"Our customers are completely taken aback that we don't charge for this service," says Gaetan Karr, Customer Service Associate. "I think in the beginning we did it on such a small scale we didn't realize what kind of precedent we were creating. Now, we're starting to become known for it because other companies don't do it."
When a customer brings in clothing that is missing a button or has small moth holes, many EILEEN FISHER stores partner with a local tailor or seamstress. If a customer chooses to go to her own expert, they'll reimburse her for the cost.
"A lot of our customers are scared to try repairs themselves," said Joan Kauffman, manager at our Copley store. "We understand, because the clothes are expensive."
When a problem is beyond the scope of local talent, items are shipped to a quiet corner of EILEEN FISHER's Distribution Center in Secaucus, New Jersey. There Tess de Mesa and Cristina Reyes of Quality Control complete most repairs. Sitting amid boxes of yarn, trim and buttons, Tess works the sewing machine, while Cristina ("Golden Fingers") is an expert with a needle and thread.
In order to make sure they have the necessary materials on hand, they keep a stock of yarns from the past three or four years. When they don't have the gauge or the color they need, they send an item back to our factories to be repaired, a process that can take up to six weeks to complete. Garments that need matching snaps, zippers or specialized trims are also sent to the factory that made them.
That twelve-year-old turtleneck with a hole? "I was amazed that we could match the yarn and mend it," says Ava Branch, Customer Service Manager. Repairing items rather than replacing them keeps clothing in customers' closets and out of the landfills. "The ultimate expression of sustainability is to be able to continue to wear an existing garment as opposed to replacing it with a new one," said Jim Gundell, Co-Chief Operating Officer and Facilitating Leader.
Back in 2005 items that needed buttons or elastic waistbands arrived in groups of twos and threes. Now, they come by the bin-full. In 2012, over eight hundred repairs were completed, all at no cost to the customer.
Once the word is out, will the program be inundated with repair requests? Jim Gundell isn't worried. He says, "We are committed to doing whatever we can as a company to extend the life of our garments."