EILEEN FISHER’s secret repair program
by Alyssa Benjamin
Snaps break, moths attack. Living with clothing for a long time involves wear and, sometimes, tear. If the unexpected happens, we’re at the ready with needle and thread. The EILEEN FISHER Repair Program, started in 2005, has been something of a secret. As part of our commitment to timeless design, we’re letting the word out.
It’s simple. If you have an EILEEN FISHER garment that is missing a button or has a broken zipper, bring it to one of our retail stores and fill out a form. Wait four to six weeks. Pick up your item. Wear it out to dinner.
“Our customers are completely taken aback that we don’t charge for this service,” says Gaetan Benson-Karr, Customer Service Associate. “I think in the beginning we did it on such a small scale we didn’t realize what kind of precedent we were creating. Now, we’re starting to become known for it because other companies don’t do it.”
When a customer brings in clothing that is missing a button or has small moth holes, many EILEEN FISHER stores partner with a local tailor or seamstress. If a customer chooses to go to her own expert, they’ll reimburse her for the cost.
“A lot of our customers are scared to try repairs themselves,” said Joan Kauffman, manager at our Copley store. “We understand, because the clothes are expensive.”
When a problem is beyond the scope of local talent, items are shipped to a quiet corner of EILEEN FISHER’s Distribution Center in Secaucus, NJ. There Tess De Mesa and Cristina Reyes of Quality Control complete most repairs. Sitting amid boxes of yarn, trim and buttons, Tess works the sewing machine, while Christina (“Golden Fingers”) is an expert with a needle and thread.
In order to make sure they have the necessary materials on hand, they keep a stock of yarns from the past three or four years. When they don’t have the gauge or the color they need, they send an item back to our factories to be repaired, a process that can take up to six weeks to complete. Garments that need matching snaps, zippers or specialized trims are also sent to the factory that made them.
That twelve-year-old turtleneck with a hole? “I was amazed that we could match the yarn and mend it,” says Ava Branch, Customer Service Manager.
Repairing items rather than replacing them keeps clothing in customers’ closets and out of the landfills. “The ultimate expression of sustainability is to be able to continue to wear an existing garment as opposed to replacing it with a new one,” said Jim Gundell, Co-Chief Operating Officer & Facilitating Leader.
Back in 2005 items that needed buttons or elastic waistbands arrived in groups of twos and threes. Now, they come by the bin-full. In 2012, over 800 repairs were completed, all at no cost to the customer.
Once the word is out, will the program be inundated with repair requests? Jim Gundell isn’t worried. He says, “We are committed to doing whatever we can as a company to extend the life of our garments.”