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Eileen Fisher: These Clothes Start with a Seed

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Eileen Fisher: These Clothes Start with a Seed

April 30, 2014

Eileen Fisher began her company 30 years ago with a focus on natural fibers–but ultimately realized that natural is not enough. Natural fibers can still come with herbicides and pesticides that have dire environmental consequences. That’s why Eileen Fisher introduced organic cotton into its collection 10 years ago.

This year, the company took a hard look at its mission and progress, and decided to do more. Before the cotton and linen were harvested, the fabric woven, or a single stitch of Eileen Fisher’s Eco Collection sewn, a commitment was made: to clean air, clean water, and a healthy environment for workers and wildlife.

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Above: “Becoming more mindful about clothing means looking at every fiber and every seed and every dye and seeing how to make it better,” says Eileen. To start, the company doubled the amount of organic fibers used in its spring collection. This pewter-and-white striped Funnel Neck Top is a blend of organic linen and cotton; $158.

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Above L: The Racer-Back Knee-Length Dress, shown here in midnight, is made of organic cotton and hemp; $178. Above R: A Knee-Length A-Line Skirt made of hemp and organic cotton chambray; $158.

Eileen Fisher has committed to increasing its use of organic fibers by 10 percent every year. That may sound easy, but global organic fiber production is still small: only 1.1 percent of all the world’s cotton is grown organically.

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Above: This Ballet Neck Sleeveless Top is made of organic linen jersey and available in flamingo (shown) and white; $168.

Eileen Fisher returns to its favorite fabrics year after year because they have a drape and feel the company loves. So switching to new fibers–organic ones from new sources–presents a challenge. “With yarns that are so important to our collection, it’s daunting to change up the content,” says sweater designer Julie Rubiner.

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Above: Made of fine-gauge organic linen, this striped Jewel Neck Top has a nautical feel. In midnight and white; $158.

It turns out that organic fine-gauge linen and organic linen-cotton slub, which the company introduced this year, are even more beautiful and reliable than the conventionally grown ones. “Both yarns feel nicer, which doesn’t surprise me,” says Rubiner. “I’ve found that things grown organically have a better quality.”

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Above: Organic fibers and processes come at a premium, but it’s an investment the company believes in–and hopes its customers will, too. This chambray railroad-stripe Scoop-Neck Dress is made of a blend of hemp and organic cotton. It’s also available in black denim; $218. Go to Eileen Fisher’s Eco Collection to see more.

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