It may sound like a case of fashion labels passing the buck, but when it comes to a garment’s environmental burden, life-cycle assessments generally agree that most of the impact occurs after it’s whisked off the racks. For designer Emma Rigby, the answer was obvious: create clothing that doesn’t have to be washed and dried as often, and in doing so, whittle its water and energy consumption.
For her final-year thesis at the London College of Fashion, Rigby developed “Energy Water Fashion,” a line of dresses, sweaters, skirts, and pants that intrinsically encourage infrequent laundering. More than that, Rigby approaches fashion as a means of creating a dialog between designer and wearer, using design as an “intervention point to encourage people to wash their clothes less often,” she says.
Can design be used as an “intervention point” to encourage people to wash their clothes less often?
A weatherproof pinafore, made from waxed organic cotton, naturally repels dirt and water, while its dark navy wash camouflages the occasional spill or stain (minimum 30 wears per wash). For transitional-weather layering, Rigby hand-knit an aran cable vest from 100 percent Wensleydale wool, a fiber that resists grease and grime (minimum 20 wears per wash). Her wrinkle-resistant relaxed trouser, stitched together from merino wool, keeps odors freely at bay by wicking perspiration—and the fetid bacteria it encourages—away from the skin (minimum 20 wears per wash).