'I never would've thought at my age so many people would want to look at pictures of me,' Hsu Hsiu-e, 84, said.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on November 9, 2022. It has since been updated.
So often, people forget to pick up their laundry from the store. It's worth wondering what must happen to the discarded and forgotten laundry. Well, rest assured, if you live in Taiwan and frequent this couple's laundry store, your clothes will at least find a mention on their eccentric Instagram page. For the past two years, 84-year-old Hsu Hsiu-e and 83-year-old Chang Wan-ji, owners of the laundry store Wan Sho Laundry, 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 pull off a variety of stary looks, sometimes layering bulky sweaters and sometimes 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.
After their grandson, Reef Chang persuaded them to display the discarded clothing and share the photos, the posts gained a lot of attention. Reef Chang says that his grandparents, who are growing old in Houli, a small sleepy neighborhood, "would doze off in the shop and their spirits weren't high" because their business was not too 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.
Reef said, "They also don't understand fashion trends," adding that they used to be "fashionable" when they were young. So he wanted them to reinterpret fashion, letting everyone know that age is not a barrier to having fun with clothing and that even old clothes can be made into stylish costumes. "They thought why would people of this generation like clothes from their generation?"
With advice from friends and family, the young boy started mixing and matching clothes, with magazine-worthy pictures of the old couple. Even in their 80s, the two strike poses that exude flair and chic. At first, they felt uneasy donning clients' clothes, which was against the rules in their area of work. But, "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 opened a dry cleaner at the age of 14 to support his family. He said, "In the past, clothes were very expensive," but because it has gotten more affordable lately, individuals have started to leave 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.
More from my favorite Instagram account, "wantshowasyoung", the Taiwanese laundromat owners/fashion influencers. I adore them so much! pic.twitter.com/SNE5tLWULx— Carol Roth (@caroljsroth) August 7, 2020
The couple's greatest joy comes from encouraging people to believe that getting fashionable 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," said Hsiu-e. She and her husband have no plans to retire. Wan-ji is instead considering what to do with the numerous suits that were abandoned. He claims his next Instagram project will be a "winter season collection." Reef's reward isn't just seeing his grandparents smile; it's 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.