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How One Apparel Brand Is Bringing Style to Sustainable Clothing Nothing hip and sexy about sustainable and recycled fabrics? Guess again.

By Carren Jao

This story appears in the June 2015 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Stephanie Gonot
Eco-friendly and irresistible: Reformation’s Yael Aflalo.

It wasn't fresh mist swirling about the air in Dongguan, China—it was toxins. "You couldn't even see toward the end of the block because the pollution was on eye level," says Yael Aflalo, who once designed clothing for Urban Outfitters and now runs Reformation, a fast-fashion line that's rejiggering the notoriously pollutive apparel industry. "All these dresses I was making for Urban Outfitters, they were all made out of fossil fuels."

A typical wardrobe includes clothing made from polyester, acrylic, nylon or spandex—all petroleum-based products—which release chemicals as they decompose and take years to biodegrade. Surprise: Cotton isn't much better for the environment; a cotton shirt can take 700 gallons of water to make, and the crop consumes 25 percent of the world's insecticides, despite using only about 2.5 percent of the world's arable land, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council and International Trade Centre, respectively.

Aflalo was at a crossroads. "I had built up all this experience in fashion, but I couldn't be part of the existing models," she says. Ya-Ya, her first wholesale clothing line, folded in 2007 due to the financial crisis that would billow throughout the country over the next few years. To make ends meet, she produced private-label collections for Urban Outfitters and other companies.

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