Detergent companies and laundromats will not be pleased. In a recent Fast Company article, journalist Elizabeth Segran profiled a number of clothing manufacturers who are looking to change the apparel industry by offering clothing that encourages fewer washings.
Companies like Unbound Merino specialize in what they call travel clothes—items made of heavy-duty fibers like wool and designed to be washed infrequently. (Icebreaker, a New Zealand-based outdoor clothing company, encourages users to wear its merino wool Tech-Lite shirts for up to a week between washings.) Another company, Pangaia, makes clothing out of cotton and seaweed fibers and treats them with peppermint oil, a natural antibacterial agent, to keep them fresh between washings. These materials tend to let bodies breathe, reducing the chance of trapping sweat and letting odor-causing bacteria linger. Unbound Merino chooses a light, thin wool fabric that mimics the feel of a cotton T-shirt.
The idea is to design apparel that comes in handy for traveling, since finding places to launder clothing can sometimes be difficult, especially if you’re backpacking or far from hotel amenities. But the ambition is also to create more eco-friendly attire. Fewer washes means less water used.
One question remains: Can the companies overcome decades of aggressive marketing from detergent companies about washing clothes regularly? For some, it will come down to the sniff test. After going three weeks without washing a shirt or dress and still not detecting anything offensive, consumers might turn into believers. That’s assuming they can get past the price. One seaweed shirt from Pagaia runs $85.
[h/t Fast Company]