Twice a year, fashion icon Eileen Fisher completes her own version of a retail therapy ritual: She cleans out her closet.
“I think about what worked, what’s flattering on me, what couple of pieces will make it feel fresh this season,” she says. “It always feels so great when it’s done: one rack of clothes that I wear for the season. Even out of that, I probably wear about 10 pieces most of the time, and most of them are from the year before.”
No drama, no morning panic: “It makes life a lot easier to pare down. You can get dressed more quickly.”
As it happens, you can also help save the planet.
For years, through her eponymous women’s fashion label, Fisher has promoted values in line with “slow,” or sustainable, fashion. The idea is simple: Buy fewer, better-quality clothes, and in the process support better garment industry business practices. Slow fashion has been gaining momentum thanks to Fisher and startup retailers like Zady, one of Fast Company‘s most innovative companies, though fast fashion brands like H&M and Zara still dominate the marketplace.
The True Cost, which had its New York premiere last night, sheds light on the processes behind our $17 jeans and $29 dresses. From soil-ravaging pesticides used to produce cotton in Texas to rampant safety violations at garment factories in Bangladesh, the film makes a compelling case that the systems underlying the $2.5 trillion global fashion industry are fundamentally broken.
“It’s disturbing,” Fisher says. “We have been working on both sustainability and human rights for many years, but there’s much, much more to do, and there are many more fashion businesses that need to get onboard.”
She hopes to see consumers demand change of other brands as a result of the documentary. “We are supporting the film, but we’re not out there to point fingers. We’re in this business, too, and we’re not perfect.”
Creating the kind of cultural movement she envisions will have to start with educating women about new ways of expressing their personal style. “It’s always about simplicity: If the garment is simple, then it can shift over time, you can put it together with different things in different ways,” she says. Fisher even relies on the same staples for events; at the premiere, she walked the red carpet in a black velvet tunic, accessorized with her signature silver bob.
“Women want to have fun, and we want to feel good about ourselves, and I think that’s valid,” she says. “I’m not promoting [the idea that] we only wear the same thing every day. I’m promoting [the idea that] you only need a few pieces to feel freshened up.”