The Garment Care Side of High Fashion

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Couture Care accreditation organization America's Best Cleaners bridges continents, industries in search of the ultimate quality control techniques

Christopher White of America's Best Cleaners with Swarovski Crystals Production Development Team

It's amazing what's going on in the textile world these days

end retail industry is the adversarial relationship with dry cleaners. As the technology of fashion evolves, more and more garments prove challenging to service, and more and more of those garments are returned. While the retailer is blaming the dry cleaner, the dry cleaner is blaming the manufacturer.

"It's one of the first things we hear from retailers and manufacturers - 'you are my enemy!'" laughs Ed D'Elicio, Founder and Executive Director of America's Best Cleaners (ABC), an independent accreditation organization which certifies the top dry cleaner in respective markets across the U.S. "That's why we try so hard to work with them."

This ethic most recently manifested itself in a tour initiated by America's Best Cleaners of various high-end garment and embellishment manufacturers across Germany and Austria. ABC staff and members from among its Certified Affiliates toured plants at Hugo Boss, Willy Bogner, and Swarovski Crystals in an effort to educate and be educated by technicians and artisans from the elite world of garment production. ABC also met with scientists at the world-renowned garment and textile testing facility, the Hohenstein Institutes, of which America's Best Cleaners is the sole certifying representative in the U.S. and Canada.

The Hohenstein Institutes graced the ABC group with a tour of their state-of-the-art facility, where the Institutes conduct tests on textiles for some of the most elite fashion brands in the world, and with a series of meetings and presentations to share with and educate the ABC affiliation on current trends and developments. Topics included the future of the development of synthetic materials: everything from nanotechnology, and its impact in improving the quality of life for sufferers of allergies and illnesses, to unique UV protection finishes for textiles, to the development of synthetics created to reduce the ecological footprint of the wool market. Most importantly for ABC, they then explained the crucial aspect of how to properly care for such new fabrics. Lastly, the Hohenstein Institutes described new testing standards for garment comfort and the influences textile care has on the comfort level.

Chad Monteit of Ablitt's Fine Drycleaners & Launderers, Certified Affiliate from Santa Barbara, California, was among the ABC contingent. "It's amazing what's going on in the textile world these days," marveled Monteit. "I don't think that most dry cleaners are aware of these things, let alone how to care for such garments."

Hugo Boss extended to affiliates and staff of America's Best Cleaners a full tour of their facilities in Metzingen, Germany, where they received a preview to the 2009 line for Spring/Summer and to a discussion on the future of wet cleaning in their new wet cleaning testing facility.

ABC also visited the headquarters of Willy Bogner, one of the top skiwear lines in the world and one of ABC's Fashion Affiliates, which recommends that customers only service their garments at one of the affiliates of America's Best Cleaners or World's Best Cleaners. Guided by Anna Neiss of Bogner and the DTB Consortium, discussions on new product developments and investigations into various care processes were held, and sample fabrics were provided for testing and sharing with the entire affiliation.
Furthermore, Neiss praised affiliates and staff on the development and growth of ABC, and pledged continued support of the organization.

Lastly, the group of ABC affiliates and staff trekked across the border to Wattens, Austria, home of the internationally recognizable brand Swarovski Crystals. In addition to an exclusive tour of the Marie Haus - including the history of the company, philosophy, and an overview of all of the separate divisions - complete presentations were given by several product managers on all of the products and applications of the Crystallized - Swarovski Elements product line. Executives from the technical design division shared new product developments, and an in-depth discussion was held on the care and handling of the products, as well as the impact and effect that new cleaning technologies will have on the current and future product line.

Christopher White, ABC's Director of Business development, in turn gave a presentation of the history of ABC, and its focus, developments, and trend reporting on quality control to the staff at Swarovski and concluded with a review of previous testing done for Swarovski.

Said White: "The involvement with the fashion industry is perhaps the most vital aspect of our organization. It is essential for us to talk about key problems and solutions to the newest technology - we can share our data, ensuring that we are as knowledgeable as possible in the top tier of the garment care industry, all while helping them to prevent creating future difficulties for the service end. It's what keeps ABC the most stringent and independent accreditation organization, and at the forefront of the garment care industry."

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Michael D'Elicio
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