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Fashion disruptor: Gwen Whiting of The Laundress

How do you think the world of entrepreneurship has changed?

When we started, we wrote our business plan using one of my college textbooks about entrepreneurship. We were checking out books and finding articles about starting companies—that was how you did research then, everything wasn't at your fingertips with Google. I'd read everything on the StairMaster or treadmill at Equinox Greenwich Ave. We were asking advice from anyone that would meet with us. We started out selling products online on day one—this was at a time when Amazon was still just selling books. You certainly didn't sell laundry detergent online. We didn't get our brick and mortar dream until four years ago—that took the longest. This was before the financial crisis, and there was a feeding frenzy of companies buying other ones. Bobbi Brown and Hard Candy, for example, were acquired [by bigger brands], and we thought we were going to be bought. And then, the crisis happened and everything shifted to venture capital and private equity, so all these other e-commerce companies surfaced.

How did people react to idea of a laundry business?

Everyone was like 'what does specialty detergent mean?' We were pushing the envelope in a new category. 

How so?

When we were researching all our formulas, we learned that the best cleaning ingredients are actually plant-derived, but no one used them because they were so expensive. But we weren't trying to compete with a grocery brand. We took the approach of a luxury brand.

Can you talk about your sports detergent?

For sport we formulated with more active enzymes that specifically work on body oils from sweat. The fragrance also has ingredients that are helpful for odor reduction.

How did you conceive of the scents?

Our initial fragrance portfolio was very strategic. When you were buying laundry products back then, all the different products you'd use—detergent, stain-remover, starch, and dryer sheets—had different fragrances. So, in our product, there's a classic scent from start to finish. Our scents are all married to what you're using the product for. For example, our wool and cashmere detergent has a woodsy fragrance with sandalwood and cedar, which has natural properties that protect the wool. Our delicate detergent is our 'lady' scent, as it's used for undergarments and silicone synthetics. Neither Lindsey nor I are into high florals, so it's very herbaceous with citrus. Our sports detergent has a really strong active fresh scent.

What tips do you have for laundering sportswear?

Always pretreat armpits [with a stain spray] so you don't get stain buildup over time. Also, reduce your use of the dryer because that's where you lose elasticity in garments. The heat from the drying cycle will limit the lifespan of spandex. If you have a hard time getting rid of odor, add our bleach alternative or use basic white vinegar to pre-soak clothes before washing.

What's your fitness routine?

I exercise at least five days a week. I work with a trainer and do cardio. On the weekends, I take classes.

What about wellness?

I have a meditation practice and am pretty into my 80/20 rule, where I eat very clean 80 percent of the time. I much prefer a homemade meal and make my lunches instead of buying prepared foods. I do lymphatic drainage treatments and have an infrared sauna. Every Saturday and Sunday, I read newspapers in my sauna for an hour. It's my time alone to sweat and think.

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