Glimpse: She Wears It Well

An inside look at Mindful’s December cover story on clothing designer Eileen Fisher. 

Photograph by Mark Mahaney

I’ve known for some time that Eileen Fisher is a person who brings strong values to her business ventures, but she really caught our attention last year during Hurricane Sandy, when her company’s headquarters in Irvington, New York, were flooded, putting a serious crimp in their year-end business shipments. Despite having to haul a dozen dumpster-loads of damaged goods out of the offices and the nearby Lab Store, to the tune of $1.5 million, Eileen said at the time, “It was just stuff.” You can only imagine the emotions that might arise in a chief executive if they saw their sewage-soaked products floating by. Eileen and her staff did not linger there. They mobilized quickly—organizing carpools, impromptu meeting spaces, and arranging interest-free loans for staff needing cash during the crisis. That kind of resilience and caring told us this was a company with a human face.

Fast-forward a year, and I’m at the (partially) restored Eileen Fisher HQ, learning about the kind of care the company takes with its clothing: from helping a Chinese silk dyer use fewer chemicals and less water, to launching a recycled clothing program, where customers return garments they no longer use, with the proceeds going to an initiative that helps improve the lives of woman and girls. There is a yoga/meditation room. In another room, young women are cutting pictures out of magazines and learning about the stories they are told about themselves through the media—an exercise in the Eileen Fisher leadership program.

In an industry where fleeting trends and heavily marked-up products manufactured in Third World sweatshops are the norm, Eileen Fisher is paying attention to the life cycle of a garment, from cradle to grave, as well as the future of the people who wear them and the people who create them.

—Barry Boyce, Editor-in-Chief

For more than just this Glimpse: