Reformation is one of Jess Leech’s fav brands – on account of an incredible brand voice that adapts to every experience it has with its customers. It’s a real best-practice/wish-I-wrote-it voice.


Would you open an email in your inbox that, instead of sitting there quietly, demanded you to open it – in ALL CAPS? I would, and frequently do.

Perhaps it’s the mystery of these exquisitely chosen shouty letters – or more accurately, the sass that waits behind them – but Reformation is a brand that offers its customers so much more than the sustainable clothing it sells.

Ref pays its fans in brand voice

Whether you buy the linen twin set or not, the return in copy is priceless.

Picture a subject line that reads, BECAUSE YOU ASKED NICELY, supported by an always-witty email preheader: “Bestsellers are back in stock”.

Upon opening it, you’re hit with a tease of one-liners: “Us again. Just your favourite things. Back in stock. Maybe sold out in two seconds. We’ll see.”

The lines are deliberately limited, like the $380 AUD dress I can’t afford. In a few words, they set the challenge. For those in waiting, it’s game on.

And when you forget an item in your cart? Don’t worry, they’ll remind you, in a way that only Ref (the brand’s nickname) can.

Abandoned cart – subject line: “The Mason Pant wants to go home with you”

So, who is this Reformation?

The OG of sustainable fashion, Ref’s bold tagline says it all. “Being naked is the #1 most sustainable option. We’re #2.”

Unlike the Sheins of the world, Ref is far from your average fashion company. They started in 2009, selling retailored vintage clothing out of a small Los Angeles storefront. “But we didn’t retire our vintage rack, because looking great and cutting waste never goes out of style.”

The brand lives mostly online and still has less than 50 physical stores – most of which are based in the US, none of which (sigh) are here in Australia.

Not that it’ll stop them tempting you with free shipping, and compliments:

Aus website pop-up: “Cute accent, btw.”

What can we all learn from Ref’s voice?

Living your brand voice matters. Not just once or twice, but at every point of the customer journey. Even when you least expect it – like on the garment bag that arrives at your house to be reused over and over.

Ref’s garment bag, to have and to hold.

But it’s not just attention-grabbing copy with no meaning or authenticity. Ref makes limited runs of its clothing, on purpose. And in an industry that creates far more than we consume, their message has never been so important.


  1. Sustainability, but make it sexy /Make sustainability hit different

Ref is serious about sustainability. But that doesn’t mean their voice has to be soft or sanctimonious. Far from it.

While others speak in green cliches, Ref talks openly about not being virgins – in the material/fabric sense, that is. Their Sustainability Report starts coyly with “Oh hi, oversharing is kind of our thing”. And when it comes to Progress? Skip straight to the Sexy Math.


  1. Brave, purpose-led genes /Start with purpose-led genes

Ref is one of the most purpose-driven, attitude-evoking brands I know.

Take their latest campaign: Monica Lewinsky for Reformation.

Together with, they’re elevating the importance of voting in a huge US election year. And perhaps most importantly, they’re empowering women of all ages to boldly signify that real change – in fact, anything – is possible.

And that’s not just brave, or brilliant. It’s genuinely admirable.



Source: Instagram

In fact, it probably explains their almost cultish following.


  1. Customer-obsessed, always /Be customer-obsessed, always

Witty. Playful. Smart but not snarky. Confident outer. Sensitive inner. Ref’s voice mirrors the sophistication of the consumer they’re speaking to – almost intimately, as if mimicking your own private internal pump-up monologue.

It says the things you might think, but would probably never say. Things like, “WHAT COMPETITION”, followed by “The best-dressed guest is you”.

And when it comes to its famous celeb customers, Ref creates a narrative around it – like this recent post of Tay Tay that practically chortles:

“If you want to be in @taylorswift’s shoes, the Agathea Loafer is available”.

It’s a voice that captures the feeling of putting on an outfit that makes you feel like an absolute 11/10 (because you are). And that’s where the magic lies.


  1. Blurring the lines of brand voice /Blur the lines of brand voice

The brand’s founder, Yael Aflalo, describes the Ref customer as “a badass urban creative type that lives freely, but not neglectfully.” By understanding exactly who this character is, they know exactly what the brand would – and wouldn’t – say.

The lines of brand voice and customer voice blur to be one and the same.

When Ref announces its sale, for example, it lets its customers do all the talking. Only they could claim this moment as their very own “Super Bowl”.








Source: Instagram

You see, Ref customers help lead the brand on almost every front. When it comes to what pieces they want back in stock. When it comes to the styles and fabrics that sell quickest. When it comes to the words that they use – Ref listens to and learns from its customers at every point.

So Ref, because I know you’re listening: Wanna make words together sometime?


This article first appeared in Inside Retail

Jess Leech is an Associate Director at our in-house brand language studio, XXVI.

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