In Conversation with Ludovic Blanc, founder of eco-friendly dry cleaners BLANC
Hi Ludovic, welcome to our Circles! Tell us more about yourself and the story of BLANC?
Since opening the first BLANC store in Marylebone back in 2013, my key driving force has been to disrupt the dry cleaning industry, which has been rather set in its old-fashioned ways, by making the natural alternative a credible one and by providing a digital-enabled service. That’s why we’re using an eco cleaning process, combining artisan care with expert tech, to provide a much higher quality outcome: we can clean anything with a dry clean only label and our process is better for your health, your clothes and the planet.
Now, seven years later, we offer a home delivery service across London via an online app and have opened four additional stores in Notting Hill, Chelsea, White City and South Kensington. We have cleaned close to a million garments and served over 20,000 customers with a healthier, better quality alternative to conventional dry cleaning – and we are only starting.
Why did you decide to create a business that matters?
There are two reasons why I started BLANC. The first was that I realised, after several months of research, that there was a huge problem with toxicity in the traditional dry cleaning industry. Conventional dry cleaners are soaking clothes in a solvent based cleaner called perchloroethylene (PERC), which is extremely toxic and is marked by EPA as potentially carcinogenic.
Secondly, there was an immense gap in customer experience within the dry cleaning sector compared to where other industries had got to. Usually, when you think about a dry cleaning store, a rather dull, chemical-smelling corner store is what comes to mind - in other words, nothing very pleasant. So one of our significant commitments is to provide a customised, convenient service and a more transparent dialogue with our customers than is traditionally possible in the dry cleaning industry. We want to become the first natural dry cleaning brand which is synonymous with quality, modernity, trust and consistency.
What does sustainability mean to you?
I come from a family where protecting the environment was always a top priority, so I’ve always been very conscious of how my lifestyle impacts the planet. When I found out about the toxic, carcinogenic process conventional dry cleaners use to clean clothes, I knew I had found my battle. I saw the need for a sustainable way of cleaning the many clothes the world produces each year and that people want a caring and trusted partner to do this for them, in a convenient and sustainable way. How does BLANC disrupt the industry with a phygital model?
At BLANC, our goal is to offer a non-toxic alternative to conventional dry cleaning and to do that, we need to to meet today’s fast-moving lifestyles and focus on providing a seamless experience to the consumers. That’s why we offer a convenient home pick up & delivery service, available via our app throughout central London, and also have five stores (in Marylebone, Notting Hill, Chelsea, White City and South Kensington) if you need the extra reassurance of speaking face-to-face with an expert.
We want to make sure that there is a consistent experience between the physical and the digital so customers don’t have to work hard at understanding what we do and what services we offer, or at making choices - the right service for them should be super easy to find.
The new app that we’re currently developing will support this phygital model by enabling any customer (whether they dropped their clothes in one of our stores or had a driver pick them up from their home) to track their order, provide specific instructions, choose their packaging preferences, etc.
There is a big focus on Care and Repair and the wider role of aftercare in the fashion industry as one of the important aspects of the sustainable future of fashion. Can you share a few life hacks with our readers?
Yes, we believe that aftercare is the missing link in sustainable fashion. We can see more sustainable fashion brands emerging, and some collectives take care of giving a second life to clothes but the consumer use phase is often forgotten even though 50% of the greenhouse gas emissions from clothing takes place in this stage.
The most sustainable fashion is the one we already have, so it’s very important to care for your clothes properly in order to make them last.
Wash at lower temperatures: High temperatures are not good friends with textile fibres: they wear them out. In other words, you don’t need to wash your basics at 60℃. Not only will you save water, electricity and detergent, but your clothes will last longer.
Clothes worth wearing are worth repairing: Invest in longevity, not a “one hit wonder”. Not only is repairing what you have ultimately the more economic alternative, but you’ll notice how the desire of newness will slowly fade as you stop the habit of buying new clothes. Not to mention, it’s the most sustainable option.
Make the switch to eco dry cleaning: This really is one of the simplest ways to reduce toxicity in your life. The gentler process results in softer, brighter and fresher and is better for your health, your clothes and the planet.
How is BLANC coping with the COVID-19 crisis and why is sustainability no longer an option but a necessity?
Back in March, we made the decision to temporarily close our operations, stores and home delivery service due to the coronavirus outbreak. Our processes have been entirely redesigned to ensure social distancing (in Atelier and via contactless collections & deliveries) and maximum disinfection, including the addition of a biodegradable virus killer in our cleaning cycles, 24h clothes quarantine before processing, and all team members wearing required protective equipment. As a socially driven and sustainable business, we believed it was the right thing to do and our priority was to protect the health of our employees and customers. We are now gradually reopening our stores as well as our B2B service.
While these are challenging times, this is a chance for us all to work collectively and move the needle towards a better, more sustainable future.
Do you have a favourite spot in Hammersmith & Fulham?
I would say it’s the Television Centre. What I really like about this location is the combination of respecting its past at the same time as bringing contemporary, modern spaces to it. We are honoured to be part of a community that truly cares about sustainability, heritage, design and technology - all things after our own heart. For the food lovers, I would definitely recommend Homeslice, located in the TVC. They make London’s finest pizzas.
We really love following the blog on BLANC's website. It's full of useful information, so do check it out!