By Craig Patterson
Innovative eco-friendly US-based women’s fashion brand Reformation has opened its first Canadian location at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre as the retailer kicks off an expansion that could see several storefronts in this country. It’s the first time that Reformation has opened a storefront outside of the United States as the brand kicks off a significant international expansion.
Last week Reformation announced that it had sold a majority stake to Permira Funds, a private equity firm known for investing in labels such as Valentino and Proenza Schouler. Permira is expected to take Reformation global as consumers embrace eco fashion trends.
Reformation’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre store spans 1,650 square feet on one level, and is located in Yorkdale’s Nordstrom-anchored expansion wing that opened in 2016. Reformation is located between OVO and Zadig & Voltaire and is across from retailers Williams Sonoma, Woolrich, Muji and Uniqlo.
Reformation, known for its sustainability focus, is also known for being a “cool girl” clothing company (as stated in Allure). Reformation has become popular amongst celebrities such as Rihanna, Taylor Swift, and model Karlie Kloss and the celebrity endorsements have reportedly led to the brand seeing sales of US $150 million annually. The company says that its goal is to create designs that are ‘sexy, edgy and feminine’, utilizing sustainable methods and materials.
The Yorkdale Reformation location features a simple interior or white walls, metal racks, wood shelving and bleached wood accent shelves and tables. Several small plants are showcased in the space along with an expansive range of women’s fashions, many of which feature a floral motif. The store offsets 100% of its electricity usage with wind energy, according to the company.
Much of Reformation's fashions are vintage-inspired with products such as maxi dresses with high slits and button-down dresses with kitschy slogans. Prices are mid-range with prices in the Toronto store ranging between $45 and $375. Reformation’s best sellers include summer dresses, denim, jumpsuits and tops. In May, Reformation also announced that it had also expanded into footwear including sandals, espadrilles, flats, and heels (designed with a nod to the 1990s) made from materials like chrome-free leather and jute.
New fashion designs are released regularly, sometimes as often as every week. About 60% of Reformation’s clothing is manufactured in its Los Angeles factory, and the company continues to seek ways to increase production while staying true to the brand’s ethos.
Viscose, which is a man-made fibre made from renewable plant material, is used in most of Reformation’s woven fabric. About half of the viscose fibre is manufactured by Austrian company Lenzing, and the other half comes from an Indian manufacturer. They're the only two such suppliers that Reformation has deemed worthy, given their high score in a CanopyStyle audit (which certifies that trees are sourced sustainably and that ancient/endangered forests weren’t harmed, amongst other considerations). Several other fibres are used in Reformation’s fashions, including TENCEL™ Lyocell and viscose (a wood based fibre), linen, and Recover® yarns that are made from old clothes and fabric waste.
In-store displays provide information on products using a ‘RefScale’, which is a measure of the garment’s manufacturing process which includes water usage, carbon emissions, and waste generated in manufacturing.
Almost 15% of Reformation’s products are made out of “deadstock” fabrics with the company buying old, leftover, and over-ordered fabric from other designers and fabric warehouses. As well, between 2% and 5% of Reformation’s products are made from vintage clothing, which is purchased from wholesalers in the United States and repurposed.
The new Yorkdale Reformation store lacks many of the tech-heavy innovations found in some of the retailer’s US stores, leading us to believe that larger Canadian units are on the way. Reformation partnered with brokerage Aurora Realty Consultants for the Canadian store expansion and on the brokerage’s website, it states that Reformation is targeting retail spaces in the 2,000 to 3,000 square foot range on high streets, meaning future locations could be significantly larger than the Yorkdale store.
We’d predict targeted locations for larger Reformation stores could include Toronto’s Bloor-Yorkville and Queen Street West, as well as an important shopping street in or near the downtown cores in Vancouver and possibly Montreal.
Reformation’s larger store formats are said to be akin to a tech-heavy showroom, where one of each item is on display in the retail space. Shoppers can browse samples and select what they’d like to try on through touchscreen monitors in the store (in a cheeky fashion, some monitors say ‘I like to be touched’). Sales associates bring shoppers the items they’d like to try on through double-sided wardrobes in dressing rooms. If an item doesn’t fit, shoppers can request a different size using a tablet, and a voice in the device’s speaker guides the shopper to close the wardrobe door — in 90 seconds or less, new items are added. If shoppers choose to not interact with store employees, items can be ordered to a fitting room using one of the monitors, which updates the store’s inventory in real-time.
Given the excitement already being seen on social media after Reformation’s opening late last week, the brand is expected to be a hit. More than ever, consumers are seeking out eco-focused brands with a mission statement of being environmentally friendly, which is in contrast to fast-fashion. Textile dyeing is said to be the second-largest polluter of clean water globally, after agriculture, and the waste associated with fast-fashion is on the minds of many consumers who are re-evaluating their choices.
Reformation is the latest international brand to enter Canada by opening stores. In 2018 we tallied about 30 international retailers that entered the Canadian market, which was down from a record-breaking 50+ international brands that came to Canada in 2017.
We’ll continue to track international brands that are entering the Canadian market by opening stores. Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre launches more first-to-Canada retail brands than any other place and we’re aware that several more retailers will be opening their first Canadian locations in the highly productive Toronto shopping centre.
Now located in Toronto, Craig is a retail analyst and consultant at the Retail Council of Canada. He's also the Director of Applied Research at the University of Alberta School of Retailing in Edmonton. He has studied the Canadian retail landscape for the past 25 years and he holds Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Laws Degrees. He is also President & CEO of Vancouver-based Retail Insider Media Ltd. Email Craig: firstname.lastname@example.org