Last year EILEEN FISHER announced a new partnership with the Council of Fashion Designers of America. Aimed at highlighting the importance of environmental and social responsibility within the fashion industry, the EILEEN FISHER Social Innovation Award is a one year residency at EILEEN FISHER that gives recent postgraduates an opportunity to tackle a specific business or design challenge in apparel sustainability.
For its inaugural year, the Social Innovation award was granted to three graduates of the Parsons New School: Teslin Doud, Carmen Gama and Lucy Jones (pictured above, left to right). These three very talented ladies have been tasked with generating a set of recommendations for what to do with the damaged garments collected through the GREEN EILEEN recycling initiative. We chatted with them to hear about their experiences at EF, their plans for upcycling post consumer garments, and their thoughts on the future of the fashion industry.
Congratulations on winning the first Eileen Fisher Social Innovation award. What do you hope will be the long term impact of this award?
A: Eileen Fisher’s commitment to sustainability includes a long term goal of sending zero clothes to landfill. The Social Innovator Award is helping to achieve part of this goal by creating a system to deal with the damaged garments that would be the most likely pieces to be thrown away. This award will aid in telling the Green Eileen story in order to engage customers and educate about sustainability and closed-loop business models.
Your time with EF is half over. What has been the highlight of the last few months?
A: To have unrestricted access to learn about every process within the company. We have gotten to follow the process from design until the products hit the store floors and observe all of the supporting roles along the way. Our biggest take away has been seeing how much everyone is so dedicated to achieving Eileen Fisher’s Vision2020, no matter how many obstacles might stand in the way.
What a great opportunity! What are you looking forward to most during the second half of your residency?
A: We are really excited to begin working on our design challenge with Green Eileen! We are starting with ideation and research, from there we will get to experiment and develop our proposed solution(s), finally we will get to present the outcome of our project to the Eileen Fisher community (both internally and externally). The upcoming months are when we really get to get our hands dirty and work towards an innovative solution for damaged Green Eileen garments.
You all have so many great ideas for textile recycling and post consumer garment redesign. Will you develop a capsule collection or prototype of possible upcycled fashions?
A: As we are really just getting into the grind of our project it is hard to say what exactly the outcome will be. Our minds have been churning with tons of different ideas and we are in the process of editing down our thoughts to realistic and manageable solutions. We are considering the fact that there are many methods to deal with textile waste and not every method is suitable for every fiber or type of damage. For this reason we are hoping to create a capsule collection that showcases the beauty of several different methods of upcycling garments.
What will Eileen Fisher do with your recommendations at the end of your residency?
A: We hope to not only develop a beautiful collection of upcycling techniques, but to also build a solid framework and system that can easily live on past our residency.
Sustainable apparel is a hot topic right now. Is sustainability the new norm or a fleeting trend?
A: Sustainability has graduated from a trend, to the new norm. It is a very exciting time to be working in the fashion industry because it is becoming less acceptable to just create beautiful clothing. People are demanding environmental and social consciousness, and fashion has no choice but to oblige.
Everyone at Eileen Fisher will be sorry to see your time here come to a close.What comes next after EF?
A: Although next steps after our residency at EF is not totally clear right now, we are all so passionate about sustainability that we’re sure we will go on to further invest in each of our specific areas of interest in order to make big, positive changes in the fashion industry. The industry is on a trajectory of every designer having to consider PCTW. We are so excited to be able to gain this experience at Eileen Fisher and to go out into the world to continue to aid in the elimination of the concept of “waste”.
Some design inspiration from the CFDA trio: