If you were to tell all the cool Boerum Hill moms, with their Babyzen Yoyo strollers and rose-gold Birkenstocks, that Eileen Fisher–Queen of All Mom Clothes–was hip to Brooklyn before they were, their jaws would drop into their MilkMade ice cream.
But it’s true: The 68-year-old designer, with her caftan-inspired, mix-and-match minimalist pieces, got her start right here working for the department store Abraham & Straus on Fulton Street.
She eventually segued into interior design, then graphic design and finally fashion, all the while roaming from Japan and New York City before settling down in Irvington, N.Y., where the brand, which she famously started with all of $350 in her bank account, is based. Now, more than three decades later, the Illinois native is finally making a triumphant return to the city’s most populous borough with Making Space, a concept shop opening today at 47 Bergen St., a mere six blocks from her first gig in retail.
“This is not a radical reinvention,” says Fisher, “but simply the fullest expression of who we are, a space for experimentation and creation, for making and remaking, for finding inspiration. Because in creating this space, we’re making space for something new.”
If it all sounds a bit meta, sign up for one of the shop’s Mindful Monday or Friday Night Wine events and it’ll all take shape. Surrounded by the hippest of hip neighbors from Clare V. and Aesop to Warby Parker, the 5,000-sq.-ft. former carriage house is being dubbed an “experience,” according to Mark Goulet, head of Fisher’s brand-experience team.
It’s a first for the 34-year-old label, and while the clothes and their essence do indeed remain the same–from The System, the label’s defining series, to the Renew and Remade lines featuring recycled or reimagined EF pieces–these new surroundings elevate them in a radical, refreshing way.
Upon entering, guests are encouraged to write what they’re “making space” for on cards emblazoned with photos of scissors, tea cups, seeds and more. (Examples on display include everything from the imaginative “the future” to the literal “better clothes.”) Shelves are stacked with Tiffany Dufu’s Drop the Ball book on doing less, as well as kits for doing Japanese-style sashiko embroidery. (Those who can’t sew, have no fear: Stitch-it workshops are on tap and you can bring any ’ole item you want, not just Eileen Fisher products.)
“The idea is to prolong your pieces,” says Goulet. “Doesn’t matter whose it is. We’ll show you how to use some [thread] to fix it.”
Each month, there will be additional knowledge to soak up in the naturally lit, front-window section, where rotating artists in residence will spend store hours creating and educating visitors on their craft. Up first is Gowanus-based Cara Marie Piazza, who works with flower and food waste to make textiles.
It’s a natural choice, considering Fisher’s passion for sustainability, which the new location highlights via decor such as translucent chairs made of eyeglass frames from artist Kim Markel and a sculpture composed of worn Eileen Fisher items constructed by Brooklyn’s Derick Melander. His multi-dimensional piece, which took weeks to compose, features a blue-to-gray gradient of clothing stacked in such a way that promises to be hashtag-worthy.
“You’re looking at hundreds of [Eileen Fisher items] people have worn and all the experiences they’ve had in those clothes,” says Goulet, who had wanted to commission the artist for quite some time. “His work is emotional.” Nearby, a video plays on a loop showing Melander’s process. Eventually, both will be subbed out for something new.
Various elements will always remain, though, such as the carefully curated Eileen Fisher lines (labeled with color-coded discs on the top of the hangers) and small, thoughtful touches that focus on community needs, like children’s books and hand puppets left out to entertain kids while mom tries on clothes or takes a breather on the back patio.
“We wanted this space to be where you can have a variety of experiences,” Fisher told The Bridge. “You can come to shop our product, you can come to learn about sustainability efforts, you can come simply to take a moment, enjoy a cup of tea and sit.”
It’s a one-stop shop from a brand ahead of its time–yet still very much in its prime.