Opening a new store is generally at least partly about brand awareness, but Eileen Fisher has taken extra measures to ensure her new store doesn’t actually get linked to her own well-known brand name.
On August 22, on a prime retail strip in Brooklyn’s Boreum Hill neighborhood — that includes Warby Parker, Clare V. and Aesop — she’s launching Making Space, a first-of-its-kind concept store by her 34-year-old namesake brand.
“In order to make this a true experiment, we knew we needed to approach it differently, starting with the name,” said Fisher. “We landed on ‘Making Space’ because it best describes what we are doing: making space for something new and innovative.”
It represents the next iteration of the company’s retail concept, said Mark Goulet, the brand’s head of in-store experience. Eileen Fisher will be testing the setup in its Detroit and Seattle locations with a “Brooklyn Lite” prototype currently being designed, and rolling it out to its 68 total stores and 300 wholesale accounts is a possibility. Goulet is also talking to Bloomingdale’s in midtown Manhattan on trying to create a “Making Space” area within the Eileen Fisher space, and said he can see the brand launching Making Space pop-ups within Eileen Fisher stores. It hosted a Renew pop-up in the Soho location, introducing recycled pieces alongside the current collection, and it stuck.
Inside Making Space
Designed to be a gathering space for the local community — meaning locals, even more so than Eileen Fisher shoppers — the new store’s purpose and many of its features are new, but the brand’s ethos is reflected through and through.
Events meant to speak to the “interests and needs” of the neighborhood are a key focus. The store will consistently host an artist in residence, 95 percent of which are locals, set up at a mini-workshop near the entrance and rotating out every two weeks. First up is Cara Marie Piazza, a textile artist working in natural dye. Like the other artists coming in, she’ll engage with shoppers, creating one-of-a-kind-pieces upon request, and also host regular workshops on her craft. Other events planned for the store — promoted on its dedicated website, also launching today — include gallery shows, screenings and classes tied to the brand’s LifeWork initiative, centered on encouraging self-confidence.
“We want the space to be one that doesn’t have to focus on only the traditional retail experience,” said Fisher. “What if we broaden the definition of the experience to create a space where anyone is welcome? You could come in to learn about sustainability in the fashion industry, or you could come in to grab a water and recharge your phone in a fun environment.”
An in-house restaurant of sorts was seriously considered and may still in the cards, said Goulet. For now, outside-the-box features include a large commissioned piece by artist Derek Milander, made of folded and stacked-to-the-ceiling pieces plucked from Eileen Fisher’s Irvington, New York-based factory. There’s also a play table in the back for kids, and a digital kiosk will soon be added that, in addition to capturing shopper’s emails, will offer shoppers a guide to the neighborhood, highlighting businesses that share like values — the best non-toxic dry-cleaner, for example.
The brand’s dedication to sustainability and women initiatives are also evident in the featured collections, labeled and explained on walls and fixtures to help guide shoppers through the store. Closest to the entrance is The System, an eight-piece collection within the brand’s main line meant to serve as the foundation of a complete wardrobe. Adjacent is Remade, followed by Renew — collections stemming from Eileen Fisher’s take-back clothing recycling program, made from reassembled and repaired pieces, respectively, and not carried at typical store locations. Toward the back of the store is 111, a line of one-of-a-kind samples of samples never making it to production. Finally, there’s a section for the Morse Code collection benefitting Girls Who Code and a display for clothing care and repair products, like fabric swatches and mending kits.
The collections are small, leaving the nearly 5,000-square-foot space an airy feel and allowing room for a number of seating areas.
“We don’t want to load up the store with too much inventory,” said Goulet. “That’s not really the way forward.”