Eileen Fisher On The Rise Of Timeless Fashion

Eileen Fisher On The Rise Of Timeless Fashion

Eileen Fisher talks about circular design collaboration: Waste No More X West Elm

Eileen Fisher would like everyone to shop more carefully and more consciously. It’s a simple sentiment, inkeeping with the philosophy behind her 35-year old business which was founded on designing clothes that are just that: simple, comfortable, high quality and essential. She built the label around the concept of timeless fashion, using the kimono as a device - the one garment that an entire country wore as their main garment for a thousand years.

Well ahead of her time, she was always about creating a system of basics that could work together year after year and be instantly freshened up with the addition of one or two seasonal pieces. Now, Eileen Fisher Renew - the label’s circular design initiative, is setting a new standard in sustainability. They actually take back their old clothes which they re-sell if they’re still in great shape, or re-make into new designs, if they’re not. Roughly 25% of returned items are damaged beyond repair, so the Waste No More team reinvigorates them into wall hangings, pillows and handbags—using an innovative felting technique.

What’s worth noting is that Eileen appointed a Head of Social Consciousness at the label 25 years ago, well before it was trendy. But, she says, it was really about six years ago that the thrust towards 100% sustainability became hardwired into the business. Natural fibres and high quality, sustainable materials were always important, but now the label actually works with farmers who are regenerating the agriculture to produce organic fibres in a way that draws down carbon, thereby improving the land.

All this is to say… the label is doing some really innovative collaborations with artisans as well as big name brands to take these fabulous new options to markets, both mainstream and niche. Earlier this month they created an overdyed indigo collection in partnership with Seattle based Botanical Colors - a woman-owned business that uses nontoxic, biodegradable dyes, and responsible dyeing practices that use less water. Using one of the oldest natural dyes known to humankind, each garment is hand dipped several times into a vat of deep blue indigo.

Botanical Colors Dyeing
Image credit: Instagram/botanicalcolors/

It also scaled its circular programs to new levels in a recent collaboration with West Elm. They took jeans that were damaged beyond repair and felted them into unique new designs for the home. “I like the idea of taking responsibility for all that we do, from the very seeds of the garments we make all the way through to their second and third lives,” said Eileen.

Waste No More x West Elm homewares
Waste No More x West Elm homewares. Image credit: West Elm

There is some chatter on the social posts about the cost of these items, to which the community manager responds ‘the price of this collection reflects the work behind the product. Our team deconstructs all of the denim we take back and uses a felting technique to create these pieces. Each pillow covering is one-of-a-kind, like a piece of sustainable art for your home.’

It is up to each of us now to choose to afford fewer, better things.

If you want to hear more from the iconic Eileen Fisher, I recommend this interview on the Goop Podcast.

If you are an artisan or know one who might like to be featured on this site, please send an email to nina@hearth-co.com

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