London-based brand L’Estrange has launched the Re_Fresh tablet, promising a new approach to laundry and, more importantly, laundry maintenance. Founders Tom Horne and Will Green describe the tablet as “a laundry scrub,” which they believe can potentially double the life of clothing through its natural enzyme formula that removes a thin layer of old fibers to reveal the good as- new clothes underneath.
The enzymes work by targeting only the top level of the fibers, which lose color due to abrasion, washing, and general wear and tear. The more a garment is worn, the more this superfine layer of fibers makes the garment look faded and worn. Enzymes are “naturally occurring proteins [that] they have the power to rejuvenate the look and color of our clothes,” Horne and Green explain. “Harnessing the power of these natural enzymes, the Re_Fresh tablet acts as a gentle exfoliant, removing a thin layer of these old fibers, revealing the vibrant color beneath and rejuvenating garments to their former glory.”
“This is part of a larger desire to promote degrowth in the fashion industry. Simply put, the production of the fashion industry is unsustainable and we must reduce it.”
Before the launch of Re_Fresh, L’Estrange was best known for its commitment to sustainable clothing, so the decision to design a laundry tablet might come as a surprise. “It’s a departure from what we do, but it’s not a departure either,” Horne and Green explain. “Launching Re_Fresh has given us a bigger platform to communicate the values behind why we launched L’Estrange London in the first place.” The key values they talk about center around degrowth, a concept the pair hope to spread far beyond their own brand.
“Based on the philosophy of ‘with less, do more,’ we have always had a mission to simplify men’s wardrobes, but this is part of a larger desire to promote degrowth in the fashion industry,” they continue. . “Simply put, the fashion industry’s output is unsustainable and we need to scale it back.”
To achieve its goals, L’Estrange has followed a six-point framework for how the company operates. This includes a commitment to design for versatility and longevity, promises to use responsible materials, traceable supply chains, and offset brand impact. The list ends with obligations to offer “Lifecare” and repairs, and to recycle unwanted items through the “Re_Work” program. “[Re_Fresh] It was another investment to see if we could increase our impact at the Lifecare stage through a commercial product or service that made reducing its environmental impact exciting and engaging for our audience.”
The process of creating the Re_Fresh tablets began with an early idea of finding a method or process that would allow clothing to be re-dyed. During this, Horne and Green came across the work of Dutch scientist Harm Kuilderd, who pioneered enzyme technology. “When we tried it, we were blown away,” they said. “Harm had been working with this technology for some time, but it was through our partnership that we were able to bring the product to consumers, the first of its kind in the world.”
L’Estrange’s Re_Fresh system directly addresses the issue of underutilized clothing 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 clothes less and less. “We have seen the emergence of a cultural trend, a shift towards using less and throwing away more,” Horne and Green explain. “While fast trends have a lot to answer for, some clothes just wear out. The problem is that, historically, life care hasn’t been a particularly sexy side of the business. But in its current form, the fashion industry is not viable, and every step that is taken to reduce the amount of new things we consume, the better.
By launching Re_Fresh, Horne and Green hope to be able to change the conversation around responsible fashion, while engaging a new audience in the conversation. “[We aim to] change perceptions of where innovation can happen to improve the industry,” adds the duo. “It might be too much to ask for a change in values, but we hope it can build enthusiasm for tangible ways we can change the industry for the better.”