FashionEileen Fisher Steps Down as CEO

Eileen Fisher Steps Down as CEO

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This article originally appeared on Vogue Business. To receive the Vogue Business newsletter, sign up here.

Eileen Fisher is stepping down as CEO of her eponymous fashion brand. Lisa Williams, Patagonia’s chief product officer, will take over the role in early September.

Fisher will remain involved in the brand’s product design, while Williams will lead daily operations, accounting for both sustainable growth and responsible business practices.

“I’m in the midst of building the blueprint so the company is at a place where it can stand on its own,” says Fisher. That blueprint speaks to the Eileen Fisher brand’s sustainable, timeless approach to fashion, as well as its circular business model. “It’s time to have someone else lead it.”

Lisa Williams.

Photo: David Walter Banks

Since launching her brand in 1984, Fisher has become one of the industry’s leading proponents of sustainability, outspoken on fashion’s role in textile waste and overproduction as well as the need for a circular supply chain. Eileen Fisher was one of the first fashion brands to launch a take-back scheme to promote recycling when it introduced its Renew programme in 2009, as well as the Eileen Fisher Tiny Factory, where textile waste is upcycled into new products. Fisher also heads up the Eileen Fisher Foundation, her company’s philanthropic arm, which in July teamed up with sustainable design and technology consultancy firm Pentatonic on a report on circular fashion models meant to act as an open playbook for the rest of the industry.

In addition to overseeing design, her continued involvement with her company will include helping to guide branding and messaging. She’ll also continue to lead the foundation, and she plans to continue to advocate for sustainable fashion. “I think of the company as a force for good. That’s something I’m proud of,” says Fisher.

At Patagonia, Williams was promoted to the role of chief product officer in 2015, where she oversaw the entire lifecycle of Patagonia products from design to production, merchandising and inventory management. In her new role, she’ll lead the brand’s forward trajectory as a leader in sustainability while also managing what Fisher considers “good growth” as well as profitability. “Delivering appropriate growth within a circular business model that finds the right balance between producing and selling new product alongside used and repurposed is the challenge for all of us,” says Williams. “Eileen Fisher has an authentic and long time passion for doing business the right way and today’s customers are looking to support businesses rooted in responsibility.”

“It’s hard to make sense of [growth] as a sustainable company — our values, problems with consumption and overproduction,” Fisher says. “The industry needs massive change and to be more sustainable, and I think with the combination of Lisa and I, the foundation and the company, there’s a lot more that we can do to help the industry.”

Comments, questions or feedback? Email us at feedback@voguebusiness.com.

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