Every year they lighten the mood and brighten the province
I Love My Laundry
The dirt on Cape Town’s first and only destination laundromat
Cape Town has long been regarded as a city alive with unusual, creative concepts. Still, rarely do we stumble across a notion that truly breaks boundaries, that really challenges assumptions. It is with this point in mind that we welcome I Love My Laundry - South Africa’s first destination laundromat - as a space that stands out as entirely distinct on the Mother City scene.
Perhaps the biggest assumption that this novel enterprise challenges is the outdated belief that a space can hold only one main function. “By definition, a destination laundromat combines at least three otherwise unrelated business facets under one roof,” explains Co-Owner Clayton Howard, who happened upon the concept while on a trip to San Francisco. “The laundry happens behind the scenes, hidden and camouflaged by other more glamorous services on offer in the foreground.”
The quirky space only opened its doors in the beginning of March 2012, but already Clayton and business partner Mico Botha have successfully brought this foreign notion to life. So successfully, that is, that on walking past this chic, Buitengracht-based venue you would be forgiven for thinking that you’d simply breezed by yet another trendy Cape Town café – the founders’ intention, of course.
Admittedly, raw, rustic red brick walls, bold splashes of orange, innovative art displays, and a single, solid cement dining table that runs the length of the main room scream anything but average laundromat.
Contrary to first impressions, though, I Love My Laundry is, in fact, first and foremost a working washroom. While it initially catered mainly for corporate clients – “Laundry is one of a hotel’s greatest difficulties,” says Clayton – it’s now the go-to spot for many private customers and walk-ins. Washing, ironing, dry cleaning and dyeing, all with organic products, are but some of the services that have patrons returning regularly, baskets of dirty clothing in hand. They specialise in alterations too, with 15 eager machinists set up just next door to take on all manner of cutting, mending and make up projects. “Just about anything linked to fabrics, we can do,” Clayton says, beaming.
Laundry may be an ordinary task but even this they don’t do conventionally. All services are especially tailored to clients’ personal requests, quirks and habits, down to how socks are folded and clothing piles packaged. “We’ll do your laundry the way you like it, the way your mother probably did it for years,” Clayton claims.
A cuppa while your clothes are cleaned
Another boast of the multi-faceted business is the built-in JOGA JOGA café, a portion of the shop that serves up first-class Brazilian coffee – the only one of its kind in the country - from an incredibly sexy, central espresso machine. Smooth, soft and slow-roasted, this steaming brew is so tasty that its makers recommend it’s sipped ‘naked’ in its purest form, sans milk, sugar or other ‘contaminants’.
For warmer days, the coffee bar also offers a range of flavoured mineral waters and Arizona ice teas, all at greatly reduced prices. The focus is firmly on natural, healthy beverages – no sugar-rich, preservative-packed juices or sodas have found their way onto the menu. “The only Coca-Cola here is in our cupcakes,” says Clayton, making reference to the array of innovative, delicious-looking baked goods that sit on display on the corner counter.
And for those who need more than a shot of caffeine to get them through the day, I Love My Laundry dishes up an unusual Korean-style Dim Sum, steamed and sold on-site from 7am to 7pm. Flavours change daily, but the staple kimchi filling – a cabbage, radish and turnip combination – and the julienne vegetable mix regularly draw an arty vegetarian crowd. According to Clayton, the bacon and onion breakfast option and the duck and black cherry, when it’s available, are both firm favourites among meat-lovers.
For the love of wine
I Love My Laundry also moonlights as a third party wine distribution and selling portal, a branch of the business aptly titled ‘I Love My Wine’. Thanks to this arrangement, patrons of particular blends no longer need to traipse out to the Winelands to fetch their monthly fix at cellar door prices, they can simply pop down to their local laundromat.
What’s more, free wine tasting and food pairing take centre stage at the venue’s weekly Wednesday evening ‘laundry parties’ – festive, fun-filled nights that aim to bring together a diverse and fascinating mix of individuals all in the name of networking and inspiration. The crowd changes weekly – as does the choice of wine – and is generally dotted with industry leaders, cultural creatives and curious laymen. The invite is always open, the ambience always intimate, and the conversation always engaging.
These parties also serve as a platform for launching new local artists in the spirit of yet another aspect of this ever-evolving enterprise: ‘I Love My Art’. This exciting facet sees the venue functioning as a gallery space over and above its other roles. Creatives are encouraged to exhibit and sell their work here - and ‘work’ is not limited only to pretty paintings. If the maker considers it art, they consider it worthy. The current display, for example, includes a mix of colourful canvases, charcoal etchings, heart-shaped wooden carvings, designer cushions and quirky cookies.
Breaking the cycle
And so this space puts a very different spin on an old notion: it seamlessly combines the chore of cleaning clothes with creative displays, coffee and culinary arts. In a city so crowded with unconventional ideas that ‘unique’ becomes somewhat of an empty adjective, we can safely say, I Love My Laundry is not just unique; it’s rather revolutionary.
Tip: For those looking for a stylish, unusual spot to host a private dinner party, I Love My Laundry can also be hired out for this purpose. It’s available for private functions every evening after 7pm, except on Wednesdays and Thursdays – just another example of the space’s versatility.
Opening Times: Monday to Sunday: 7am-7pm
The Bill: Eight pieces of Dim Sum with complimentary coffee or glass of wine: R40; Coffee: R15; Mineral Water: R10; Arizona Ice Tea: R15
59 Buitengracht Street | Heritage Square | Cape Town | +27 (0) 84 660 0777 or +27 (0) 83 602 0291
Eager to discover other exciting new Mother City spots? Check out our listing of the latest additions to Cape Town.