Clothes laundry is one of the hidden practices of fashion - while wearing clean looking and fresh smelling clothes is fundamental for most people, our laundry practices are concealed within the monotony of everyday life. And loaded with cultural and social meanings. Yet laundry practices are simultaneously problematic since the collective use of domestic washing machines and dryers consume massive quantities of environmentally significant resources such as energy and water. The environmental impacts of laundering are inadvertent and somewhat ironic: laundry can be understood as a practice of both purity and pollution.
Efforts to reduce impacts from laundry have been mainly focused on technological efficiency and individual changes in behaviour. These initiatives appeal to a logic of direct reductions in resource use, but they fall short in responding to the meanings and values that are reproduced and enacted through doing the laundry and the social construction of practices. As such, despite continuously improving product and appliance efficiency, the net consumption of energy incurred through doing the laundry has in fact doubled since 1970 (Goodright and Wilkes, 2015).
Looking beyond the mundanities of doing the laundry, this exhibition explores some of the cultural and social meanings that laundry practices help to reconstruct and reinforce. It brings together a range of work from a small group of fashion activists, theorists and researchers from London College of Fashion and the University of Huddersfield who have explored laundry from a range of different perspectives. It includes a mix of photos, garments, illustrations and a pop up garment grooming station – giving an up close and personal glimpse into the secret world of laundry.