Eileen Fisher Renew Field Trip

Learning on the road

Fashion students discover what’s old is new again at Eileen Fisher Renew

Students in the Fashion Design and Merchandising classes at Southern Westchester BOCES Center for Career Services are familiar with fashion trends that come and go and come back again. Recently they learned about one fashion designer who designs clothes, takes them back and redesigns them again during a tour of the Eileen Fisher Renew facility in Irvington.

The facility takes in gently used Eileen Fisher garments, sorts the contributions, dry cleans them and sorts them once more by color and fabric type before using the material to create a brand-new article of clothing.

These new items are then sold in the on-site store at 50 South Buckhout St., Irvington. The material that is not used for a garment may get repurposed into new fabric used for pillows, wall art or even a backpack or tote bag. Any item that cannot be used is donated. There is no such thing as a too small scrap of fabric here.

“Since 2009 Eileen Fisher decided she wanted to take responsibility  of the products she creates — she makes clothes for women, women use them, and then she wanted to see what would happen if she asked her customers to give back the clothes that they didn’t want,” said Carolina Bedoya who led the tour at Eileen Fisher Renew.

Eileen Fisher customers responded very well. The facility takes in 10,000 units each month.

“We make clothes out of clothes,” Ms. Bedoya said, holding up a black jacket that had been made out of three pairs of pants.

During the tour students visited the two sorting areas, the first sorting space goes through and checks for damage or stains on the donated pieces. The second sorting area has workers dividing up items by fabric type and color. Students also saw where sewers make the new garments and the space where new fabric is made from donated items.

Any fabric that is not used to make another garment is sent to design assistant Ashley Edwards. She works with designers to develop new pieces of fabric. Once designers have an idea, Ms. Edwards is responsible for making the design come to life in the form of new clothe. She uses a large felting machine. She can make new, thin material for a garment, or thicker material for artwork or décor.

“What Renew cannot use, we use,” she said. “Here we want all the damaged pieces. We make pillowcases, upholstery bags and coats,” Ms. Edwards said.

Fashion Design teacher Carmen Galiano wanted to introduce her students to Eileen Fisher Renew so they could be inspired by the work done here.

“It’s good to know what they are doing and how they are doing it,” she said. “Right now, there is a real push for recycling.”

A big trend in the industry, she said, are customers who are increasingly more mindful of the waste and are shopping in second-hand stores.

Every scrap of fabric used in the Fashion classroom is saved and used again when possible to eliminate waste, Ms. Galiano said.