In 2015, Eileen Fisher announced an ambitious corporate goal: to be fully sustainable by 2020. Vision 2020, as the initiative is called, includes moving toward 100% organic fibers and non-polluting dyes, on-shoring more production, rigorous supply-chain and social responsibility monitoring, and a take-back policy for used Eileen Fisher clothing.

So far, nearly half a million garments have been returned. About 40% of these still have useful life; they are cleaned and repaired in the company’s two recycling centers (in Irvington, NY and Seattle) and sold through Green Eileen outlets. The proceeds support foundations working for the empowerment of women and girls. To address the remaining 60%, the company has established Eileen Fisher Labs, a working group tasked with finding ways to recycle the unwearable clothing.

This prototype demonstrates one approach, needle-punch felting. Needle punch is a type of industrial felting which uses beds of barbed needles to mechanically entangle fibers. Used garments are deconstructed to their 2-dimensional pieces, layered on top of a gauzy substrate, and passed several times through the machine. The entangling action blends the colored fibers from different layers, giving a soft, painterly effect. The resulting fabric is suitable for upholstery, wall hangings, or carpets.

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