Elderly couple curates high-fashion from clothes left behind at their laundry store

‘I never would’ve thought at my age so many people would want to look at pictures of me,’ Hsu Hsiu-e, 84, said.

People frequently forget to pick up their laundry from the store. It’s worth wondering what will become of the discarded and forgotten laundry. Rest assured, if you live in Taiwan and frequent this couple’s laundry shop, your clothes will be mentioned on their bizarre Instagram page. For the past two years, the owners of Wan Sho Laundry, 84-year-old Hsu Hsiu-e and 83-year-old Chang Wan-ji, have been designing elegant fashion ensembles and posting them on Instagram (with the help of their grandson) using clothes left behind at their shop. They achieve a variety of starry looks by layering bulky sweaters and oversized button-downs over pants and skirts.  “I never would’ve thought at my age so many people would want to look at pictures of me,” Hsu Hsiu-e said to BBC.

The posts gained a lot of attention after their grandson, Reef Chang, persuaded them to display the discarded clothing and share the photos. Reef Chang claims that his grandparents, who are now in their eighties and live in Houli, a small sleepy neighborhood, “would doze off in the shop and their spirits weren’t high” because their business was not very busy.  “So I thought since our family has these clothes, I can remind people to pick up their clothes and remind my grandparents their life can still be great even in old age,” he said.

“They also don’t understand fashion trends,” Reef added, adding that they used to be “fashionable” when they were younger. So he challenged them to reinterpret fashion, demonstrating that age is not a barrier to having fun with clothing and that even old clothes can be transformed into stylish costumes. “They thought why would people of this generation like clothes from their generation?”

With the help of friends and family, the young boy began mixing and matching clothes, resulting in magazine-worthy photos of the elderly couple. Even at the age of 80, the two strike poses that exude style and flair. They were initially uneasy about donning clients’ clothes, which was against the rules in their line of work. “Dressed like that, I feel 30 years younger,” said Wan-ji, beaming. Hsiu-e’s pick out of all the outfits they’ve tried is her own plaid skirt and a blouse left by a customer, coupled with a hat. “I like the way I look in that outfit,” she said.

Wan-ji started the dry cleaner when he was 14 years old to help support his family. “In the past, clothes were very expensive,” he said, but as they have become more affordable recently, people have begun to leave their clothes behind. “When I got married, it cost an ox-cart loaded with 20 bags of rice to pay for my suit. And back then clothes were so valuable that you could take them to the pawn shop if you needed money,” he said.  

The couple’s greatest joy comes from convincing people that dressing up and having fun can be done at any age.”Many people are not really old, it’s just their heart is old. They say they don’t have any energy and they rest and rest till their health declines,” Hsiu-e stated. She and her husband have no intention of retiring. Wan-ji, on the other hand, is debating what to do with the numerous suits that have been abandoned. His next Instagram project, he says, will be a “winter season collection.” Reef’s reward is more than just seeing his grandparents smile; he is also unintentionally encouraging others to spend more time with their senior loved ones. “What really touched me is many people typed really long messages to me saying it reminded them that they haven’t spent much time with their grandparents,” said Reef.