The Founder Of Reformation Apologized After Black Employees Accused Her Of Being Racist, But People Aren't Yet Buying It
The company told BuzzFeed News it hopes to "take appropriate corrective actions" moving forward.
Yael Aflalo — the founder of Reformation, the clothing brand known for touting its sustainable fashions and made popular by Instagram influencers — apologized after a former employee accused her of creating a racist and unsafe environment for Black staffers, but a flood of comments shows people are hesitant to receive it.
In response to an inquiry from BuzzFeed News, a spokesperson for the brand said it is still investigating the accusations and "taking the time to put actions in place." Meanwhile, top comments on the company's Instagram posts remain skeptical, and some have said they won't be supporting it until they see proof of better practices.
"I'll buy again when I see the change," one poster said.
The controversy began on May 30 after the brand's donation to causes including Black Lives Matter and the NAACP to "fight for justice" backfired, prompting multiple comments about how Reformation has treated Black people. In particular, Aflalo was accused of not giving Black employees the same work opportunities, and even treating them with "disgust" over the years, according to former assistant store manager Elle Santiago in a viral Instagram post.
Reformation, with Yael's statements, tried to atone for these accusations on Sunday in an apology. Unfortunately for the brand, people who identified themselves as former employees showed up in its comments with claims that it was "the worst retailer [they had] ever worked for," with a list of reasons why.
Santiago (@energyelle on Instagram) shared her own account of working at Reformation in a multipart Instagram post on Friday.
Santiago said she had been the assistant manager at the flagship store in Los Angeles and had been constantly looked over for promotions. In fact, she wrote, the company "consistently hired white women with the same or less qualifications" over her.
She then claimed that "no poc has ever been flown to LA HQ but white employees have been flown around plenty."
Santiago then shared experiences she had with Aflalo directly. She claimed Aflalo never addressed her, and the founder had once "looked [her] up and down in disgust."
She further claimed the brand's head had said "we're not ready for that yet" when another employee showed her a photo of a Black model.
Santiago concluded her post by saying she's not buying Aflalo and Reformation's latest attempts to align themselves with movements to fight racial injustices against Black Americans.
"Change takes a real long time honey. You all will have to be willing to sacrifice a whole lot of your comfort if you plan on rectifying the trauma you have caused countless employees," she wrote.
BuzzFeed News has reached out to Santiago.
Her post went hugely viral, and with the megaphone of other Instagram accounts like @Diet_Prada, the accusations and surmounting social pressures against Aflalo ultimately led the company to launch an investigation last week and issue a dramatic apology statement on Sunday.
"I realized that I have failed all of you ... especially the Black community," Aflalo's statement on Reformation's Instagram account began. "When former team members make accusations that I ignored them in the past, I know that this is true. I am so sad and regretful for it."
She then wrote that when she hears "Black colleagues who felt I avoided them because of the color of their skin," she "burn[s] inside thinking about the sadness [she] inflicted."
She said the company pledges to make changes — first by "launching a Diversity and Inclusion Board" and putting "more emphasis on working with Black creators." Aflalo also pledged $500,000 in donations to organizations including the NAACP's Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, and the National Black Child Development Institute.
By Monday, fans of the brand still doubted the sudden change of tone.
A spokesperson for the brand was not able to directly address people's hesitancies and skepticisms, but said, "Reformation does not tolerate racism or discrimination of any kind."
The investigation into the allegations is also ongoing.
"We have launched an independent, third-party investigation to look into these allegations so that we can resolve these issues, take appropriate corrective actions and make sure that all employees feel comfortable and valued working here," they said.
The ongoing backlash has caused some to make statements of their own. Microinfluencer and fashion blogger @whatkatefinds shared that she's returning a Reformation top she purchased for $109.82 and wrote in the comments box of her online return that it was because she "didn't know Reformation, based on ETHICS has ZERO for the very people working for the company."