CHICAGO — <Fade in: stylish, soft, jazzy intro music.>
Announcer’s voice: “The world is having a love affair with relaxed-fit clothing and a relaxed-fit lifestyle! Welcome to Jeans and a Tee. Our show today is on fabricare’s view of casual wear.
“Sure, we all still enjoy the special feeling that comes with getting ‘decked out.’ But the casual look is everywhere, and it might be here to stay. Or is it? Let’s find out. To take us on this journey today, we’ll need a little help.
“Let’s welcome your host for today’s show, American Drycleaner (ADC), who will ask two people from the fabricare industry how they feel about all that is casual: Where it’s led us so far, where it’s at currently, and where it might be leading us to. Ok, everybody get comfortable, and, take it away ADC!”
ADC: “Thank you, announcer. Hello and welcome everybody. Today, we’re asking two professionals from fabricare to get comfortable on our ‘virtual couch,’ and share their feelings on casual wear. So let’s get ‘casual’ with them right now and get right to it!
“Meet our first very special guest, Mr. Amin Bata, owner of Pepper Square Cleaners in Dallas, Texas, and president of the Southwest Drycleaners Association (SDA).”
<Loud applause as the guest comes over, takes a seat and gets comfortable on the couch.>
American Drycleaner (ADC): “Hello, Mr. Bata, and welcome to our show today. Can you briefly tell us about yourself, your job, and your company?”
Bata: “Love to. I began in the business working in a package plant in 1985 as a presser and bought my first package plant in 1988. This became Pepper Square Cleaners. Out of my five siblings who went into the cleaning business, I’m the only one left working in the business. My plant serves retail and delivery customers. About half of our business is route, within a 20-mile radius of our plant. My son just started working for me and started college, too. He says he loves the business!”
ADC: “Thank you for sharing Mr. Bata, now let’s get to our topic. So generally speaking, how are we defining casual wear in today’s drycleaning world?”
Bata: “Polo shirts, golf shorts, spandex yoga pants for ladies. Jeans with and without holes and tears. The new word in ladies fashion is ‘athleisure,’ which is athletic wear and leisure wear all in one. In men, it’s the Duck Dynasty look.”
ADC: “Give us a glimpse into how you handle casual garments at your operation? Walk us through. Do you launder them? Wet-clean? Dry-clean? Are these faster pieces to do? Is it mostly pickup and delivery?”
Bata: “Predominantly, we wet-clean although greasy, fatty-stained garments go into the drycleaning machine. Generally, casual garments are faster pieces to process. Source of casual garments is anyone and everyone who doesn’t want to process them at home and has the economic means to use our service.”
ADC: “Talk about how much casual wear business you do? And how does it compare to your drycleaning volume?”
Bata: “Good question and hard to answer accurately unless we get serious about counting what is casual and what is formal, or dress, wear. If I had to guess, about one-third is casual with two-thirds still comprising dress wear.”
ADC: “Have you seen growth in this area? And are you going after this business segment more? Doing marketing/apps/website?”
Bata: “Definitely seems like the casual trend is currently growing, most places you observe. Looking slovenly seems acceptable in more places than not. We have not made any specific efforts in attracting more casual wear but need to start if this trend continues.”
ADC: “Can you tell us about a challenge in dealing with casual wear and also a success story with casual wear?”
Bata: “The challenge has been trying to create more demand for professional cleaning and justifying a drycleaning price for a garment that is serviceable at home. The value proposition remains the luxury of time rather than necessity and that seems to be the reality of the crowd who patronizes us with casual wear. A success story is that it cycles back to us more frequently, as casual pieces are generally lighter in color.”
ADC: “Would you say casual wear is the way of the future?”
Bata: “I hope it is not the way of the future for all our sakes. I have to believe that people, in general, will soon wake up to the fact that dressing up, rather than down, has tremendous value.”
ADC: “Well thank you very much Mr. Bata for sharing your views with our audience today.”
Ed. Note: In the conclusion to this article, we will meet our second guest on the show, Ms. Lorynn Divita, associate professor of apparel merchandising at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.
Check back Thursday for the conclusion.