Lately, Eileen Fisher is fixated on fashion waste.
A sustainable fashion pioneer, B Corp and outspoken activist on timeless fashion, the brand’s charity arm The Eileen Fisher Foundation announced a 128-page report and research-guided digital platform on Wednesday to put in place new actions for tackling waste. Dubbed Hey Fashion!, the platform comes at a time when fashion’s textile and garment waste crisis continues to surpass new levels and the industry’s emissions reduction goals seem far out of reach.
The report includes insights from more than 50 stakeholders on the challenges, opportunities and dynamics influencing fashion waste, with research led by consultancy Pentatonic. In it, researchers identified eight action areas for fashion companies to promote a more circular system for textiles, including: scaling up waste sorting, investing in recycling, adopting a principle of “make less, buy less,” working together, designing for longevity and recycling, defining and standardizing methods, decarbonizing supply chains and embedding a people, planet and profit-first mentality.
Fisher’s goal with Hey Fashion! is to expand global conversations on scaling textile recycling infrastructure, promote underutilized technologies to divert textiles from landfills and harmonize change to address overconsumption, aligning with the Paris Agreement’s net-zero goals by 2050.
In an interview with WWD, Eileen Fisher, eponymous founder of the brand and The Eileen Fisher Foundation, explained her desire to stoke change.
“It’s such a critical time right now. We know the apparel industry is not going to meet its 2030 targets — it’s going to be 50 percent off if we don’t work together,” said Fisher, who traces her passion for waste back to experience, as her brand has operated a takeback program since 2009. “We ended up with a lot of things we couldn’t sell. It’s something we’ve been focused on and what we saw when we started this [program] was how we think about design and lean into certain materials. I think that getting others to address the situation in their own brands will call this action up…We hope to create a movement, not to be grand about it.”
Fisher is avid about interrogating the whole fashion business model — or the why of “the bigger is better” quandary. For industry leaders, that means taking a hard look at overproduction. For consumers, it comes down to understanding the linkage between timeless design and caring for their clothes. The report highlights tenets of conscious consumption as well as lesser-known recycling tips like tying your shoes together before donating to maximize efficiency (and mitigate loss).
Johann Boedecker, founder and chief executive officer of Pentatonic, said the differentiator in this platform is its “snackable content franchises” that meet the public and industry where they are currently. And unfortunately, as he said, the reality is that compliance to new laws and adherence to good business practices are still a hallmark of being ahead of the competition when it should be the norm. He predicts a “rude awakening” for brands not doing anything or relying on a silver-bullet solution.
“It’s not about a brand singing its own praise because it overshadows the problem solvers,” he said. “In this environment, sometimes it’s hard to find one party that fixes all its problems. That gives us special power to point out four or five solutions.”
The free Hey Fashion! report and ensuing content is available at Heyfashion.org as well as in a variety of formats — be it TikTok or its now weekly Hey Fashion! podcast — so as to reach the widest audience possible. Meant as a living body of research, the digital platform will continue to roll out related content and encourage dialogue across stakeholders.
The platform is measured by engagement and, ultimately, feedback as to how the recommendations are leading to “smarter decision-making,” in Boedecker’s words. As for what’s next, Hey Fashion! is in early conversations with funding partners and will support specific projects, soon to be announced.