Talk of “industry disruption” across a broad range of business models and sectors is commonplace, but disruption of the traditional coin laundromat model is mostly uncharted territory.
And while preserving the life cycle of a garment is top of mind for brands and retailers prioritizing sustainability, solutions for consumers seeking ways to prolong the vitality of their existing wardrobe are few and far between. Fortunately, inspiration for change comes easy: The average U.S. citizen throws away 70 pounds of clothing and other textiles annually. And solutions are emerging.
Celsious, a sunlit and stylish coin and credit card laundromat café in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, offers a business model centered on prolonging the life cycle of garments through its speedy laundry equipment and sustainable, zero-waste policies, as well as care practices such as pre-treating stains, washing at lower temperatures and apropos hang-drying. Celsious’ modern take on the coin laundromat model is pivotal for conscientious consumers, and for the industry itself.
Celsious is the brainchild of sisters Corinna and Theresa Williams, who sought to retrofit the traditional New York-style laundromat model. Hailing originally from Germany, the sisters were acclimated to having a washer/dryer in their apartments, a custom ubiquitous in Europe. After years of living in New York and patronizing its laundromats that are depressing, fluorescent-lit and, most notably, filthy, the sisters were inspired to transform the laundry experience subsequent to visiting a laundry café in Portland, Ore., that seemed to get it right.
The fusing of the sisters’ talents in both design- and fashion-shaped Celsious. Theresa’s background in product design helped imagine Celsious’ modern and bright aesthetic, as she designed its chic minimalist interior: a citrusy, bright and sunny space peppered with plants, reused marble, vintage furniture and a cozy backyard in view. And Corinna’s career in fashion journalism — she worked as an editor at Elle and Harper’s Bazaar in Germany — informed their business model by providing insights around textile sustainability and preserving the life cycle of a garment.
After years of merely tolerating the antiquated New York laundromat scene, the sisters opened Celsious in November 2017. Today, Celsious feels more like a respite for wellness than a laundromat. Its Clean Café offers Aqua ViTea Kombucha and Brooklyn-roasted Caffé Vita coffee, as well as organic pastries and snacks from local Saraghina Bakery, and Westwind Orchard jams — including honey-infused apple cider vinegar — to customers waiting for laundry. It’s a haven for time-starved New Yorkers craving a clean and hospitable environment for washing their clothes, and as such, customers travel to Celsious from all over New York and New Jersey to utilize its state-of-the-art laundry equipment.
Celsious’ machines spin about four times faster than standard laundry equipment: Imported from Sweden, its machines were sourced through the sisters’ connection in Portland and are the most eco- and energy-efficient, sanitary and quickest machines in the coin laundry market. Laundry comes out of the machine virtually dry, due to water extraction that occurs at the end of each wash, which uses 30 percent less water than most laundry equipment. Its self-sanitizing machines attract customers with allergies who can opt for a free rinse before each wash, which sanitizes the machine with hot water, sans chemicals. And drying time is swift, too, as sheets and towels can be dried in 16 minutes and 24 minutes, respectively. Celsious offers a complimentary three-ingredient detergent by The Simply Co., available unscented or with lavender essential oil.
Its specialty cycles attract a more nuanced customer: “That’s a factor for the fashion crowd,” Theresa told WWD. Aside from typical cycles such as cold, warm and a 15-minute quick wash, its machines offer specialty cycles for wool; delicates; down, including luxury down jackets, regularly washing the likes of Moncler; sportswear, which splits the temperatures into cold and hot to avoid damaging the fibers and control odor, respectively; spa towels, often used by neighboring spas and hair salons seeking a heavy-duty hot wash for sheets and towels; and yoga mats, a heaven-sent setting for the modern-day urbanite. These specialty settings allow customers to avoid the health risks of dry cleaning clothes, a noxious process that is chock-full of heavy chemicals, carcinogens and endocrine disruptors.
And, naturally, its sustainable business model attracts a wide-ranging crowd. “We believe we’re beginning to see consumers being significantly more aware of the ecological impact and footprint of their consumption. One of the main pillars of Celsious’ mission is sustainability. We strive to be zero waste in our business operations — from the free detergent we offer our customers, which we buy in bulk and refill into reusable glass jars, our the nontoxic dryer sheet alternatives [dryer balls] to avoiding disposable items like napkins, straws, rubber gloves [or] cleaning rags in the café. In addition, textile waste is a huge component of landfills,” the sisters told WWD. Celsious also accepts clothing donations through their refashionNYC collection bin by Housing Works and the DSNY.
Corinna told WWD, “There are so many avenues that we can advance in,” she said. “There are so many different angles to this business and each and every single angle matters to a different group of people. Some customers are just drawn to the zero waste aspect.”
The laundromat industry has seen significant change in the past few years, with the rise of laundry apps such as Folded Laundry or Cleanly that have grown in demand. “We actually feel that the popularity of services and apps that pick-up and deliver laundry are a sign that the industry is due for a good revamp. People have all these things they want to fit into their lives — meeting friends, going out for coffee and drinks, reading their favorite books and magazines, catching up on e-mails. Doing laundry is a chore that gets in the way of all of that, so the reflex is to outsource it completely.”
They continued, “By giving customers the opportunity to enjoy all of the above whilst our machines work their magic on their laundry, we believe we can take the chore out of laundry day and turn it into a fun, efficient and rewarding experience. It will make people want to hang out at the laundromat again.”
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