For 30 years, Eileen Fisher has been making great clothing. She’s also donated millions of dollars to non-profits, environmental causes and organizations that support women and girls empowerment and education locally, nationally and internationally.
Fisher has furthered what she calls her “social enterprise” by launching a second Green Eileen recycled clothing store in Seattle (the first opened in Yonkers, New York in 2011). There she resells gently worn Eileen Fisher clothing contributed by customers and employees. If it can’t be resold, the company finds its next best life. The clothing is made to last so if a donated sweater has a hole, for example, it may be remade into a child-size garment.
It’s an innovative mission that retail leader Megan Arnaud embraced when she learned of the venture as an Eileen Fisher sales associate a few years ago.
“I heard about the store and wanted to be a part of supporting our community and girls’ leadership efforts,” says Arnaud, who has worked in Eileen Fisher retail stores for 16 years. “Green Eileen feels full circle to me. It’s important for people to be connected in their lives; that their work is something that can sustain themselves and that they positively affect others.”
The store also supports women-owned companies. LooHoo Wool Dryer Balls, Eileen Fisher’s 2014 Women-Owned Business Grant recipient, is a natural fit on their shelves.
“We became aware of LooHoo, a company aligned with the work we’re doing, through the award,” Arnaud says. “The response to the dryer balls has been great. We explain they are a natural alternative to dryer additives and they lessen dryer time. We enjoy getting the LooHoo message out.”
“At the end of the day, we make stuff. Where it ends up is our responsibility. We start by designing our clothes to last, so they'll stay in your closet longer. And when you're done with them we take them back to resell. By 2020 we expect that recycling total to hit one million. And the pieces we can't sell? They're tomorrow's raw material, to be reborn as new textiles or refashioned as new clothes. It may take longer than 5 years, but we imagine a future in which waste is a thing of the past.”
This month Green Eileen will celebrate its three-year anniversary on Earth Day, April 22, when the store launches its limited-edition Botanical Line. Working with local artisan Kathy Hattori, Green Eileen repurposed its faded or lightly stained apparel with all-natural plant-based dyes. Prices are reasonable, about 50 to 80 percent less than retail. The line is simply repurposed Eileen Fisher clothing—same natural fabrics, same made-to-last quality.
A portion of the proceeds raised from the 150-item line will benefit Seattle Tilth, a non-profit organic urban farming organization the makes food accessible to the local community and teaches sustainable growing methods.
In the next year you can expect to see Green Eileen pop up in Eileen Fisher retail stores across the country, with one-day events designed to bring awareness to the recycled clothing program.
“Our goal is to limit the amount of textiles in landfills and use the money we raise to help the organizations we support,” Arnaud says.
For more information about Eileen Fisher’s recycled clothing program, visit GreenEileen.org.