Eileen Fisher: Social Consciousness and Clothing

Friday, April 26, 2013

Eileen Fisher clothing, based in Irvington, NY, includes includes a concern for human rights and the environment in its mission statements. Its director of social consciousness Amy Hall talks about the nitty gritty of producing a clothing line in keeping with those goals -- from the environmental impact of natural fibers to the treatment of workers in many garment factories.  The collapse of the building housing several clothing manufacturers in Dhaka, Bangladesh, shows what's at stake as companies try to compete in the global textile market.


Amy Hall

Comments [23]

Lisa Ann Schraffa from Chestnut Hill MA
WOW I work for this company and I know Amy Hall personally & I am a bit stunned by the comments. Can we focus on anything positive being done vs. always being so critical of any efforts to improve things.

Apr. 27 2013 12:58 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

+1 Dboy!

Apr. 26 2013 02:17 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

Brian, you've seriously jumped the (brandwhoring) shark by thinking this comprises a valid segment on sustainability/corporate responsibility. This is nothing but a p.r. ploy by a brand grasping for relevance and some kind of atonement for cheap Chinese manufacturing.

Consumers are smarter than brands like Eileen Fisher want to realize: there is no real "good" in consuming, particularly as fanatically as many Americans do.

Apr. 26 2013 02:15 PM
Jenny from NYC

I couldn't believe it myself. First off, a Social Conscious Director, how can you even say that? More like a Public Relations Director... I run a New York owned business, a company that produces locally in Mid-Town, My factory is Chinese owned so I'm sure they would be more than thrilled to hear, that as Chinese American's they are some how less skilled. The difference being they are local, they are paid fair wages, their income goes back into the US economy, they are treated with respect and dignity. I can't believe the audacity... I'm actually really very disappointed in WNYC for glorifying Eileen Fisher in any way when there are real business' running ethically simply because it's the right thing to do, not as some media stunt to get a pat on the back.

Apr. 26 2013 02:03 PM
Susan from Sea Cliff

It seems to me the fashion industry shares with the U.S. auto industry an unwillingness to invest in R&D or in tooling up to do things differently. I believe many problems could be resolved with some innovation and use of existing technology. I can envision improvements in design, fit, quality, manufacturing, distribution, and marketing, for high-end and mass market, couture and RTW, ...and support ecological and economic interests. But the industry seems sluggish, and insular. Any chance someone in Ms. Hall's position could take the lead for true innovation?

Apr. 26 2013 01:56 PM

Oh my god, oh my god! Sorry I'm late folks. Too much late night internet trolling.

I see the Fox News Channel was back on the airwaves today at 93.9 FM.....

Hmmmmm....Eileen Fisher on the show today? Oh I get it.....there's a pledge drive on the way.....time to get those private (corporate) coffers to ante up...... and what better way to entice those lovlies out of their dollars than to promote the Eileen Fisher brand?

Now Brian, the online comments: did you say something about unskilled labor??

You didn't Brian, you didn't.....

Hmmmmmm....Brian's not perfect. Who knew.

Apr. 26 2013 01:04 PM
adrienne from UWS

Do you know how much it costs to shop at Eileen Fisher? I love the clothes and I have several jackets (some I have bought on Ebay under the "Lightly used section, for a pretty good price, some at the actual store when I happen to have some "extra" money) even when Eileen Fisher has a sale it's costly, also a scarf can cost over $100 retail.

It's cheap to send work to china, all people in "the rag trade" do it. there's no other reason, shame on her for saying there are no skilled people here. The people she could employ would be great, she would just be making less money.

They cater to more upscale people and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, but their dishonesty is disgusting

Apr. 26 2013 11:58 AM


You don't need a special program if you want to learn to sew, you just learn to sew.

Apr. 26 2013 11:52 AM

When the Eileen Fisher folks go to their Chinese factories and find the workers smiling...ah...did anyone EVER tell them that smiling is not optional? I wonder what the "look for the union label" people would think of this. I notice that none of the products manufactured under the incredibly low wages are ever discounted in price. Why is that? If labor is cheaper, why does the product go UP in price? I'd love to buy Eileen Fisher...great stuff, but way out of the range of the average US wage earner, don't you think?

