Early on in my styling business, I had a friend who has similar style to mine ask me what I thought about Eileen Fisher (the clothing, not the person). I replied, “I think I’ll be really excited to wear it when I’m older.” Statement retracted, buried in the dirt, gone.
A few weeks ago, I was in the middle of listening to Eileen Fisher on Dan Harris’s podcast, 10% Happier, and I literally had to stop what I was doing and sit down to write down my thoughts. I have always appreciated the simplicity of Eileen Fisher's clothes, but what I didn't realize was that she built her entire company around values I share.
I’ve had too many jobs where employees weren’t treated well. Now, my parents were union organizers, so I know about extreme situations like not being paid or forced to work in dangerous conditions, and that's not what I'm referring to. I’m talking about expecting people to work at all hours, for low pay, with no regard for their physical or mental well-being. Not realizing that the people working for them are humans and need some type of support or encouragement or recognition in order to do their best work.
Eileen Fisher has worked as hard to build a nurturing work environment as she has to design great clothes. She profit shares with her employees - if the company is profitable, so are they. She gives them each $1000 a year per employee for "wellness", and another $1000 a year for any other education they'd like to do for personal growth. She appears to really listen to input and ideas from staff who are interested to create new projects for the company. Mindfulness bells are rung at the beginning of every meeting. The Westchester Buddhist Center holds meditation meetings at the Eileen Fisher headquarters.
When Dan asked her if she thinks it would be better for her bottom line if she didn’t do all these things to empower and fulfill her employees, she paused. While she was pausing, I was thinking “of course it would be better for her bottom line if she didn’t do those things!”. To my surprise, after the pause, she answered no. She said that she truly believes that if employees feel that what they’re doing is meaningful, they are more engaged and do a better job, which results in a better product. If customers know that the company is working on ways to improve the environmental impact of the supply line, they’re going to be more loyal, which results in more sales. She has literally created a tribe of people who have similar values.
Then just as I’m thinking she’s some sort of saint, Dan asks for parenting advice. Fisher’s voice changes and she says that’s an area that she has regrets in. She says she was so busy building her business that she didn’t spend the time she should have with her two children when they were growing up. I love how she’s able to be honest about and aware of her failings. It makes me more resolved to stay unbusy, especially while my son is small.
Now add to all of that the fact that I truly love the clothes. They're not for everyone, but for my all-neutral, loose-fitting, drapy aesthetic, they're perfect.
If Eileen Fisher had a cult, I would totally join it.
So here's the great part - the lovely women who run the Eileen Fisher store here at Plaza Frontenac found my website and got in touch because they thought we'd be a great fit. We're going to work together on an event on December 17th - more details to come, but mark your calendars!