Jeanie Keogh catches up with a Belgian fashion designer with an aversion to ‘dry clean only’.
One of the downsides to high fashion is laundry. Anyone who has put anything silk, cashmere or red in the washing machine has a war story to tell. The learning curve can be steep, costly, and, ultimately, bad for the environment if clothing prematurely ends up in the landfill. After a particularly painful experience – washing a favourite wool sweater at 90C, for example – some might be inclined to never trust washing machines again. If doing laundry makes your tummy feel like it’s on spin cycle or if reading the washing instructions on hangtags feels like deciphering hieroglyphs, then this is for you.
Belgian designer Doriane Van Overeem was selected by Not Just a Label, a platform for emerging designers, to team up with AEG, a company that makes washing machines, to make an educational advertising campaign on how to take better care of clothes. Called the Care Label Project, the ecological takeaway in the ad is that 25% of the carbon footprint of clothes comes from the way they are treated. According to AEG, the majority of consumers don’t toss away clothes because they are out of fashion, but because the washing instructions are too high-maintenance, the garment has been damaged in the wash or a stubborn stain cannot be removed.
Van Overeem explains: “In this initiative, we explain to the consumer that if they take good care of their clothes, they can keep them for much longer and, what’s more, it’s possible to machine wash delicate pieces made by designers rather than washing them by hand or having them dry cleaned, which is really harmful to the environment, costly, and sometimes a time-waster.”
Not Just a Label, a London-based organization, chose sixteen European designers for the project with AEG, hand-picking them according to their ethics. As Van Overeem is the Belgian ambassador for the Swedish-owned brand, AEG made a video about her designs and fashion philosophy in which she comes clean about her aversion to “dry clean only” hangtag labels. Van Overeem is a champion of the Made in Belgium tenet and her motto is “buy less, but buy better”. She believes that making clothes to last is not only her responsibility as a good designer, but her moral obligation to reduce global textile consumption, which has more than doubled since 2000. Designing with her clients’ busy lifestyles in mind, Van Overeem creates upscale collections that her clients can throw in the machine along with everything else with the assurance they won’t be damaged, providing they follow her tried-and-tested care label instructions.