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Four Fall Styles That Will Have Dry Cleaners Fit to Be Tied — Part 2: Mix & Match

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Navajo-print mashup from Proenza Schouler
A Navajo-print mashup from Proenza Schouler. (Photo: firstVIEW)

Ian P. Murphy |

CHICAGO — Runways in the world’s fashion capitals came alive for 2011’s fall season, as if to herald an end to recessionary reserve and embrace edgy elegance again.

Ultra-bright colors, extreme ruffles and riotous patterns starred in over-the-top productions featuring post-apocalyptic landscapes, manacled models and psychedelic toadstools. Only minutes elapsed between many of the designer duds’ debuts and the time they hit the streets, knocked off for the mass market under many more-affordable labels.

Some of the season’s styles—the classically tailored mid-century modern and menswear-inspired looks, for example—shouldn’t present professional dry cleaners with problems if they remember to read their care labels and steady their skill sets. But others may have the most seasoned operators at a loss for a cleaning strategy, or at risk for a claim.

And as the following four trends move from the runway to the mall, they have the potential to present the biggest challenges.

Mix & Match

From elegant Rococo to earthy Navajo, designers are mixing and matching prints, weaves and textures like never before. While the über-eclectic trend borrows from the bohemian beads-and-crochet look, designers are delivering dramatic, draped ensembles that women love to wear.

“All pieces should be cleaned together,” says Alan Spielvogel, garment analyst with the National Cleaners Association (NCA). “There may be a difference between a piece that’s cleaned and one that isn’t.” Pre-test beads, crystals and surface prints for serviceability, and limit mechanical action by net-bagging loose-woven shawls, chunky sweaters and blanket-like capes.

“They don’t wear these items a lot; you’re just freshening them up,” notes Joseph Hallak Jr., vice president of Hallak Cleaners. “We don’t even put them in a regular cycle; we just use one turn of the wheel a minute. Let the solvent raining down upon the garments be your agitation.”

And, finally, limit finishing procedures to light steam. “The most important thing is to maintain the integrity of the texture,” says Chris Allsbrooks, director of training operations for ZIPS Dry Cleaners. “Some operators do a great job of cleaning these items, but then they’ll bring the press head down hard and have a flat fabric.”

Wednesday: The most traditionally feminine style for fall…Click here for Part 1.

About the author

Ian P. Murphy

American Drycleaner

Ian P. Murphy is a freelance writer based in Chicago, and was the editor of American Drycleaner from 1999 to 2011.

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