EILEEN FISHER’s Intuitive Journey to Circularity
EILEEN FISHER’s commitment to circularity and a future without waste is embodied by our evolving and innovative take-back and reuse program. We collect worn or torn EILEEN FISHER garments from our customers to ensure that nothing we create goes to landfill. We ask for our clothes back because we believe that their value doesn’t end with their first wear. We foster innovation so when our clothes can’t be reworn or renewed, they can be remade to start their journey all over again.
EILEEN FISHER’s take-back program started in 2009 under the name Green Eileen as an initiative within the Eileen Fisher Foundation. The drive behind the program was to raise money for causes that we care about; as a promise, the profits from our resale program are donated to organizations supporting women, girls and the environment. We believe in the quality and timeless designs of our clothing, so we ask our customers to bring back their unwanted garments in exchange for a $5 credit per piece. This way, customers can extend the life of garments they no longer want, while knowing their contributions are positively impacting society and the environment. In 2015 as part of EILEEN FISHER’s larger commitment to sustainability, Green Eileen was moved from the foundation into EILEEN FISHER Inc. to allow for the program to continue growing.
As Green Eileen developed into a successful resale business, an inventory of unsellable flawed product began to build. Optimistic that we could reclaim the value that remained within the high quality materials, the Makerspace was created in 2014 to avoid the need for overseas donations and/or downcycling. The Makerspace took over the inventory management of the unsellable product stream and began to explore local partnerships for donations and reuse workshops.
In 2015, EILEEN FISHER partnered with the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) to create The Social Innovator Award which provided three design graduates a yearlong residency to create solutions for the damaged garments that were accruing. They spent months exploring ideas for renewing and remaking the damaged garments into new wearable creations. Approaching the design challenge through the lens of scalability, the Social Innovators identified recurring styles, materials and damages that allowed for the implementation of repeatable production processes. In the summer of 2016, The Social Innovator Award culminated with the debut of the first EILEEN FISHER Remade collection at a pop-up shop in Brooklyn, NY.
By the end of the yearlong Social Innovator Award, we were seeing our path to sustainability a little differently. While our company goals have always been ambitious, as noted in our Vision2020 commitment to sustainability, the enhanced focus on our extended corporate responsibility revealed that this journey we’re on is actually a circular path. Now, in 2017 EILEEN FISHER has made the commitment to build a circular design system by developing the Social Innovators’ Remade project into a focused department within the company.
Our take-back program has grown into a holistic and multifaceted approach to circularity that explores reselling, renewing and remaking post-consumer EILEEN FISHER garments. While we continue to resell the gently worn pieces as a means of supporting our most passionate causes, we have expanded the initiative to incorporate solutions for the flawed garments and their production scraps. At the start of 2017 we opened our EILEEN FISHER owned and operated Tiny Factory in Irvington, NY. Located in the same space as our east coast recycling center, and our Remade design studio, the Tiny Factory is an innovative approach to production that focuses on the re-manufacturing of our Remade collections by deconstructing, cutting and re-sewing flawed EILEEN FISHER garments that we have gotten back.
Our take-back and reuse work employs 35 men and women within its two points of operation: Seattle, WA and Irvington, NY. Since the initiative’s inception in 2009, we have taken back over 800,000 garments and have donated $2 million to causes supporting women, girls and the environment. We view our customers as an integral part of this process; they are the key to the success of our circular commitment. We want to give our customers a place where they can find unique experiences and can make positive impacts with their decisions. While currently we only take back annually about 3% of the product EILEEN FISHER creates, with the help of our customers we will continue to work towards our ambitious goal of taking back 100% of our outputs.
While we continue on our journey towards a circular business model, we recognize that we cannot shift the industry alone. EILEEN FISHER believes that business can be a movement, and at the heart of that movement is transparency and engagement. Our take-back and reuse program may not be a copy and paste business model, but it can be an inspiration for circular design and systems thinking. We invite partnerships and collaborations because we know that we are more impactful together.