Eileen Fisher

Trip Start May 21, 2011
Trip End Jun 01, 2011

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Flag of China  , Shanghai,
Thursday, May 26, 2011

Today is going to be the most exiting day so far, but also the longest. Today we are going to visit Eileen Fisher. EF is known for their CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility). They sent 5 top managers to our hotel bright and early to show us their silk and sewing operations.

On our drive to the factory, we were able to see more rural and remote parts of China as well as other small towns/cities. This was the first time since I've been here that I really noticed I was in a developing country. The houses were falling apart (some already had), and the water was bright green from algae. Even though the poverty level was so noticeable, there was beauty about the simplicity and longevity of the culture. As we drove by on our bus we could see old Chinese men with their pointy straw hats cutting wheat and the fishermen in their wooden boats. This was the image I had associated with China.
Our first stop of the day was to the place where the silk is taken from the cocoons and spun into thread. We saw start to finish how they steam the cocoons and unravel them with specialized machinery and eventually turning them into a thread like substance. The final un-dyed product is very coarse, similar to horse hair.

Our next stop was following the silk thread to their dying and weaving factory.  We saw how they made different typed of silk, for example if the thread is spun tighter it creates a different texture than looser spun thread. This is also where they turned the thread into the fabric to be later cut. The particular factory we went to produces only 20 percent of EF's silk needs.

Our next stop was at the sewing factory. We had a lovely lunch prepared by the kitchen staff before taking a tour. I was lucky enough to eat lunch with our main host Susan and found out she grew up in Barrington, RI (such a small world!). We started at beginning where the fabric was cut and followed it down to the final stage (and even saw it being loaded onto a truck to be shipped). The factory was very clean and the opposite of the typical stereotypes, there was fresh air and lots of light. This particular factory produces garments for not only EF but also J.Crew, Lilly Pulitzer and H+M.  Afterwards we had Susan, our host, give us a quick but detailed informational power point on EF before getting on the bus for our last stop. 75-80 percent of EF's garment production is produced in Asia.

Our final stop of the day was visiting the dying factory where all of EF's silk is dyed. The technique they use is very simple but efficient.

Our hosts were so gracious with everything. The day as a whole was such a great learning experience.
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