Who is Eileen Fisher?
OlyKraut is honored to have received one of the 2015 EILEEN FISHER Women-Owned Business Grants. Eileen Fisher's company has been described as a "totally radical feminist project," started by a humble and determined woman. We'd like to share her inspiring story.
After a series of interviews with Eileen, Janet Malcolm of the New Yorker has much to say about the gal behind the company. Along for the interviews were a number of other women who worked for the company, Monica Rowe and Hilary Old. Eileen believes that she only planted the seed of a company which is held up by a number of strong women who should also be represented.
This seed she speaks of was planted in the 1980's, a shy person with strict catholic background, Eileen found her voice after graduating college working with a Japanese man named Rei. The relationship did not last but her interest in Japanese fashion did. The Kimono inspired Fisher to make her dreams of designing clothes become a reality.
She started explaining design ideas to a woman named Gail who would sew them for her. The garments would then be displayed at a boutique show. Gail described them as too simple, but the unadorned garments caught the eyes of buyers and so began the company. The first EILEEN FISHER shop opened in 1987, on Ninth Street in the East Village. Today, EILEEN FISHER is an enterprise with nearly a thousand employees.
During the interviews we learn not just about how the company came to be, but how the company came to be radical. When business struggle arrived for Eileen, she hired a male CEO to solve problems but soon realized that a CEO, let alone a male one, was not what the company needed. A boss was not what the company needed, it would be about working as a team.
Currently EILEEN FISHER has profit sharing for employees and free clothes for employees to wear at work. They also try to be as green as they can, with 50% of the cotton sourced from organic farms. Not to mention 80% of the employees are women!
"The underlying philosophy of our design—no constraints, freedom of expression—extends to the company itself, which is run in a loosely structured manner that allows for an open exchange of ideas. Every employee is encouraged to give input to any area, no matter their position or expertise. The individual is valued for the total picture of who they are and what they can contribute." -Eileen Fisher