Make some room in your closet.
The much-anticipated opening of San Francisco's first Reformation brick-and-mortar is here. OK, almost: Monday, February 27 is the day ardent fans of the eco-friendly, on-trend women's clothing label can get their hands on the goods IRL. The bright and shiny, totally tech-ed-out space lives in the Mission District—clearly Ref's neighborhood spirit animal.
We recently scored a sneak peek of the 2,000 square-foot Valencia Street store (formerly Freewheel Bike Shop) and a conversation with the LA-based brand's founder Yael Aflalo. We were blown away by both: We want to live in the store and be the super smart, super chic Aflalo.
Before moving on to the Q+A, a few key things to know...
1. This is eight-year-old Reformation's first new store in five years; currently there's one boutique in LA and two in NYC.
2. The boutique employs a brand-new tech-centric retail concept where shoppers are encouraged to look around, touch and feel the floral frocks, vintage-y denim and silky blouses, and then head to one of many touchscreen monitors to add their picks to a virtual dressing room (that will eventually land in their actual DRs). Translation: No need to sling heavy garments over you shoulder while fashion hunting.
3. The dressing rooms, replete with their own touchscreens (aka digital attendees) feature "magic wardrobes." You don't have to re-zip into your skinnies and traipse, barefoot, back to the main area seeking a sweater to match that adorable skirt—just add whatever you want via the monitor and it will magically appear in your closet, through a second (secret) set of wardrobe doors where Ref staff roam (shh!). The spacious rooms are also tricked out with DIY lighting—choose your own glow: Basic, Cool, Golden (our fave) and Sexy Time. Also feel free to plug in your iPhone, pull up a playlist and rock out.
4. Don't expect to find a full range of sizes or Reformation's full online catalog hanging from the uncluttered racks sprinkled purposefully throughout the space. Nope, the showroom displays only bestsellers in one or two sizes each although there are a lot more items to shop. Once you hit the touchscreen, though, you'll see instantly if your choice in your size and color is in stock. Simple.
5. Leave your cash at home. Right now it's credit card or Apple Pay only.
7x7: Why open a store in SF now and what drew you to the Mission?
YA: San Francisco is our third biggest online market, after NYC and LA. We held a sample sale in the Mission about a year ago and the turn out was incredible. Of course, when you think about 'tech,' you think SF, but Reformation is also sustainable and I love that San Francisco is a city that really embraces that type of culture. The diversity of the Mission District has always been fascinating, and we really felt like it was a community that is embracing new ideas. We also found a space that has a mini parklet out front, which we'd love to revamp and create our own little eco-culture.
Explain the new tech-centric retail concept.
Over the years, I've noticed that the shopping experience at physical retail stores has deteriorated. Customers are lugging around armfuls of clothes in different sizes, it's difficult to get people on the floor to help, and, overall, it's become an environment void of any sort of luxury. With the new store, we wanted to bring back the elevated shopping experience to brick-and-mortar retail—seamlessness, ease, convenience, and comfort. We created everything in the store with these ideas in mind and are very excited about the new type of experience we're bringing to market.
What's your take on the current state of shopping?
Shopping has become one of my least favorite activities with bad lighting, messy and unorganized racks, never finding my size or people to help me find it. I really wanted to bring retail into the 21st century with technology. In our new store, we're hoping to reduce if not eliminate many of these inconveniences and, hopefully, encourage repeat customers.
Is it true you took much inspiration from Apple and Tesla?
Yes: They're both in a forward-thinking group of companies I feel are offering a high-end, high-volume retail experience. Basically what I believe the future of shopping should feel like—easy, intuitive and kind of magical. With Apple, the stores are always so busy, yet they're always able to maintain a high level of customer experience. The floor isn't cluttered with tons of products; just a few key items that customers can play around with. There's a similar dynamic with Tesla. Unlike traditional dealerships, there's no enormous lot with rows and rows of cars. Instead, there is a small showroom, with a single model on display, and flat screens where you can learn about the bells and whistles you can purchase. I bought a Tesla in a showroom and it left a profound impression on me. Usually buying a car is so difficult and horrible. But buying a Tesla on a flat-screen monitor was so easy that I wondered if I was doing it right: I picked the color I wanted, entered my address, and swiped by credit card, then it was all done. My car showed up a month later.
What local companies were used in the store's design?
Watershed Materials in Napa made the gorgeous rammed earth wall; Bohlin Cywinski Jackson (based in Philly but with an office in SF) handled the architecture with Dreamt SF construction.
What are you favorite SF things?
Flour + Water, Ritual Coffee, Tartine (of course), Painted Bird, Land's End and a good view of the Golden Gate.
// Reformation is located at 914 Valencia St (Mission), thereformation.com
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