“Activewear was always part of the road map,” Hali Borenstein, chief executive officer of Reformation, told WWD. “When we think about product expansion, we think, where are the gaps in the market in terms of sustainability? Where can we make the biggest impact in sustainability? And we try to meet the customer where they are, which is at home right now and in comfortable clothes. So we knew the demand was there. It was just a matter of when we were going to get into it.”
The retailer might seem late to the game, considering the current boom in activewear. (Everyone from Target to American Eagle Outfitters’ Aerie to Proenza Schouler launched an activewear collection in 2020, not to mention all the established players.) But Borenstein said Ref Active is one of the few brands that offer products that are both fashion-forward and eco-friendly.
“You shouldn’t have to choose between stylish and sustainable,” Borenstein said. “People have this idea of what sustainable [fashion] looks like and it’s not always cute. We want to offer something that is good for the environment and still cute. We’re currently one of the only sustainable options in the market that’s still forward thinking in our trends with really cute and flattering products.”
The 11-piece Ref Active collection, which launches today at Thereformation.com, consists of a jumpsuit, leggings, sports bras, a bodysuit and bike shorts in multiple colors. There are two different fabrications: Eco Move and Eco Stretch.
“One is for working out in and the other [Eco Stretch] is more trendy, like you just want to pretend like you’re doing yoga,” Borenstein explained.
Prices range from $48 to $118 and come in sizes 0 to 3X. Reformation will continue to add new pieces and colors to the collection each month, Borenstein said.
True to form, much like the rest of Reformation’s assortment, all pieces in the Ref Active collection are sustainable. They’re made from Repreve, or recycled water bottles.
“Sustainability is at the core of what we’ve done since day one,” Borenstein said. “We embraced sustainability before it was buzzy, before it was trendy. It’s in the labor we use, the materials we use, the business practices.”
In fact, Reformation, which was started by Yael Aflalo in 2009 when she began selling vintage threads out of a storefront in Los Angeles, now sells around the world. The fashion brand opened its first sustainable factory in downtown Los Angeles in 2013 and went global the same year with the launch of its website. Reformation quickly became a favorite among Millennials and Gen Zers looking for environmentally friendly fashion options.
Even during the pandemic, when consumers were hunkering down at home and the need for occasion wear dwindled, Borenstein said business was steady.
“Obviously, 2020 was a challenging year. But the team did a good job of pivoting,” she said. “We ramped up production in more comfortable [attire], such as T-shirts and less form-fitting dresses. We diversified our product assortment more. It’s that breadth of product assortment that really helped us acquire new customers [in 2020], a different type of customer.”
Today, Reformation has 20 stores, 18 in the U.S., one in Canada and one in the U.K. Borenstein said the company will continue to expand both its retail fleet, particularly in places like Europe where the sustainability movement is gaining traction, and by entering new categories.
That’s a lot to take on for the new CEO, who took over last summer after Aflalo stepped away from the C-suite, following allegations of racism from past employees.
“Reformation is an organization that grew very quickly and an organization that did a lot of things right. But we also missed some things along the way,” Borenstein said. “Investing in our people was one of them. We’re going to continue investing in our people, investing in a world-class organization. Our team and our people are the core of what makes us successful. Investing in that will help us pay dividends for years to come.”
Borenstein said the company will add roughly 40 to 50 new faces to the organization in 2021, a more diverse workforce.
“It’s been a busy seven, eight months. I have a lot of work ahead of me,” she added. “But I’m excited about it. We’ve made a lot of investments in sustainability over the last year that will help us cement our place as leaders in sustainability.”