Fashion has a history of fetishising the launderette. A model perching in the drum of a supersize machine, with slick clothing and makeup in contrast to the stark backdrop of the public launderette, is a look-book staple. But running them has not historically been in their repertoire.
Cue a spin-off from fashion brands who are repurposing launderettes and bringing them back into style. In 2016, Hermès introduced its Hermèsmatic concept, a pop-up launderette where people can bring in scarves for a wash and dip-dye service. Decked in Hermès orange, with branded detergents, laundry assistants – sorry, “artisans” – help “breathe new life into scarves” with a complementary service (that happens to look great on Instagram). The concept is less about a wash and more about a “refresh”.
Consumer psychologist Kate Nightingale thinks that, as more people invest in sustainable and better-quality clothing, branded launderettes can add confidence to your wash. “Going to a laundry run by a trusted brand that produces quality products means, by association, that your products will be safe,” she says. “Brands are trying to extend their business to other steps of the product journey, including its care.”
Last November, the denim brand American Eagle opened a concept store with a free laundry service near New York University, encouraging students to bring their washing and wait for it over a beer. Like Hermès, they also offer a “refresh” for jeans, fixing buttons and customising repurposed denim. Meanwhile, the Japanese launderette chain Wash & Fold offers a machine designed to wash trainers. Millennial pink and coin-free, Powder Laundry in Australia is another Instagrammable launderette, where machines can be operated via an app.
Marketing gimmicks aside, fashion-focused launderettes could provide a space to introduce more energy-efficient and sustainable approaches to washing clothes. Trendy eco-friendly launderettes such as Celsious in Brooklyn commit to “encouraging laundry education”, while Laundré, in San Francisco, which boasts “lofted ceilings and a thoughtfully curated interior”, also uses energy-efficient machines and environmentally friendly detergents.
Retail-trends expert Stefanie Dorfer says: “We have inherited outdated washing habits from our parents and, while the technology of washing machines has improved massively, we are overwashing clothes, which results in an alarming carbon footprint for each person.”
Much has been said on the decline of the launderette (in the UK, 97% of households now have a washing machine), but this new breed may denote its revival as a social space. “Perhaps the nostalgic appeal is more about the human contact,” says Nightingale, “as opposed to the laundry service itself.”
Via The Guardian