Can a Laundry Tablet Really Double the Lifespan of Clothes?

A new detergent from London label L’Estrange is aiming to change the way we consume clothing.

Fashion 
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London-based label L’Estrange has launched the Re_Fresh tablet, promising a new approach to laundry and, crucially, clothing maintenance. The tablet is described by founders Tom Horne and Will Green as “an exfoliator for clothes,” which they believe can potentially double the lifespan of clothing through its natural enzyme formula that strips away a fine layer of old fibers to reveal the good-as-new garment underneath.

The enzymes work by focusing only on the top level of fibers, which lose color from abrasion, washing and general wear and tear. The more a garment is worn, the more this super-fine layer of fibers makes the garment look discolored and worn out. The enzymes are “naturally derived proteins [that] have the power to rejuvenate the appearance and colour of our clothes,” explain Horne and Green. “Harnessing the power of these natural enzymes, the Re_Fresh tablet acts as a gentle exfoliant, removing a fine layer of these old fibers, revealing the vibrant color underneath and rejuvenating garments back to their former glory.”

“This is part of a larger desire to promote degrowth in the fashion industry. Simply put, the fashion industry’s output is untenable, and we need to reduce it.”

Before the release of Re_Fresh, L’Estrange was best known for its commitment to sustainable clothing, making the decision to design a laundry tablet potentially surprising. “It’s a departure from what we do, but it’s also not,” explain Horne and Green. “Launching Re_Fresh has given us a greater platform to communicate the values behind why we launched L’Estrange London in the first place.” The key values they speak of are centered around de-growth – a concept that the pair hope to spread far beyond their own label.

“Founded upon the philosophy of ‘with less, do more,’ we’ve always been on a mission to simplify men’s wardrobes, but this is part of a larger desire to promote de-growth in the fashion industry,” they continue. “Simply put, the fashion industry’s output is untenable, and we need to reduce it.”

To achieve its goals, L’Estrange has followed a six-point framework for how the company operates. This includes a commitment to designing for versatility and longevity, promises to use responsible materials, traceable supply chains, and offsetting of the brand’s impact. The list ends with obligations to offer “Lifecare” and repairs, and to recycle unwanted items through the “Re_Work” program. “[Re_Fresh] was another investment to see if we could further our impact at the Lifecare stage through a commercial product or service that made reducing your environmental impact exciting and engaging for our audience.”

The process of creating the Re_Fresh tablets began with a previous idea to find a method or process that would re-dye clothing. During this, Horne and Green came across the work of Dutch scientist Harm Kuilderd, who was pioneering enzyme technology. “When we tested it, we were blown away,” they. “Harm had been working with this technology for some time, but it was through our partnership that we were able to release the product to consumers, the first of its kind in the world.”

L’Estrange’s Re_Fresh system is focused squarely on the issue of low clothing utilization in the fashion industry. The brand points to the work of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which identifies this as one of the biggest issues in the fight against climate change, as people wear their clothing less and less. “We’ve seen the emergence of a cultural trend, a shift towards wearing less and discarding more,” Horne and Green explain. “Whilst fast trends have a lot to answer for, some clothes just do wear out. The issue is that historically, lifecare has not been a particularly sexy side of the business. But in its current form, the fashion industry is not viable, and every step taken to lessen the number of new things we consume, the better.”

By launching Re_Fresh, Horne and Green are hoping they can shift the conversation around responsible fashion, while also engaging a new audience in the conversations. “[We aim to] change perceptions of where innovation can happen to change the industry for the better,” the duo add. “It could be too much to ask for a shift in values, but we hope it can fuel excitement toward tangible ways we can change the industry for the better.”

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