In 1984, I started EILEEN FISHER for a very personal reason: I was having trouble getting dressed. At the time I was working as an interior and graphic designer. In my mind I kept seeing these simple shapes for clothes. I knew they had to be beautiful colors, great fabrics and have certain shapes and proportions that worked together. This was my "aha" moment: a system of dressing that I'd been looking for ever since I abandoned my Catholic school uniform back in Des Plaines, Illinois.
Although I couldn't sew and only had $350 in the bank, I believed in these simple shapes. I had four shapes made up and took them to The Boutique Show in New York. Encouraged by $3000 in orders, I expanded my "line" to eight pieces. The second show brought in $40,000 in orders. Suddenly I wasn't just Eileen Fisher. I was EILEEN FISHER, INC.
Today we are 1100 people strong with more than sixty stores in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. At our loft-like corporate offices, we've exchanged cubicles for open work areas that let us be encouraged, inspired and informed by the people surrounding us. We are a company of passionate, engaged people who value our collaborative culture and are committed to connecting with one another as well as with our customers.
Design is what drives us and our business. We find that good design is a result of paying attention to what women want and need. The women who wear our clothes want to experience the magic that happens when you put on a piece of clothing that has been pared to its simple, pure essence. It comes alive on your body. It makes you move differently. It changes the way you think and feel about yourself.
From the beginning, I've wanted EILEEN FISHER to be known for clothes you don't have to think too much about. You put them on and know that they will give you the comfort, ease and elegance to move with confidence through your day.
I've always looked at clothing through the lens of confidence and empowerment. I focus that lens in many other aspects of life. My latest passion was inspired by the Gross National Happiness (GNH) Lab, a project of Dr. C. Otto Scharmer's Presencing Institute. Instead of framing prosperity in terms of the GDP, the GNH Lab looks at such things as health, education, ecological resilience and psychological well-being. To me, this kind of holistic vision is a huge and vital shift. It is about rethinking what it means to live in a world with finite resources, as individuals and as businesses.
I feel there's a role for EILEEN FISHER to play in this shift by sharing the collaboration skills we practice and helping to create the kind of change that wouldn't be possible if each of us acted alone. When I give talks, I often say that business can, indeed, change the world. EILEEN FISHER has done a lot by committing to organic and sustainable fibers, manufacturing clothing in the USA and recycling our clothes with GREEN EILEEN. There's much more to do. And I believe we can do it. I believe we can make a difference. Business can be a movement.