Apr. 26 2013 11:50 AM
Betty Lynd from East Hampton

While I admire the "green" and "social consciousness" ideals Ms Hall spoke about at Eileen Fisher, that may or may not be about ideals but image. But what about their efforts closer to home? African Americans comprise 18% of the population but I have been in many EF stores and the main managers do not reflect this diversity. There may be a sprinkling of assistant managers who are African American, but not the main store managers. Many of the assistant managers have been in that position for the many years I have shopped in several EF stores, and don't seem to be promoted. These assistant managers are very helpful and seem fashion and business savy. Maybe they all have refused the promotions, but I find that hard to believe. I also wonder if the corporate office reflects this same small percentage of African American's? If there are few managers of color, how do you promote from within the ranks? Is that not also social consciousness too, right here in America?

Apr. 26 2013 11:41 AM
Tony from Canarsie

At my age, I'm happy if I can remember to put my pants on before going outside.

As for the interview: the same old corporation patting itself on the back folderol.

Apr. 26 2013 11:29 AM
Jim from Brooklyn

The plain and simple reason why Eileen Fisher manufactures their clothing in places like China is to benefit their bottom line. Saying that the "talent" isn't in the States to manufacture their clothing is euphemism for Eileen Fisher not wanting to pay American rates for labor. As much as they'd like to deny it they are in the same "cheap labor" boat as Apple and Nike. Sure, it's exploitation-with-a-smile but exploitation nonetheless.

Can your workers afford the clothes they make? At $298.00 USD for a full-length dress I highly doubt it.

I'm offended and disappointed that this amount of time is being given to Eileen Fisher to parade this pseudo moral stance. WNYC shouldn't be used as a soapbox for corporations to spread their messages without any sort of contentious discourse.

Apr. 26 2013 11:26 AM

Alright, I'll take the responsibility, I'm making the call:

HORSE SHIT!'re welcome.

Apr. 26 2013 11:19 AM
Anne from nyc

As a designer who knows just how much work goes into a well-made piece of clothing, I was really disappointed to hear Brian Lehrer call sewing "unskilled labor" and ask what talent is needed for that. This is a common misperception.
Brian, when you leave the office today, go sew yourself a suit. Jacket, pants, and a button down shirt. If it requires no skill or talent, then the suit you make should be so beautiful you can wear it every day. Good luck with that!

Apr. 26 2013 11:19 AM

...she can barely get the BS out of her own mouth!

Apr. 26 2013 11:16 AM
john from Washington Heights

"We feel really bad for all of the other brands in this tragedy"

There you have it, folks! Straight from the corporate horse's mouth. The people don't really matter (even though the CEO's always protest that they really, really do!). It's the company and corporations that suffer and, boy oh boy, she really feels their pain.

Eileen Fisher Co. is not a socially conscious entity. They are a for-profit conglomerate. They make money. That's their goal. Period. It's not a sin but it ain't altruistic, either. So let's stop the conversation now and stop kidding ourselves.

Apr. 26 2013 11:15 AM

This stuff is happening in the US too. In NJ contract manufacturers use illegal aliens to make generic drugs. They operate unsafe equipment and dump chemicals in local drinking water. I worked in one such factory and conditions were horrible. They need to throw the owners in jail.

Apr. 26 2013 11:15 AM

Uhmmm... "greenwashing"?? "Social conscious - washing"??

20% - pfft.

Apr. 26 2013 11:14 AM

I understand Ms. Hall's comment that the best sewing talent is in China, but why not start a program to train American workers to develop those skills so that the clothing can be manufactured here?

Apr. 26 2013 11:14 AM
Michelle from Long Island City

Please address the fact that the recent disasters in Bangladesh and other manufacturing centers have revealed that many "third party" auditing programs are a sham and rife with corruption. Through these voluntary programs, companies seem to either negligently or wilfully turn a blind eye to these violations in hopes of capitalizing on the plausible deniability of contracting with poorly regulated producers to supply for their extraordinarily profitable brands. What does "third party" mean for you? And who is held accountable when violations are overlooked?

Apr. 26 2013 11:14 AM
ap in NYC from Manhattan

All bs. Just marketing. Very disappointing. Thanks, Brian, for asking decent questions, even though she isn't answering them.

Apr. 26 2013 11:14 AM
Nancy from NYC

The dangerous and pathetic working conditions of those on the lowest rung of the fashion supply chain represent one more reason (in addition to price, style and quality) to stick to vintage clothes!

Apr. 26 2013 11:14 AM

I'm an Eileen Fisher fan. Why has the brand changed its manufacturing from USA to China, yet the price of the clothes hasn't dropped?

Apr. 26 2013 11:10 AM

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