By Steven Kurutz

New York Times News Service

A few weeks ago, Jeremy Foster, a photographer, and Marikh Mathias, a model and former contestant on “The Bachelor,” were riding around Salt Lake City, looking for a place to do an Instagram photo shoot.

The mountains were a 10-minute drive away, but it was raining that day. A coffee shop is a reliable backdrop, but Foster finds them too crowded and overly photographed. Instead, the pair ended up at 4th Street Coin Laundry, where Mathias sat in an orange plastic chair and stood in high heels and designer jeans in front of a Speed Queen commercial washing machine.

In their choice of setting, the photographer and model were right on trend.

For its fall 2018 campaign, French luxury brand Balmain photographed model Duckie Thot in a laundromat. Madewell recently used a laundromat to shoot a social media video for its jeans. And during New York Fashion Week a few seasons back, G-Star RAW took over an old-school laundromat to introduce the brand’s G-Star Elwood X25 jeans.

Hermès went even further last year, when the house known for its five- or even six-figure Kelly and Birkin bags opened its own pop-up laundromat in New York. Hermèsmatic, as the space was called, featured washing machines and laundry carts in signature orange, and a free service to dip-dye scarves (they are … not washable).

Why has a place associated with domestic toil become chic?

Dawn Nagle, vice president for marketing for Laundrylux, distributor of Electrolux commercial machines in North America, said it’s about juxtaposition.

“It’s that contrast between the beautiful and elegant fashion with the everyday task of washing clothes,” Nagle said. “You have a background of machines, granite, stainless steel, and everything repeats. It really draws your attention to the model and the outfit.”

Laundromats are recognizable, open to all and found everywhere. It’s the rare chore you can’t outsource to your phone, and in cities like New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, the laundromat is one of the last democratic zones.

Perhaps that’s why on Instagram the #laundromatshoot has replaced the national park as the influencer backdrop du jour. A visual language has established itself. There’s poses like sitting in a laundry cart, casually leaning on the dryers, crawling inside the washer and hey, it’s laundry day and all I have left to wear is my bra. A group of dancers even went into a “heavy spin cycle” at a laundromat in Miami.

One of the consequences of creating an inviting laundromat is that it becomes overrun by Instagrammers, said Ariana Roviello, owner of Laundré.

“There are tons of bloggers that come in that don’t even do laundry,” Roviello said. “They get a coffee and do a photo shoot in the back. You obviously want the exposure. But it’s a tricky thing. People are there doing laundry, going, ‘Why are all these people here?’ I’m always, like: ‘Please don’t sit in the laundry carts. They’re not made for your weight.’”

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