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A Lesson on How to Meet the Times With Eileen Fisher

The entrepreneur and her eponymous clothing brand started with women and their careers in mind; now, the company is doubling down on sustainability.

Photo courtesy of Eileen Fisher

As an entrepreneur, designer and brand, Eileen Fisher represents the type of leadership that we would all do well to emulate. For decades, Fisher has been innovating across industries; whether it is designing some of the first clothing for women in the workplace, handing over 40 percent of her company to employee shareholders or pushing to be an entirely sustainable brand, Fisher has been helping to elevate the standard for business accountability for years. 

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Since she founded her namesake brand in 1984, Fisher has built a powerhouse that generates over $280 million annually and employs over 1,200 people. However, this company is run by it’s employees almost as much as by Fisher herself. Forty percent of the company’s shares are owned by employees, and this makes for a democratic debate when it comes to deciding where they are headed. And they never stop innovating. The traditionally elegant and timeless clothing brand is committed to transparency and sustainability on a whole new level and are working toward manufacturing circles, not lines. As outlined by the company’s Horizon 2030 vision, Eileen Fisher is looking to develop a new way to recycle textiles: “It will require systemic change, moving away from the linear take-make-waste model to a circular one that reuses or replenishes the resources involved. That means working with farmers who are regenerating damaged landscapes. It means adopting a manufacturing process that eliminates waste by using old clothes as the raw material for new ones. And it means doing business in a way that improves the lives of the people who make our clothes.” 

Beyond their commitment to sustainability, Eileen Fisher is also dedicated to transparency. Since 2015, the clothing company has been registered as a certified B Corp, and does not shy away from sharing their progress or failures with the public. Their efforts have yielded some truly amazing results, raising their B Corp score from 82 to 96 in just two years. 

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Additionally, Fisher is the founder of the Eileen Fisher Foundation, an organization that supports programs like Women Together. Fisher’s support of women is a foundational value on which her company is built. At the start of Fisher’s career, her clothes “acknowledged the waist, hips, legs and bust, but did not flaunt them. They were intended to make women feel at ease in their own bodies,” Cultured Magazine wrote. Today, her clothes continue to do just that—only now, they do it sustainably.

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