Eileen Fisher Opens Up About Social Responsibility Through New ‘Ampersand’ Campaign

Eileen Fisher shows off its company’s commitment to sustainable and ethical business practices. 

Thumbing through Eileen Fisher’s fall eco collection is an intensely tactile experience. There’s thick organic wool knit into a slouchy sweater, hung next to blouses in lightweight textured sheer hemp, fluid bluesign®-certified silk, and an unbelievably soft cashmere from Outer Mongolia, made even more sensuous from a lack of chemical dye.

On another rack, you’ll find stiff, organic, made-in-NYC denim jeans and an organic version of stretch French terry, one of the company’s trademark fabrics. On the accessories front, wrap yourself in a hand-tie-dyed Japanese shibori scarf or try on a pair of vibrant striped wool glovelettes, naturally dyed with plants from designer Cornelia Blümli’s garden.

Eileen Fisher has long been known for producing simple but sophisticated womenswear, and the fall line is no exception. But what most customers don’t know is that the fashion brand also operates with a strong sense of social responsibility. That’s about to change this fall, with the launch of the Eileen Fisher Ampersand campaign, a new marketing initiative that highlights the company’s commitment to sustainable and ethical business practices.

The purpose of the campaign is to give customers a look at what’s “behind the label” of Eileen Fisher items, an idea that is literally translated through new garment hang tags featuring a checklist of the item’s eco-credentials.

In many ways, the name of the campaign embodies the company’s approach to its industry accomplishments. Though Eileen Fisher has long operated under the dictum of “business as a movement” – a phrase coined by Eileen herself – it has been hesitant to shine a spotlight on its social responsibility efforts.

“Subtle is who we are,” explained Candice Reffe, a member of the Core Concept Team at a recent Eileen Fisher breakfast. “What’s bold about the Ampersand campaign is that we’ve decided to actually speak out about things that we’ve been doing for decades, but that no one knew about.”

The hallmark of the campaign is an elegant ampersand symbol (&) used throughout marketing and advertising material to indicate additional information about an item’s production.

“It feels like us,” says Claire Whitcomb, who worked on the campaign. “It’s ‘by the way, here’s a bit more about what we’re doing. Here’s more of the story.'”

The company dives a bit deeper into those stories in a new newsletter available online and in retail locations. It is a refreshing break from typical CSR publications, with a fresh design and creative approach to product storytelling. Reffe, for instance, contributed a poetic image recap of a sourcing trip to China in the last issue, while other articles explore the process of sourcing sustainable denim and provide practical advice on how to hand wash a sweater.

The new hang tags are another key element of the campaign, letting customers know off the bat if the product consists of organic fibers, recycled fibers, or sustainable fibers; whether it is undyed or certified dyed; and if it is Fair Trade or made in the United States.

Highlights of the collection include:

Not only will the Ampersand campaign hopefully educate customers on the issues involved in sustainable fashion production, but it will also force the company to be more diligent about its social responsibility efforts in order to maintain the level of transparency. For the past three seasons, more than 25 percent of Eileen Fisher’s total line has been considered “eco,” a number that employees seem eager to improve.

“The campaign has really jazzed up the whole company,” says Whitcomb. “It’s so much easier making the right choices moving forward.”

Jessica Marati

Jessica Marati currently resides in New York City and covers travel and sustainability for EcoSalon. Catch her weekly column, Behind the Label.