Reformation founder and chief executive officer Yael Aflalo has stepped down from her position following allegations of racism from past employees that emerged on social media.
A former model, Aflalo founded the Los Angeles brand in 2009 with an emphasis on sustainable practices and materials, and it quickly gained popularity with influencers and celebrities for its vintage-inspired styles.
“I am resigning as ceo effective immediately,” she wrote on the company’s web site Friday morning. “It has been one of the greatest honors of my life to build Reformation alongside such a passionate and talented group of individuals. Reformation has played a pivotal role in transforming our industry to be more sustainable, ethical and honest. I will always be proud of the company we built together.”
The controversy started on May 30 when the brand’s Instagram posts and donations to Black Lives Matter generated a tirade of comments and posts about the company’s treatment of Black people. Elle Santiago, a former assistant store manager, posted about being overlooked for promotions, and said the company “consistently hired white women with the same or less qualifications over her.” She also detailed personal interactions with Aflalo, claiming that the founder would not look at her, and that senior managers resisted calls for diversity in the brand’s visuals, saying, “we’re not ready for that yet.” The post went viral, and was picked up by industry watchdog account DietPrada and other media outlets.
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Today and everyday my prayers are with the family of George Floyd and all victims of police brutality and racism. I wanted to wait until after the memorial to speak on this. I am addressing this issue as a stance again companies who play a role in the systems that fail our black and brown brothers and sisters daily. This is only one example of a very large and in charge problem. Racism and prejudice is prevalent in many areas of our world. We have been made to believe we have to play along to the rules of their game in order to survive, in order to maintain our livelihood. But this is one of the countless lies they have manipulated us into believing. We all deserve better than what we have been given and it is only up to us to refuse anything less than the respect, recognition and retribution we are owed. I stand for every one of my black and brown brothers and sisters who have been denied their right to prosperity. I am proud to be apart of this fight. *this is a response to a head at Ref HQ dming me to have a conversation on my experience – see last slide @reformation @yaya_aflalo @haliborenstein #blacklivesmatter #performativeactivism #accountability
Aflalo also made a public-facing statement on Instagram Friday with the headline “I’ve failed,” saying that the way she has practiced diversity is through the “white gaze,” and detailing how she would personally donate $500,000 to organizations working toward racial equality.
According to a spokesperson for Reformation, she will be replaced by Hali Borenstein, current Reformation president.
Reformation is a vertically integrated brand based in downtown L.A. with 19 stores, its own factories and more than 300 employees. In 2019, Aflalo sold a majority stake to Permira Funds. Reformation had been in the news during the pandemic after Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti unveiled a partnership with the clothing brand to organize the city’s garment manufacturers to make protective masks.
Aflalo’s departure is the latest in a wave of executive changes in business, media and entertainment in response to growing consciousness about racial bias following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, and the ensuing global wave of protests for social justice. CrossFit founder and chief executive officer Greg Glassman exited the company after making controversial remarks on social media; Bon Appétit editor in chief Adam Rapoport left the magazine after a photograph of him in brownface resurfaced, The Cut has suspended Jane Larkworthy and Condé Nast’s head of video Matt Duckor has resigned after accusations of bias.