For this interview with the Eileen Fisher team, we spoke with Inka Apter, Facilitating Manager for Fabric Research & Development. These are her thoughts on where they’ve been and where they’re going with fabrication.
Q: Please define what your position is at Eileen Fisher.
A: I lead our Fabric Team within the Design Department. Our five-member team is responsible for sourcing and developing woven and knit fabrics for our line, as well as accessories. Our team includes a Textile Designer and a Textile Chemist so we can really tap into different areas of expertise! We meet with mills from different countries, including the US, and review their collections as well as attending fabric shows here and abroad. We also visit the mills to gain better understanding of our supply chain and gain technical knowledge or browse their archives for inspiration. Within the Design Department we work collaboratively with the designers and merchandisers when developing our seasonal collections and then follow those materials from initial concept to first sampling and then on through the actual production. For me it’s been a dream job from the very start 20 years ago since I have been passionate about textiles and yarns from an early age!
Q: In your own words, please explain to Eileen Fisher enthusiasts what Vision 2020 is.
A: Vision 2020 is a first chapter of our journey towards building a sustainable business. We are aware of the environmental and social impact of the global textile industry of which we are a part and we want to take responsibility for our impact by effecting positive change wherever we can. To that end we are looking at everything — our materials, how are they grown and produced, how are they dyed, people that make them and resources that are used. We are also very passionate about new ideas about circular economy and using the resources most effectively, seeing waste as potential for new materials!
Q: What does sustainability mean to you? How do you apply those principles in your work?
A: Since materials make a large portion of our environmental impact and I work so closely with fabrics every day, I feel great responsibility to make better choices by sourcing and developing fabric with sustainable fibers. Sustainability is deeply embedded in our way of thinking and working. It feels completely natural to keep it at the center of what we do and we have made great progress in educating and collaborating with the mills, finding and nurturing new sources. I feel that I am learning something new every day – whether it is a new source of fiber, new emerging technology or just new way to evolve our tried and true fabrics!
Q: What progress towards Vision 2020 are you most proud of to date?
A: We’ve made a lot of progress in many areas; sometimes we forget to pause and look back at where we were just few years ago and where we are today. I am especially proud of our support of organic agriculture with our sourcing and development of materials with organic fibers such as organic cotton and linen. Once you experience first-hand the difference that organic agriculture makes to the health of people and the soil you never want to look back!
Q: How has Vision 2020 affected how you work with Garnet Hill?
A: Back in 2007 when we first developed the EF Home Collection with GH we already had great synergy because both brands were championing natural fibers. Our home collection was based on Eileen’s love of silk and linen at the core of our offering. As we learned more about the environmental impacts of natural fibers, we started thinking of ways we could improve all of our products. With the home collection our emphasis is on organic cotton — we have worked with the GH team to convert our best-loved qualities to organic cotton and develop new items and textures with organic fibers, undyed and reclaimed materials. It is a journey towards our sustainability goals and we are taking it step by step!