If you were to walk into EILEEN FISHER’s Remade in the USA pop-up shop knowing nothing about it, your first thought would undoubtedly be ‘wow, this stuff is gorgeous.’ The collection brings fresh color, texture and technique to the timeless, graceful style of EILEEN FISHER’s eponymous brand. And underneath the beauty, these pieces are all made from damaged EILEEN FISHER garments that have been returned to the company by customers.
Created in partnership with the CFDA, EILEEN FISHER created the Remade as part of the Social Innovators Project – a yearlong residency challenging three Parsons graduates with finding a solution to the 100,000 “chop” garments received through the Green Eileen garment recycling initiative. Designers Carmen Gama, Lucy Jones, and Teslin Doud rotated through the company for the first six months of their residency, receiving mentorship and observing the inner workings at EILEEN FISHER. They learned about the different areas in the business, and explored how the different types of garments and fibers in their chop pile became damaged: stained cotton and silks, viscose pills and stretches, and wool that came back totally shrunken or worn through with holes.
EILEEN FISHER’s Remade team: (From left to right) Green Eileen Facilitating Manager, Cynthia Power, Remade designers Lucy Jones, Carmen Gama, Teslin Doud
When asked about their process, Jones says “we looked for simplistic, iconic shapes that EF is known for. This year was actually the 30th anniversary of the box top, so we wanted to use that shape. We looked for limited seaming.”
Honoring EILEEN FISHER’s iconic styles, the designers spent a great deal of time sorting and disassembling the chop garments, arranging them by fiber type, color, and style. They settled on three different upcycling techniques, resewing, felting, and natural dyeing.
“The resewn pieces required a lot of sorting. The sewing was fast, but the color matching gets complicated,” says Doud.
Despite the amount of time and handwork that went into each garment, the three designers and Green Eileen Facilitating Manager, Cynthia Power, all stand by the Remade in the USA project as something that is scaleable not only at EILEEN FISHER, but at other fashion companies, too. Gama points out that, like EILEEN FISHER does, companies would really have to make the effort.
And effort the company has certainly put in launching their Vision 2020 initiative.
The 2020 statement reads: “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.”
“It takes a little more skill and creativity, but it’s still a production system that can happen,” says Doud.
The Remade in the USA pieces are gorgeous, each one unique and marked with a touch of artisanal craft with price points for all wallets.
“We do have price points for everybody in the line. The system pieces are all $58, but we can merchandise them right next to the main line, which has a higher price point, and the Green Eileen stuff, which is priced much lower. For the Remade pieces, we wanted to stay true to the cost and labor that goes into the garments,” says Gama.
While many designers and fashion companies have utilized upcycling techniques in attempts to go zero waste, none have done such a beautiful job as these three young designers. At the pop-up, the Remade pieces are displayed alongside new pieces from EILEEN FISHER’s main line, as well as vintage Green Eileen garments that have been deemed in good enough condition to re-sell. Power is proud that the three lines blend so well together.
“The fact that everything looks so modern and on-trend goes right back to the main line and EILEEN FISHER’s timeless style,” says Power.
Existing sustainability initiatives coupled with “high quality and minimal, clean designs in the original collection made this collection possible,” says Gama. In fact, according to Jones, now that a line of third life garments exist, the third life is informing the design of the first life, giving the designers better knowledge of what shapes and materials hold up and can be reused throughout the lifecycle of a garment.
The circular aspect of this project is perfectly summed up in it’s logo, a stitched red circle on each reused tag (which Jones stitched by hand).
Power knows that “this is a huge step in the right direction” towards EILEEN FISHER’s Vision 2020 goals of zero waste, amongst other ambitious initiatives. Indeed, it appears that the brand is moving ever more towards a holistic ethos of sustainability on all accounts, considering the sourcing of furniture and decorations for the pop up, all the way to the energy usage at their offices. Luckily, Gama, Jones and Doud have bought into the ethos of the company.
“Wherever we go next, whatever we do, we are bringing these values with us,” says Doud.
Check out the Remade in the USA pop-up this weekend before it’s gone!