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Kerry McLean: Stella McCartney's plea to cut down on our laundry just doesn't wash with me

Kerry, husband Ralph and their children
Kerry, husband Ralph and their children

There are few tasks I hate more in the world than doing laundry. With an active family of five it's a never ending chore but a necessary one…or at least I've always thought so, until this week, when Stella McCartney announced to the world that we shouldn't be washing our clothes half as often as we do.

Instead, her rule of thumb is that we should wear every item several times before it goes into the laundry basket, we should never wash suits - a few hours airing is apparently all they need - a bra should last the best part of a week before it gets a turn in the washing machine and jeans can go for a month or more before they need scrubbed.

"I am incredibly hygienic...," she stated, a relief for those of us who had started to feel sorry for anyone pressed up against her in the front row seats of fashion shows, "…but I'm not a fan of dry cleaning or any cleaning really."

Her comments come from a good, eco-friendly intention, from a desire to cut down on the chemicals and water we use in the average washing machine cycle, but I couldn't help but think her stance made her sound very naive.

The majority of us don't view tackling the laundry as a fun pastime and most would be more than happy to cut down on expensive detergents and softeners, never mind the cost of the electricity needed to get the machine going, if we thought we could.

For those who have hard, physical graft day and daily, everyone from farmers to nurses, builders to binmen, carers to dock workers, they can be as hygienic as it's possible to be but their clothes will still need more than a gentle float about on the line to freshen them up.

And there's another thing. As someone who spent 15 years of my life living in flats in various cities around the world, having an outside space where you can hang clothes is not a luxury I will ever take for granted.

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But then, growing up as the daughter of a Beatle and, in later years, earning millions as a high end fashion designer, I can't think having adequate space, inside or out, would ever have been a concern for Stella.

She's not the only well-heeled soul who's been sharing their unusual approach to clean clothes in recent weeks. Chip Bergh, the chief executive of Levis, revealed that he hasn't washed his jeans in 10 years. If you're anything like me you'll go back to read that sentence again thinking, surely she meant to write days but no, the dirty hallion confessed that it's a full decade since his denims got dunked and that he, like Stella, just gives them an airing.

It's horrendous to think of all the food and drink that's fallen on them, small drips and microscopic drops, never mind the dead skin cells that have encouraged who knows what levels of bacteria to grow and flourish. I wouldn't be at all surprised to hear that his jeans end up walking themselves off in search of the nearest laundry.

I know that we all need to cut down on the chemicals we use and it's good that Stella has got us talking, but I struggle to entertain the 'less is more' approach to cleaning clothes. As a youngster, having just arrived in London, I moved into a bedsit with very little in the way of furniture. I had no wardrobe or anywhere to put my clothes, so would take off my jeans, fold them and set them on the floor.

That was until the day when I pulled them on and immediately realised that something wasn't right... I wasn't the only living thing inside the trouser leg. I have never undressed so quickly in all my life and, as I cast my denims to the far side of the room, the massive cockroach which had been sharing them with me, went flying through the air. From that day, my clothes get one wear and then it's off to the machine.

Stella made a good argument for lowering the amount of laundry we do but, for me, the cockroach made a better one.

Belfast Telegraph


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