Let’s play a game of word association.
The word is: Laundry.
What pops into your mind?
For some of us, it might be: Chore … drudgery … neverending … ugh.
For Patric Richardson, though?
Laundry is love.
And, with the debut of a laundry-related television series and the release of a laundry-related book this week, this rising “soap star” wants to teach America to love laundry, too.
We think America might actually love Richardson even more, though.
We interrupt this profile of St. Paul’s cleanest celebrity for a disclosure:
Richardson, 48, is the partner of Ross Raihala, the Pioneer Press music critic and an arts and entertainment reporter. So a few of us here at the paper, especially those of us who also write about arts and entertainment, have known Richardson for years, since before he became known locally and nationally as a laundry expert.
Actually, some of us have known Richardson even longer than we’ve worked with Raihala.
Care & love
It was 2002 and Martha Stewart was coming to town.
Back then, Martha was the rising star. Actually, she was probably at the height of her stardom for all things home and garden (it was about a year before she was indicted on federal charges related to insider trading).
Ahead of Stewart’s appearance at “Art in Bloom” at the Minneapolis Institute of Art that spring, we profiled a few super fans — or, as we described them, “Martha groupies.” Richardson was one of those fans (this was before Richardson had met Raihala, who started at the paper in 2004).
At the time, Richardson lived in a St. Paul loft that had string lights covered in Martha’s origami paper boxes. His furniture included pieces that had been antiqued and gilded according to Martha’s instructions. His shower curtain was homemade, just like Martha’s.
When we asked if it was just too much — Martha’s expectations for us to cover our string lights in origami or make homemade shower curtains — he disagreed.
“I think people are intimidated by her because she’s very powerful, and she takes risks that they’re not willing to take,” he said at the time. “I think they’re also intimidated by her because so many people throw things in the dishwasher, never iron anything, and Martha says we need to have the silver polished. It goes against modern convention. She knows life is better when done with care and loving.”
Almost 20 years later, Martha is still relevant — Harper’s Bazaar called her “the original influencer” in a February feature about her evolution that went viral — but it is Richardson whose influence is now on the rise.
He’s not asking us to make our own shower curtains, though, or fold paper into origami boxes to cover our string lights (unless we want to, of course).
Instead, his sensibilities then are his sensibilities now:
“Life is better when done with care and loving.”
Mom’s washing machine
Martha is not where Richardson’s story starts, though.
It begins with his mom’s washing machine.
“I have a vivid memory from when I was 2 years old,” he writes in the opening paragraph of his book. “My great-uncle Quinn is holding me up in the air so that I can gaze down upon my mom’s washing machine, and I am mesmerized by the clothes swimming in circles in the sudsy water.”
There was certainly a lot of clothes to wash, growing up surrounded by nature in eastern Kentucky. This was a time before children spent so much time on screens, so his clothes actually did get dirty.
“I loved to play in the creek,” Richardson remembers. “I had a flower garden growing up. I loved to go out in the garden and pick strawberries.”
While he learned how to do his own laundry before turning 10, he also watched the women in his family take care of the washing, too.
“My granny washed everything,” Richardson says. “She was fearless as a laundress.”
His mom, too.
“My mom was an incredible homemaker and always made sure my clothes were perfect,” he says. “So that’s where it started, my long association of laundry with being taken care of, with my mom taking care of me. Because everything was just washed and pressed and done.”
Of course, we eventually do our own laundry. That was fine with Richardson, whose parents got him his first (toy) washing machine when he was 3 years old.
“I wanted to learn how to take care of clothes,” he says.
It wasn’t a chore, not for someone named best-dressed in high school.
“I think I learned to love clothes because of all the positive associations,” Richardson says. “The care of clothes is at the core of my DNA. And it’s what led me to go to school for fashion merchandising, apparel and textiles.”
It also led him to Minnesota.
Kentucky is pretty, but people’s clothes get pretty sweaty there.
“It was really hot,” Richardson says of his home state. “After leaving the University of Kentucky, I wanted to move someplace north.”
He decided upon two possibilities: The Twin Cities or Seattle.
It came down to airfare: Which city could he get to for $100? As the flying public knows, it’s tough to find a cheap ticket to the Pacific Northwest. This is why Richardson deplaned at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in 1999.
Here in Minnesota, he found love, laundry — and cardamom.
“I didn’t know I loved cardamom,” he says. “I lived 20 years without cardamom!”
That first job was tailored to his personality: A personal shopper at Neiman Marcus. After three years, he moved on to Nordstrom, where he worked as a manager in Designer Apparel before he opened his own boutique: Mona Williams.
Back in college, Richardson was known to pepper his professors with questions about alternative washing methods as a way to save money on dry cleaning or to save time from the fussiness of hand-washing. But he became the teacher here in Minnesota.
Have you ever been to Mona Williams, Richardson’s boutique at the Mall of America?
