The Cynthia jeans are $128 in comparison to a pair of similar Gap jeans for $80. The price tag is steep, but you are definitely buying the brand because it’s become quite a hip, LA brand. The sustainable practices implemented throughout the supply chain are great, but I can’t get past how far the distances each pair of jeans travel. It seems contradictory to champion the super cool, innovative FibreTrace technology while shipping your products such long distances. I do appreciate that they’re transparent about the factories they use, and I hope they find a way to shorten the distance their products travel.
These Cynthia jeans are made of rigid denim that is 43% TENCEL Lyocell, which is derived from Eucalyptus trees and has a closed-loop production that reuses 99% of the non-toxic solvent. The remaining materials are 40% recycled cotton and 17% organically grown cotton. It’s great that 100% of the material used for these jeans is sustainable whether in production or growth and harvesting. None of the cotton used is made in the traditional way that uses a lot of water and pesticides that cause pollution due to runoff. Reformation also includes a ‘Sustainability Impact’ tab on the product page that says it’s saved 12 pounds of carbon dioxide, 685 gallons of water, and 1.2 pounds of waste savings. though they don’t provide what they’re comparing these jeans to. FibreTrace is an innovative technology that creates a liquid, traceable pigment that is added to cotton during its ginning. The fiber is then scanned at every production step to build a trackable history of the denim from the moment it’s ginned to the moment it reaches a consumer. This is a great, super interesting act of transparency.
These jeans begin as a seed at the world’s first carbon-positive farm, Good Earth, in Australia; they plant and harvest their cotton by using renewable energy, emphasizing soil health, and farming in harmony with natural vegetation. The harvested cotton goes to the Wathagar Gin which is in the same Australian town and is where raw cotton is cleaned and ginned; it’s also where FibreTrace technology pigment is added. The next step in the production process is located in Turkey, halfway across the world, which definitely has effects on carbon emissions. The Bossa Mill in Adana, Turkey is where the cotton is spun, dyed, and woven into the denim. The mill has a zero-waste principle, uses over 50% solar energy, and has annual sustainability progress reports. They don’t state who they report to and if those reports are open to the public. The denim then heads to STROM in Istanbul, a city that is on the opposite side of the country, where it is cut and sewn into designs. The denim goes to another facility in Istanbul where the garments are washed and finished. This STROM facility uses sustainable technology like laser drying which has high energy efficiency. The last stop is the Reformation headquarters in Los Angeles where there are quality checks. From LA, the products are shipped to Reformation stores or straight to the consumer. Though the individual steps are sustainable in practices, the extensive journey that each product goes through is almost a full loop around the globe from Australia to California, so the sustainable practices seem futile in the face of the transportation emissions racked up.
Reformation was founded in 2009 by Yale Aflalo in Los Angeles who began by retailing vintage clothing, thus the company truly began with sustainability in mind. The company has had an impressive rise to success, with introductions of sustainable practices along the way with Ref Scale in 2015 which measures the impact of CO2 emissions, water, and waste. Later that year, they began Ref Recycling, which is a partnership with thredUp which works to consign old garments. They began publicly publishing their Sustainability Reports in 2017 and keep them updated annually on their site. In 2017, they created Ref Jeans which save water and they have also restored 40 million gallons of fresh water to rivers and wetlands throughout America. In May 2019, they made shoes that use chrome-free leather and jute, a material that is composed primarily of plant materials; this move saved an average of 52% CO2 emissions, 70% water, and 65% waste compared to average shoes. In 2020, the founder stepped down after accusations of the company, and Aflalo herself circulated the internet about a racist environment where POC employees were made to feel undervalued and overlooked. This immediate action taken by Aflalo is a good sign of progress and I hope the company continues to strive towards equity in terms of race and sustainability. In November 2020, they committed to reaching climate positivity by 2025 through investing in solutions to remove more greenhouse gases than they emit, work sustainability into their supply chains, and making their progress public. Their story is inspiring to aspiring small business owners or those who are currently owners and want a big break. Reformation is a great example of staying true to sustainability values from beginning to end!