Every garment we produce is machine washed and dried before we quality check and pack it. There are a few big reasons for this: ongoing washability of the garment, shrinkage and fit, and texture and finish of the fabric. I'd love to explain a little more about each.
1. Ongoing washability of our garments
We design clothing to fit seamlessly into your life, bring comfort, and last. Ease of care is paramount to this end. For our clothing to be successfully machine washable by you, it needs to be pre-washed before it arrives. Why? Because if it isn't, it will shrink the first time you wash it, altering the fit (along with the texture and maybe even color) and perhaps making it unwearable. Let's talk more about that...
2. Shrinkage and fit
All fabrics (particularly natural fibers) shrink when water and heat are introduced after weaving. This is because the weaving process pulls the lengthwise (warp) and crosswise (weft) yarns taught, and the heat and moisture of laundering release that tension and allow the yarns to return to their relaxed state. So if we didn't garment-wash our clothing before sending it to you, upon your first wash, that shrinkage would occur.
We want our garments to fit correctly out of the box so that you can accurately decide if it works for you. Shipping our garments with their correct long-term fit is essential to the customer experience when investing in garments at a price point like ours.
While it's important to us to do this, it is time-intensive and expensive. It requires accounting for the shrinkage of the fabric at the patternmaking stage. After perfecting the base fit for a style, we test every raw material for shrinkage (each color–and even each dye lot of the same color–all shrink differently) and log the "shrinkage rate" for that specific dye lot.
We create a unique "shrinkage pattern" for every dye lot and cut garments from each dye lot separately, which is much more time intensive than stacking and cutting all colors at once from the base pattern (how most manufacturers produce clothing). But it ensures that the garment you receive fits as intended before and after washing and that a style fits the same across colors.
This part of our manufacturing process is one of the trickiest things we do! Fabric can be unpredictable, and occasionally parts of the same roll of fabric will shrink differently! Or a roll from a dye lot we've already tested will shrink differently than others. And just in case you're wondering (trust me, we did, too!), pre-washing all of the material and cutting from it isn't an option for our factory. When we first started, we used to do this, but the fabric after laundering is wrinkled and stretchy. At home, where you can carefully press fabric after washing and cut one layer at a time, it's possible, but at scale, it ends up causing more inconsistency than it prevents. Some washhouses can unroll a bolt of fabric, run it through water, run it through a drier, and re-roll it at the other end (so the material is never completely removed from the roll and put into a washing machine). However, the constant tension on the fabric throughout the process and lack of agitation and tumble drying prevent it from shrinking entirely, so it doesn't solve the problem either. At the end of the day, while there will always be some inconsistencies we can't avoid, our process gets us as close as possible to the streamlined fit we aim for.
3. Texture and finish
Lastly–and while this is perhaps the simplest factor, it's my favorite–garment-washing provides a texture to fabric that I love. Most materials have a certain level of stiffness and shine when they come straight from the manufacturer. Laundering removes this and gives them the softened, matte, slightly rumpled finish that I envision when I design our garments. The first thing I do when sampling a new fabric is wash and dry it to discern its true nature, and we wouldn't send our garments out any other way.