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Welcome to Better Know a Store Owner, a weekly Racked feature focusing on the people who run our favorite boutiques around the city.Photos by Anna Fischer
Yael Aflalo spent fourteen years in wholesale before opening Reformation, the Lower East Side home of her sustainable clothing line. The store's color palette skews towards white, black, and red, but the underlying philosophy is fully green. The clothing is largely vintage and repurposed, the fixtures are mostly recycled, and even the lightning comes from eco-friendly energy sources. "It gives people the option to buy something conscious," Aflalo told us in a recent interview. After the jump, she talks about why she loves retail, whether there's a difference between her LA and New York stores, and how a bad blind date changed her business for the better.
Let's start with what made you decide to open a store. Is that something you've always wanted to do?
After doing wholesale for a long time and having a collection, I'm obsessed with the immediacy of having a store. It's great. Everything happens, like, that day.
What made you decide to open a space of your own?
It was sort of around the recession. I though, "Oh my God, this is so hard. I just want to do something in a different way, an innovative way." I feel like everybody was stuck in a holding pattern, and I just thought bringing some innovation to fashion could be just what I needed.
What made you pick the Lower East Side?
When I first moved to New York, this was the area that I frequented. I would shop all around here. So it just felt like the next thing to do.
When you picture the typical customer, who do you see?
It's this girl who lives either in the East Village or on the Lower East Side. She's probably anywhere from 20 to 32. She usually comes with her boyfriend. She's got a little dog. She's generally wearing jean shorts and a cool rock tee. I see her walking in all the time.
The Reformation has a location in LA as well. Are you living there now?
I go back and forth because we opened a store there, and that's my other baby. I can't pick favorites.
How are the two stores different?
You know, the thing for me that's the most striking about Los Angeles is the light out there. The quality of the light is just so amazing, and it makes everything look different. You could have the same dress here as in Los Angeles, and they just appear totally different.
Do you find that different merchandise sells out there?
No. If anything, it sells based on where it's positioned in the store, but generally it's the same stuff. It didn't used to be like that five years ago.
What do you think made it change?
I think a lot of it is that the customer that we have here and Los Angeles is essentially the same person. I also think that recently the weather in New York has been just about the same as Los Angeles, so that played a large role this year. It never got cold so you never had that super-sad, "I just want to pile things on my body" feeling.
How often are you actually in store?
A few days ago I moved down the street, so it's been every day since then. But before that it was about twice a week.
What's your favorite item in the store right now?
There's a dress that we just made that I think is so hot. It's called the Flora. I wore it the other night. Me gusta.
Is there anything you'd like to carry that you don't have in store yet?
I'd really like a chic, sustainable shoe brand. I haven't been able to find one. Come and find me, please!
In terms of pricing, what's your philosophy?
I think the most important part of pricing is value. It doesn't really matter what you're selling it for; it matters if there's a value in it.
Time for the lightning round! Tumblr vs. Pinterest—which one do you like?
Tumblr. I just like how easy and streamlined Tumblr is. We have one that we use as a way to communicate with our vintage buyers.
How does that work?
We probably have ten different buyers—this girl in Nashville who goes to rock stores and can get us cowboy boots, or someone in New Mexico for Native American things. We have a Tumblr that we lock, a private Tumblr, and we load up all the images of things that we love or things that we want, and that way we can show them to lots of people. We can also hashtag, for example, "cowboy boots." So it's this great photo archive. I actually went on a blind date with a photographer, and I didn't even like him, but he gave me this idea because it's how he archives all his ideas. You can check it wherever you are.
It's like a mood board.
A free, amazing, quick mood board that anybody can access. And also filter. You have to have a filter. That's why I really like Tumblr. I'm a Tumblr fan.
60s, 70s, or 80s: Which decade?
Mad Men or Game of Thrones?
What? That's so hard! Those are my two favorite shows!
Aesthetically, which one?
Mad Men. I mean, those are the only two shows I watch on television.
Let me just wrap up by asking you about what plans you have for the future. I saw you're turning the upstairs into an events space?
Yeah, we're going to just program it out. It got to be too hard to have so much clothing, enough to keep everything occupied. We're also opening up a new store in Soho. I'm thinking the LA is doing really well, so maybe opening up something on the west side, like Venice or something like that. I just want to keep opening stores!
· The Reformation [Official Site]
· All Better Know a Store Owner posts [Racked NY]
· All Reformation posts [Racked NY]