The New Yorker
"We don't want sustainability to be
our edge, we want it to be universal."
In 1984, I started EILEEN FISHER for a very personal reason: I was having
trouble getting dressed. At the time I was working as an interior and graphic
designer. In my mind I kept seeing these simple shapes for clothes. I knew
they had to be beautiful colors, great fabrics and have certain shapes and
proportions that worked together. This was my "aha" moment: a system of
dressing that I'd been looking for ever since I abandoned my Catholic school
uniform back in Des Plaines, Illinois.
Although I couldn't sew and only had $350 in the bank, I believed in these
simple shapes. I had four shapes made up and took them to The Boutique
Show in New York. Encouraged by $3000 in orders, I expanded my "line"
to eight pieces. The second show brought in $40,000 in orders. Suddenly I
wasn't just Eileen Fisher. I was EILEEN FISHER, INC.
Today we are 1100 people strong with more than sixty stores in the United
States, Canada and the United Kingdom. At our loft-like corporate offices,
we've exchanged cubicles for open work areas that let us be encouraged,
inspired and informed by the people surrounding us. We are a company of
passionate, engaged people who value our collaborative culture and are
committed to connecting with one another as well as with our customers.
Design is what drives us and our business. We find that good design is a result
of paying attention to what women want and need. The women who wear our
clothes want to experience the magic that happens when you put on a piece
of clothing that has been pared to its simple, pure essence. It comes alive on
your body. It makes you move differently. It changes the way you think and
feel about yourself.
From the beginning, I've wanted EILEEN FISHER to be known for clothes you don't
have to think too much about. You put them on and know that they will give you
the comfort, ease and elegance to move with confidence through your day.
I've always looked at clothing through the lens of confidence and empowerment.
I focus that lens in many other aspects of life. My latest passion was inspired
by the Gross National Happiness (GNH) Lab, a project of Dr. C. Otto Scharmer's
Presencing Institute. Instead of framing prosperity in terms of the GDP, the GNH
Lab looks at such things as health, education, ecological resilience and
psychological well-being. To me, this kind of holistic vision is a huge and
vital shift. It is about rethinking what it means to live in a world with
finite resources, as individuals and as businesses.
I feel there's a role for EILEEN FISHER to play in this shift by sharing the
collaboration skills we practice and helping to create the kind of change that
wouldn't be possible if each of us acted alone. When I give talks, I often say
that business can, indeed, change the world. EILEEN FISHER has done a lot by
committing to organic and sustainable fibers, manufacturing clothing in the USA
and recycling our clothes with GREEN EILEEN. There's much more to do. And I
believe we can do it. I believe we can make a difference. Business can be a