Eileen Fisher is arguably the leader in sustainable fashion. Since founding her eponymous brand in 1984 with a range of unfussy, Japanese-inspired wares, she has made it point to create pieces that stand the test of time, that forgoes trends altogether and, as of 2009, suppress the damaging affects that clothing manufacturers have on the environment.
Recently, the latter has become a central issue in the fashion industry, prompting many established companies to change their practices in the hopes of garnering a righteous reputation—one that is ecological and ethically sound. According to estimates by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 25.5 billions pounds of reusable textiles are thrown away each year, occupying 5% of all landfill space. That’s an average of 70 pounds per citizen. And with the constant marketing of new styles each season, encouraging the masses to shop for more and more items, that hefty number doesn’t look like it will exponentially decrease anytime soon.
But now that consumers are increasingly well informed of these disparaging figures, brands are now sourcing biodegradable fabrics, producing less volume and making sure that their working conditions are up to par. To do otherwise could attract the wrath of the pitchfork-bearing masses, bringing about an onslaught of bad press, which can result in a decrease in sales.
For Fisher, however, growing profits year over years is seemingly not the end-result of striving to be as sustainable as possible. “She always knows that there is a right thing to do,” said Sigi Ahl, the creative director of DesignWork, a new branch of the brand. And even though she may not know the outcome, she knows she has to do it. She takes risks, which I find admirable.”
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Such was the case when Ahl initiated DesignWork in 2015. In an effort to “upscale,” as she puts it, Ahl went to Fisher and asked her to invest in a felting machine, a technology primarily employed to create service textiles by the automotive industry that uses barbed needles to mesh fabrics together. The brand wouldn’t disclose the exact amount, but Business of Fashion reported that it cost $20,000. It is used to recycle what…