’s in-demand designs.

Jayme Cyk: How did you come up with the idea for The Reformation?

Yael Aflalo: It was a super organic start. I had [the womenswear brand] YaYa and I wasn’t really happy with it. I wanted to close it, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do next. I knew that I really liked making clothes, but I was having a difficulty with the system and how it worked. With all the deadlines, I felt like it was too much and there had to be a different way. There was a store available below my office in LA and I decided to take it. As a side project, we had this idea about re-doing vintage. When we started, as soon as we opened the store, I decided this is what I want to do. It was exciting and rewarding and so creative and really instantaneous.

Jayme: Being the designer of YaYa, I’m guessing that those fabrics were newly produced. How did you decide to go from new to reused?

Yael: When we were started The Reformation, we were also closing YaYa, so we had this big warehouse full of ten years worth of press and fit samples, lookbooks and stuff that didn’t sell. It was massive and overwhelming and the waste started to really get to me. During the first year of Reformation, I started to have an awakening. I began reading books and watching documentaries and it started to stir something in me. The final straw was when I was off in China. We were working on doing a shoe line and I got to this town that was in mainland China, which I had never been to before. When you walk around the city, you notice it exists with a pollution level that as an American we don’t have any frame of reference for. It’s difficult for me to explain, but it’s like the inability to breathe, the inability to see forty feet in front of you. Everyone walking around was wearing masks and all the rivers were completely decomposed. Right next to the contaminated water, there was a riverbank where a Chinese peasant was farming rice. While I was there, I got incredibly depressed and I wouldn’t leave my hotel. I kept thinking: I don’t feel like I’m doing anything. I actually felt as if I was being very detrimental. That’s when the shift happened. I decided to change my company around to be all about reformation.

Jayme: That’s such a great turnaround—the fact that the clothing is made from dead stock textiles and vintage goods. I find it extremely unique that The Reformation has such a luxurious factor. How do you decide on the fabrics?

Yael: A lot of the time in repurposed vintage, from concept to execution, there are a lot of problems. So by the time you see it, you’re thinking: This looks bizarre. So, we have designers using our aesthetic in every phase. They pick out all the materials and that’s how we can maintain that high quality of fabric, prints and textures.

Jayme: I know that your selection of clothing is divided into categories; where did these different divisions come from?

Yael: We have refashioned, curated and standard [categories]. I think that what allows us to do these types of subdivisions, is that we all come from very professional fashion backgrounds. When we look at a new item…

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….we think about how we can make it work. Also, when we’re designing new pieces, we determine what we want now. When we’re deciding on fresh bodies, we have to remember we’re not going find those in vintage, so we need to remake those and that’s where “refashioned” comes from. “Curated” comes from the fact there is so much good stuff that’s already there, we don’t need to remake each piece. Sometimes we change the buttons or make it shorter, but for the most part we leave the piece as is. And then the third one is “standards.” We started to realize there were certain things that were hot and everyone wants them in four colors. So we decide on the styles that we want in quantity and create them in multiple colors..

Jayme: With the categories, I know the store is merchandised into outfit conceptions, including how to wear the pieces. You essentially are giving your customer a lifestyle. How did you decide to compose the racks?

Yael: When I’m shopping, I want to see the designer’s ideas. I think a lot of the times we push the envelope on some of the styles, and when some people see them they don’t understand. But when they see them put together, then they say, “Oh, I get it now.” I think it’s nice to give a complete point of view.

Jayme: The Reformation definitely has a distinctive quality. How do you visualize your collections for each season?

Yael: It’s again all done very organically. We don’t conceptualize. Literally two months in advance we ask each other: What do we want right now? Or what do we want in two months from now? It’s a really great way of designing because there’s no excess; there aren’t any unnecessary items to round off a collection. A lot of the time when you’re designing for collections, you have to put in a lot of pieces for the others to make sense. We just don’t have to do that. It makes it really easy and so much more fulfilling too.

Jayme: And now you’re doing menswear with designer Bobby Waltzer. Is the men’s the same process as the women’s?

Yael: Absolutely, the same exact thing.

Jayme: The men’s collection definitely has a downtown feel; were you and Bobby going for that sort of classification?

Yael: Honestly, with the menswear I really left it up to Bobby. I told him to make whatever he wants. He’s really talented and I think he has a great sense of style

Jayme: I know that you’ll be doing multiple collaborations in the future—what’s next?

Yael: The next collaboration we have in November is with Veda. It’s so sick and we’re so excited. It’s a lot of repurposed leather and it’s really turning out beautifully—very rock ‘n’ roll, with a New Year’s vibe to it. I think it’s good to have these collaborations to bring in a different point of view. I think The Reformation look can be very feminine, and I think it’s nice to have other aesthetics.

Jayme: If you could sum up The Reformation in one sentence what would it be?

Yael: Oh God! We do environmentally conscious fashion that repurposes vintage and surplus materials.

Jayme: And what else do you want everyone know about The Reformation?

Yael: I want people to go to our new website. We just launched it and its our new baby.

The Reformation is located at 156 Ludlow Street, NYC.

One Comment

  1. Alayne Smith
    Posted November 16, 2011 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

    This so fantastic

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