"We can use business to change the world, literally. We can be a force to develop and grow people, make better products, have an impact on sustainability." Eileen Fisher
Eileen Fisher's path to becoming a designer and creating a brand that aims to change the face of the fashion industry was unconventional. She worked her way through college waiting tables, first majoring in math, and then switching to interior design. Post-grad, Eileen worked for a Japanese graphic designer, and her experiences traveling to Japan gave her insight into a new world of clothing. Inspired by Japanese fashion and her desire for timeless, comfortable clothing, she bought a sewing machine, but soon discovered that she was not cut out to be a seamstress. Luckily, she knew someone who volunteered to make samples of her designs, and the rest is history.
Today, the brand has stayed true to it's original vision - durable, versatile, timeless pieces - and has taken the idea of timelessness even further, making it about longevity, sustainability, slower turn over, and more responsible disposal. It's about Vision2020, which is the company's plan to make all of its products environmentally sustainable by 2020. This includes making US operations carbon positive, adhering to fair labor practices, using non-toxic dies, and so forth. Though this is a daunting goal, Eileen says that "It's really about two words: no excuses." It's about doing what's right.
An aspect that Eileen Fisher is tackling, and that we often don't think much about, is the afterlife of clothing. In order to reduce environmental impact, keep clothes out of landfills, and generate income to improve the lives of women and girls, Eileen Fisher launched the Green Eileen initiative in 2009. This program allows you to donate your used Eileen Fisher pieces at any store or by mail and receive a $5 credit per piece. The donated clothes are then sold at Green Eileen stores across the United States. Profits from resale go to select women's organizations.
If clothes aren't fit for resale, don't worry! Green Eileen uses the material at hands-on workshops like sewing classes where you can get creative and make give an old piece a new life.
Have non Eileen pieces, but still want to recycle your clothes and receive credit for them? Check out the Modacycle program.
Moral of the Story: The clothing cycle doesn't end with you. Being part of the cycle is how we reach Vision2020.
Image Credits: Eileen Fisher, New Yorker Magazine