This LA-based startup is making sustainable cashmere sweaters for $145 — here’s why that matters, and how they feel in person


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Reformation cashmere

It’s hard to find cashmere that deserves to be called “conscious” or sustainable. In fact, a lot of people would say it’s hard to find because it does not – and cannot – exist. The process of creating cashmere is so inherently detrimental – requiring lots of resources, and incurring lots of environmental degradation – that it can’t be had in a way that isn’t harmful.

The problem for all of us would-be conscious shoppers is that cashmere also happens to feel like you’re being hugged by a cloud every time you move. It’s warm, it’s soft, it’s cosy – it somehow feels like the first moment you ever really feel warm after a chilly day outdoors put on a never-ending loop. In other words, it’s impossibly pleasant, and the demand is understandably high. But that demand has led to dangerous overgrazing in Mongolia, and it’s turning grasslands we need into deserts.

The imperfectly perfect solution is to recycle the cashmere we already have on earth, rather than creating more. It’s a sustainable logic many retail startups are adopting – phasing out virgin materials and swapping in ready-made alternatives. Everlane’s Renew outerwear is one example.

For cashmere, that’s Reformation’s Conscious Cashmere line. Each sweater is made of 70% repurposed, regenerated cashmere clippings. It feels the same, costs about the same ($US148) but has markedly less impact on the environment. On average, one kilogram (about two pounds) of recycled cashmere has 80% less of the environmental impact than conventional cashmere.

Reformation cashmere crew neck sweater
The Cashmere Crew is a hip-length, relaxed-fit sweater that comes in four colours: grey, ochre (seen above), black, and Malibu stripe ($US148). Reformation

Reformation’s conscious cashmere is limited but covers the classics: crews, cropped crews, cardigans, boyfriend sweaters, and boxy sweaters – all priced at $US148. Fisherman sweaters are priced at $US228. Colours range from one to five options per style, and most are classics like tan, black, pink, ochre, grey, and green with some striped patterns in the mix.

I personally have the Cropped Double V Cardigan ($US148), and it’s about what you’d expect from any other Reformation piece: an elevated classic that’s a little cooler than you remember cropped cardigans being. It’s slim-fitting with a double V-neck and V-back, and it’s cropped so you can tuck it into a pair of high-waisted jeans without an excess of material. The cashmere is thick and lends enough rigidity to look appropriately slimming while still being cosy. In other words, it’s pretty great. It would be great regardless of being made from 70% recycled cashmere, but that’s the figure that makes me feel more justified about spending $US140+ on it.

Reformation cashmere
The Cropped Double V Cardigan has a v-neck and v-back and comes in black and tan for $US148. Reformation

To be blunt, though, it’s an imperfect solution. If 70% is recycled, that means 30% is still conventional cashmere from Mongolia. While offset by recycled materials, nothing truly “new” is ever as sustainable as something not new. And though the company has stated they’re currently working on their traceability initiatives to ensure the supply chain is ethical, it seems they are not in place as of fall 2018.

But make no mistake: Reformation’s ‘conscious cashmere’ line is still exciting. It’s a have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too option that the average person can appreciate, and would probably still want to buy ignorant to any hint of sustainability ethos.

Rather than convincing everyone to swear off cashmere, Reformation’s recycled cashmere makes it so that their most desirable options (stylish, of-the-moment clothes from an “it girl” brand with a cult-following) are some of the most sustainable on the market. It may not be perfect, but it’s a good solution for now. And, best of all, the cashmere is just as good as anything else on the site.

Shop Reformation’s Conscious Cashmere here, $US148 – $US228