Just like Richardson, it’s an original: Vintage designer labels (such as Chanel and Gucci) share space with up-and-coming European brands (like Baum und Pferdgarden of Denmark). There are luxury gifts, too. And … laundry flakes.
“When I opened the store, what happened was, because I carry designer vintage, I carried a little bit of laundry product so people could care for the vintage,” Richardson says. “And everybody got very interested in my laundry methods. Because I would explain how to care for something. They wanted to know more. And that’s why I started Laundry Camp. And once I started Laundry Camp, people kept coming. And coming.”
To date, before the pandemic, more than 16,000 people have “gone camping” to learn Richardson’s tips and tricks — including Karin Miller, a local writer and editor.
“I went to a laundry camp a number of years ago and even during the laundry camp, I kept thinking, ‘Patric should have a book,’ ” she remembers. “Not only because he’s such an expert about clothes and caring for them, but he’s such a great teacher. He tells stories and they’re often hilarious, he’s warm and personable and it was just such a great experience.”
She went back home to her own laundry room and let the idea soak.
“I started using his techniques, as many as I could remember, but I kept thinking about this idea of him having a book,” Miller says. “And so after many months, I reached out to him and introduced myself — because, of course, he does camps all the time, he wouldn’t remember me. I told him I thought he should have a book — and suggested that I write it.”
Her timing was serendipitous.
“He said the night before, he had been telling Ross that he was thinking he should have a book,” Miller recalls. “And then when he told me he already had a vision for it, that he wanted to give credit to the many women in his life who’d taught him how to care for clothes, I knew the book would be even more amazing.”
Note: Although Raihala is a writer, the couple didn’t want to fill their free time together with a work project.
“Besides,” Raihala said, “I could see us saying, ‘OK, let’s work on the book tonight.’ And then we’d sit down and say, ‘OK, let’s just watch “Survivor” tonight and work on it tomorrow.’”
The book — “Laundry Love: Finding Joy in a Common Chore” — is published by Flatiron Books and will be released on March 30. Reading it feels like attending Laundry Camp, so there are plenty of stories mixed in among the instruction. There are recipes, too (We want to try “Granny Dude’s Blue Cheese Spread”).
We asked Miller to tell us a story from the book, so that we can actually feel like we’re at camp (the in-person camps have been on hold during the pandemic).
“One of my favorite stories is about a bride,” Miller says. “A bridesmaid called his store on a Saturday morning in a panic because the bride was just getting ready and a niece or nephew came running toward her with a Sharpie — and got it all over her wedding dress, maybe an hour before she needed to walk down the aisle.
“So they were looking online and they found some of Patric’s videos on YouTube. They had tried rubbing alcohol and that wasn’t working. They realized he was local, called his store, he happened to be working that morning. They explained where they were, that they were only a few miles away, and would he come, and he said sure.
“So he got one of his employees to come in and cover for him and he raced over to the church. As I said in the book, they kind of cleared away — like he was an EMT — so he could have his stain supplies out. And he got rid of the stain for her, right before she walked down the aisle.”
(Turn to page 93 of the book to learn how Richardson applied Amodex to remove the stain.)
The Laundry Guy
It’s easy to think of laundry as dramatic enough for television when you listen to a story like that.
Because, it’s not really (just) about stains and spills.
It’s about people and what they wore when it mattered. And when something happens to a memory-soaked item, whether it’s a piece of clothing or a beloved stuffed animal, it can feel like heartbreak.
Until the MacGyver of the laundry room swoops in to help.
(Of course, we are referencing that fictional TV character who got out of jams with everyday items like tinfoil and paperclips.)
This is the premise of Richardson’s other big debut: “The Laundry Guy,” a new series that will be available to stream on March 31 on Discovery+. The first episode will also air on HGTV at 9 p.m. on March 31.
Matt Crumpton and his letter jacket will be featured in one of the episodes.
“It was a prized possession of mine,” says the Chaska man. “I worked very hard to obtain a letter jacket while I was in high school.”
His days on the tennis team were long over, though, when he and his wife began clearing out space in the basement late last fall for a workout room; it was one of those pandemic remodeling projects.
“I was digging down into one of the boxes when I found it,” Crumpton says.
Stored in a plastic bag for years, the jacket hadn’t been properly ventilated in that basement box. It was sticky and discolored.
“I was a little taken aback at the damage to it,” says Crumpton.
Fortunately, Crumpton and his wife, Tracy, heard about a new television show that was looking to help people with stories like theirs.
It wasn’t just emotional; it was educational.
“Patric has an amazing understanding of how to preserve vintage materials and not damage them,” says Crumpton. “He’s creative and he has unique solutions. He truly is a laundry genius. He actually does love doing laundry which isn’t often the case.”
He also loves listening.
“It’s not just about trying to fix something,” Crumpton says. “He wants to understand what it means to you first. How you came to have it. He gets an understanding of it — and uses that information to really do his magic.”
