Eileen Fisher Keeps It Simple

Her early years in Illinois seemed to offer no hint that she would one day be a well-known New York fashion designer. For 12 years she wore uniforms to school–a requirement most students dislike intensely but she found freeing–and then declared a math major in college. Her plans for the future were a far cry from living in Tribeca and launching a fashion career. So how did Eileen Fisher discover that she had a vision and a talent for fashion design?

After admiring–and owning–a number of Eileen Fisher garments over the past 25 years or so, I was intrigued by an interview with her in Fortune describing how she got her start. As the article reveals, she actually developed sewing skills and a love of fabric while growing up in a household where her mother sewed much of the clothing for her six daughters. And when Fisher no longer needed to wear a uniform to school, she hated shopping because she couldn’t find what she wanted, and she found it very¬† time-consuming to decide what to wear each day. It seemed to her that finding, selecting and wearing well-coordinated outfits each day should be simpler.

The influence of a college roommate’s coursework in interior design led Fisher to realize she, too, loved working with fabric. She changed her major to home economics, then took the opportunity to move to New York’s Soho with a roommate, and struck up a friendship with a sculptor. Surrounded by creative minds and influenced by observations on a trip to Japan, she eventually formulated her vision for a fashion collection based on–no surprise here–the concept of simplicity!

Her first collection of four garments were displayed at a show in 1984 where she sold orders to eight stores. At the next show a year later she had doubled her collection to eight garments and had a line of buyers waiting to place orders. She was on her way!

“Keep it simple” is a mantra we all need to remember as we go through daily activities. Simplicity is the key to communications, the basis for many wonderful culinary creations, and the key to achieving work/life balance. What ideas do you have for simplifying life? How can you make your job a bit easier, or help other people simplify their lives? Who knows? You just may launch a new career!

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