On the drive to Eileen Fisher from New York City, the trees almost made me cry. Green, green trees, light ones and dark ones, big and small (I could clearly stand to brush up on my dendrology), becoming more densely packed and joyously leafy as we zoomed up the Hudson.
The brand’s headquarters in Irvington, New York, are only a little over an hour away from the city, but the change in air quality says further. Manhattan has trees, of course; but most of them are organized and lonely, like lampposts. “These trees!” I wanted to scream, Lorax-style, as we got closer to her. Eileen Fisher is a name that conjures peace. The kind you get from living somewhere with an abundance of trees, and from wearing elegant, unrestrictive fabrics.
A few years ago, Janet Malcolm described Eileen Fisher’s devotees, who have been flocking to her basic, flowing clothes since 1984, as “the cult of the interestingly plain.” I call it sartorially unburdened. When I first moved to New York, I went to a party with a coworker where we met a girl who worked at Eileen Fisher, in the corporate office on Fifth Avenue. My friend and I were publishing assistants at the time, working far more hours than for what we were paid, for people who made several times more money than we did. We wore Eileen Fisher, known between us as simply “Eileen,” which we bought at Century 21, or with gift cards our bosses gave us as birthday presents. Tasteful trousers, silk box tops, and linen dresses made us feel more in control and dignified than our circumstances allowed us to be.
When we met this woman, who had escaped our industry, creaking along in lean times, for a job at Eileen, we said to each other, “That could be us one day.” Five years later, my former coworker really does work at Eileen Fisher, after searching fruitlessly for a promotion as an editor. Janet Malcolm might be surprised at this trajectory; in addition to a cult, she also described Eileen Fisher–wearers as “women of a certain age and class—professors, editors, psychotherapists, lawyers, administrators—for whom the hiding of vanity is an inner necessity.” In her estimation, editors wear Eileen Fisher; they don’t go to work for her. Maybe that used to be true.
A certain stereotype that your mom shops at Eileen Fisher endures. But what about Eileen’s younger customers, a small but devoted cadre of Gen-X and millennial women who, yes, aspire to the intelligentsia but for whom economic precarity has made that work increasingly inaccessible? There are a number of high-end labels that now evoke the clean, minimalist style that Fisher is known for—The Row and Jil Sander come to mind—but none offer it at Eileen Fisher’s more reasonable price point. For the younger set, “the hiding of vanity” isn’t so much the issue—the issue is whether or not one can afford to be vain at all.
Read more ..hit the link to Vogue.com below. Image by Joao Canziani
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