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Reformation founder responds to accusations of racism

By Robyn Turk

9 Jun 2020

Yael Aflalo, founder of popular sustainable womenswear label Reformation, has apologized after comments accusing her of racism appeared on social media.

"Part of sustainability is treating people equally. I realize that I have failed you in that regard - especially the Black community," the brand founder wrote in a post shared to Reformation's Instagram.

Accusations against Aflalo began to come out after Reformation shared a post supporting the Black Lives Matter movement on Instagram last week. Former employees responded in comments on the post, sharing their experiences dealing with racism during their time with the company.

"Working for Reformation deeply traumatized me," wrote Leslieann Elle Santiago on the platform. "Being overlooked and undervalued as a woman of color who worked and managed their flagship store for three years was the hardest. I cried many times knowing the color of my skin would get me nowhere in this company.

"Yael never looked at me. She would walk past me and never spoke to me. But would tell white associates that they were pretty. I once went to visit the shop after a couple years gone and a new black associate asked me if I honestly thought there was a chance for black people to move up in the company. And I said if you're asking this two years after I left, then the answer was and will always be no. This story goes deeper and I've always been afraid to tell it. But no more fear from me."

In her response, Aflalo accepted fault for her wrongdoings. She wrote, "I was not a very good leader when it came to our team, which is why I stepped back two years ago. When former team members make accusations that I ignored them in the past, I know that this is true... This is inexcusable in itself, but when I hear Black colleagues who felt that I avoided them because of the color of their skin, I burn inside thinking about the sadness I inflicted. Please know that for me this was not about the color of your skin, it's about my shortcomings as a person."

Aflalo also mentioned that Reformation will launch an independent investigation into workplace concerns that have been raised in its stores and that the brand will put more emphasis in working with Black creators in future partnerships to increase diversity.

She also said that she has made a personal donation of 500 thousand dollars to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Funch, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and the National Black Child Development Institute.