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Reformation Debuts a Lower-Price Line

Founder Yael Aflalo explains how Instagram inspired her to expand the brand's under-$100 offerings into a line called Obvious.
A look from Reformation's Obvious collection. Photo: Courtesy Reformation

A look from Reformation's Obvious collection. Photo: Courtesy Reformation

On Monday, Reformation -- a sustainably focused, vertically integrated retailer patronized by cool girls like Taylor Swift and the Haim sisters -- released its first lower-priced point collection. Titled "Obvious," the line includes jackets, dresses, skirts and tops in prices ranging from $28 to $178, which are now available online and in the brand's three stores (two in New York City, and one in Los Angeles). Reformation's prices usually run between $80 and $330, with some of the formal gowns topping $600. And while the brand has sold pieces within Obvious's price range in the past, this collection not only expands those offerings, but also makes them easier to identify.

"We have some things that are less expensive online and in stores, but you have to look for them," says Yael Aflalo, founder and creative director of Reformation. "But I think now it's going to be a destination on the site and you know where to go, for people who think, 'I’m not a $300 dress, I’m a $98 dress.'"

Since Aflalo founded the brand in 2008, price accessibility and eco-friendly production methods have always been her priorities. Last year, Aflalo told the New York Times that the company was due to make over $25 million in revenue in 2014, compared to $9 million the year before. Obvious is its third specialty line -- Reformation launched a capsule for larger busts last year and also has a collection of wedding and formal gowns.

I spoke with Aflalo about Obvious, maintaining sustainable business practices at a lower price point and what inspired her to create the line in the first place.

Why did you decide to produce a lower-price point line?

It's always been my mission to make clothes for the chicest people, not make clothes for the wealthy people. At Reformation, our goal is to bring compelling sustainable clothing to the mass market, so it's always been that thinking of, 'How can we get big enough to make clothes that are more affordable for everybody?'

Why not just reduce all your prices then?

When we have sprinkles of those lower price clothes in there, people don’t find them. And so by creating a destination it gives people a direct place that they can go. And on the other hand, with Reformation -- maybe to make it more clear -- I’m not trying to make cheaper clothes. We’re trying to have a broader assortment of clothing so that different types of people -- that can afford different things or want different things from their clothes -- have a place to come. I wouldn’t be opposed to having a dress that is very expensive. It’s worth it if the value is there. It's about not charging prices just because you can. 

A look from Reformation's Obvious collection. Photo: Reformation

A look from Reformation's Obvious collection. Photo: Reformation

How do you maintain sustainable business practices at this price point? Is everything still made from vintage garments, surplus materials or sustainable fabrics?

Yes, everything is the same exact stuff. In fact I would say that the Obvious collection is more sustainable than the rest of Reformation.

In what way?

In two ways -- a larger percentage of the materials are made in America, and then also a larger percentage of the materials are made from more sustainable fibers. So a bigger percentage is made from Tencel [a natural man-made fiber]. And Tencel just has a much better environmental footprint. 

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Is the aesthetic different from the core collection?

I don’t think so. We did make it a little bit more colorful than we usually do, but I also think that's because it was our first foray into spring this season. We are sort of starting to spring forward, but I don’t really see any other differences. It has more jersey than Reformation does. It's using more knit fabrics. Reformation is more woven, and this one is more knit. 

A look from Reformation's Obvious collection. Photo: Reformation

A look from Reformation's Obvious collection. Photo: Reformation

Is Obvious catered towards a different customer? A younger one?

No, I think there’s some problem, I feel like most of the time when people do diffusion lines, they're made for younger people and I don’t really understand that. It assumes that if you don’t have a big budget, you want to dress like a kid or more basic or something. The reason we called it Obvious is because we are trying to make things that you would obviously want to buy at any price and so we are trying to make things that even if you have a lot of money, you would still buy. 

You know when you go shopping and there’s a dress there and it's cheap, not very cheap, but a lot cheaper? It's like $78, and you think, 'I’m obviously getting it.' It takes any pain of decision-making out of it. It's almost free, I’m getting it. 

Did the impetus to start Obvious come from a shopping trip like that, or from client feedback? How did you know that the Reformation shopper would be interested?

I started Reformation because I was so over going shopping and not being able to afford anything, and so shopping just became about constantly window shopping. I would say that most of my friends have had that experience where they think, 'Great, I can’t get anything.' I wanted to start a company with clothes that people could get or that my friends could get, that felt like a good price and that was a big part of it. And it was also during the recession when we started and it was like, 'I can’t have any of these things, what is even happening right now?' I always say to people. 'Where do you go shopping?' and then when they say to me, 'Who are your competitors?'—I don’t even know. I don’t know where people go shopping, it's so hard. Let me ask you -- where do you go shopping, do you think shopping is hard?

Yes, it is difficult. I like to mix Zara and whatever things I can find on sale, like discounted designer clothing if I'm lucky.

Yeah so people do Zara, vintage and wait for sales. But I’m sure you can afford to go into Reformation and buy stuff sometimes.

Yes, definitely. But it's not just about the price point. There's a modern feeling. The aesthetic is very specific and I think it speaks to a specific generation of people. Or have you found that not to be true?

I don’t know, I mean we have women of all ages that buy it. I think the thing for me, with the aesthetic of Reformation, is it's really clean. There's never stuff on our clothes. It's all about the cut -- the cut really speaks for itself. And I think that's what you’re saying when you think that's modern. It has that modern look, but it's actually very vintage-inspired. It's very timeless. I’ve seen it before but I don't really know where. So that's why I started Reformation and yes, obviously, we have a look and fit and our clothes are really good and would probably sell if it was $500 for a dress. Probably not as many though. 

It's really from Instagram. That's why I started the collection. I always read our Instagram and I respond to people and it just bums me out so hard when I read girls making comments like, 'I love this, it's so pretty, I wish I could afford it.' It makes me sad, it makes me feel bad. And obviously it's not some giant tragedy that this girl can’t afford a dress, but I still don’t love it and so I wanted to do something about it. I wanted to give those girls something to buy and a place to go.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

See below for images from Reformation's Obvious collection, available now online and at the stores.