Eileen Fisher didn’t jump on the sustainability bandwagon, she’s been driving it! Mitigating the damaging effects fashion has on our environment has been at the forefront of her business, unexpectedly forging an entirely new revenue stream.
Without a doubt, one of the culprits contributing to the 25.5 billion pounds of REUSABLE textiles thrown away each year is, gulp, trends. Fashion brands all over the world are selling you on the idea of newness, and we’re just as guilty for falling for it. Eileen Fisher may not be one of the contemporary brands we vie after but we can certainly get behind her ethos of creating timeless, high quality pieces that will carry you from season to season and wish some of her junior counterparts in the industry followed in her lead.
The Eileen Fisher company has two arms of sustainability, Design Work and Renew which allow the company to circumvent almost all waste. Through the Renew initiative, customers have the opportunity to sell back there unwanted Eileen Fisher garments to the company for $5 a piece. You read that correctly, Eileen Fisher is paying their customers. Over 4,000 pieces arrive at the company’s factory every week, validating that consumers are looking for options besides le garbage.
The items are thoroughly inspected and either designated unsalvageable or re-sewn. The re-sewn pieces are then used to make entirely new garments, or repaired and resold at reduced pricing. How’s that for responsible business practices (cough, cough, Burberry). The Renew collection alone is a $3MM annual business.
I bet you’re wondering what happens to the unsalvageable pile? We were too. The Design Work team invested in something called a felting machine, which is primarily employed by the automotive industry. For the price of one Hermes bag this machine helps the team recycle not only the unsalvageable garments but also the tons of scraps accumulating at its factories. From this one ethical, non-profit driven decision the company carved out a new business in home goods. Design Work uses the new recycled textiles to create large-scale works of wall art, accessories, upholstery pillows and other home furnishings. The pillows are now sold ABC Carpet & Home while the wall works have been commissioned by private collectors, hotels, office buildings, museums and other corporate institutions.
The next time you see an Eileen Fisher store, remember that she is the OG trend setter of sustainability.