Grocery store fashion
Has the pandemic changed the way you do laundry?
Certainly, we now need to know how to wash face masks. And we might be wearing the same pair of sweatpants every day.
What else though?
“I think what the pandemic has taught us,” Richardson says, “it kind of goes back to Martha Stewart, right? Enjoying the homemaking process. I think in the pandemic, we all kind of slowed down. And we couldn’t go anywhere. I can’t even tell you how many people told me, ‘I finally attacked what needed repairs: I had time to sew on the buttons.’
“Obviously, I wouldn’t wish for a pandemic,” Richardson says. “But people were home and realized, ‘I can do this.’ ”
You can do anything with the help of YouTube or Google these days. So, we asked Miller: Why does Richardson stand out like a red sock in a load of whites?
“Patric’s laundry advice is loaded with his deep knowledge of textiles, his limitless enthusiasm for the topic and his great sense of fun,” she said in an email.
Paging through his book, you will find some helpful advice.
Here are a few examples of his philosophy:
- The care tag is not the boss of you. Stop fussing over cashmere, wool and rugs — and stop sending them to the dry cleaners (remember, people had cashmere, wool and rugs before dry cleaners even existed.)
- Fast spin only, people. It’s more earth friendly — and it’s easier on your clothes. He has his own brand of of soap flakes. Also, stop using dryer sheets. And bleach.
- Your laundry supplies should include a spray bottle of cheap vodka (it’s actually for the laundry).
- If you want it and don’t know where you’d wear it, then it’s perfect for the grocery store.
For questions on stains, ironing and more, watch Richardson’s videos at Laundryevangelist.com.
With Laundry Camp, Richardson’s caught the attention of the media as well as the laundry-challenged. Now, even the Wall St. Journal has interviewed him.
The only ones not charmed by our Kentucky transplant might be, probably, Tide or Downy. Also, dry cleaners might not be his biggest fans.
Modern Mrs. Darcy is a fan, though. In her review, the blogger wrote: “There’s so much STORY bound up with laundry! When he writes about laundry, Richardson must also discuss Kentucky ancestry, or the family barbecue sauce legacy, or the time he was called to the church to scrub a stain out of a bride’s dress. … I experimented with his ways of doing things — like washing athletic clothes, or even sweaters, right in the washing machine. And when my clothes got really dirty, I found myself flipping to Richardson’s notes over and over again to figure out what to do. I never thought I’d get so much satisfaction out of doing laundry.”
Will America agree? That leads us to his book and TV deals.
“I was doing Laundry Camp and within the span of about three months, I had someone approach me about wanting to do a pilot and somebody approach me about wanting to co-write a book,” he says. “It was amazing.
“So of course I was interested. Who wouldn’t be, right?”
The book and the show weren’t originally supposed to drop at the same time — it just worked out that way, due to pandemic delays.
“It’s going to be a busy week,” Richardson says.
Fortunately, he doesn’t have to worry about doing the laundry.
“I actually end up doing a fair amount of the laundry,” Raihala says. “I mean, I use his techniques. He’s big on soap flakes and that’s all we use is soap flakes. They make shirts softer than usual.”
Remember how this story started?
For Richardson, laundry is about love and care. It was then, it is now.
“Laundry Love: Finding Joy in a Common Chore”
By Patric Richardson with Karin B. Miller
Our review: The chapter on stains is worth the price of the book even if there was nothing else in the book. Also, how to avoid dry cleaning and washing by hand is helpful.
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Release date: March 30
Hardcover: $25.99 (hardcover).
Audiobook (read by Richardson): $18.99
Booklist: “Who would have dreamed a book on laundry could be so entertaining — and educational?”
“Remember when you saw that special item hanging in that shop downtown, or in your favorite department store, or perhaps in that little boutique on your last vacation? You were attracted to it and you wanted to buy it, but you walked away because you thought it would be too hard or too expensive to care for. Now you realize just how wrong you were, because caring for clothes is easy once you know how.
“The second important fashion lesson Granny Dude taught me was this: Wear everything you own. That sounds intuitive, but it’s often not. What I mean to say is that there’s no reason to save special items for occasions that never seem to come. Don’t have a black-tie gala on your calendar? (Few of us do.) Then throw on your tuxedo jacket over a T-shirt and jeans and head to a fast-food joint. Don’t have a hot date this weekend? Then wear that darling dress to the grocery store. I’ve given you permission right now to have more fun every day with fashion.”
— Excerpted from “Laundry Love,” copyright © 2021 by Patric Richardson and Karin B. Miller, with permission from Flatiron Books.
The TV series:
“The Laundry Guy”
Our review: It’s a version of Laundry Camp, but one-on-one with people who have some sort of textile crisis.
Watch: Streaming starting on March 31 on Discovery+, the first episode will also air at 9 p.m. local time on HGTV.
Go to Source
Author: Molly Guthrey
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