Constance C. R. White
Tuesday, August 26, 1997
Machine-washable designer clothes sounds like an oxymoron. Nevertheless, Yeohlee Teng has introduced a washable collection for resort. She will still design plenty of clothes that must be taken to the dry cleaner, but each season, she plans to include a small collection that can be thrown into the machine. And just to show that Ms. Teng is not asking for too much of an attitude adjustment from her designer customers, her machine-washable clothes will cost as much as the rest of her line, about $600 for a shirt jacket and $400 for a pair of slim, flat-front pants.
"Secretly, a lot of us would like to machine-wash our clothes, but, whenever we have had the opportunity to do that, it's not designer clothes," Ms. Teng said. The three properties of high fashion stand as obstacles to creating washable designer clothes, she added: luxurious fabrics that can't survive a dousing in water, intricate and special detail, and inside trimming like shoulder pads and linings.
She overcame the first obstacle with a refined version of microfiber, a synthetic fabric that looks and drapes like heavy silk and that is used extensively in outerwear.
Ms. Teng has never been big on decoration, so the second hurdle was not a problem. Her jackets wrap and tie, rather than zip or button up. And instead of using embroidery, Ms. Teng defines her designs with innovative cuts like trapeze backs and unusually placed seams.
"For it to come out of the machine and look good you can't introduce any element into the construction that could cause buckling," Ms. Teng said.
"Its not enough that someone show you something that's machine-washable," she added. "It really has to have the properties of designer fabric and designer fashion."