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Elderly laundromat owners go viral modeling customers’ forgotten clothes

These two elderly laundromat owners from central Taiwan go viral and have become the internet’s latest style inspo. Hsu Sho-Er, 84, and her husband, Chang Wan Ji, 84, owners of Wansho Laundry, became world-famous after photos of them sporting clothes forgotten by their customers went viral.

They’ve spent seven decades running the business in the coastal city of Taichung, and in June, their grandson—and unofficial stylist—set up an Instagram account for them to show off the curated outfits.

Over the years, the couple has amassed hundreds of pieces of abandoned clothing left behind by patrons. While they’ve donated most of it, Reef Chang, the grandson, used the ones left to arrange outfits his grandparents could model.

And to Reef’s surprise, the geriatric couple was a natural in front of the camera! Anyone who sees their pictures would think they’ve been doing this forever. Ms. Hsu exudes a swagger like that of a supermodel, and Mr. Chang complements it with his relaxed disposition, all while rocking his extraordinary eyebrows.

The trio already had the perfect location to do the photoshoot – the laundromat, its industrious backdrop providing excellent scenery. The couple strikes different poses for the camera while donning blouses, trousers, skirts, and hats in eclectic and funky styles. One photo shows Ms. Hsu casually leaning against a giant washing machine, while Mr. Chang holds open the door, grinning at his wife.

Their outfits were a far cry from the couple’s usual style. Mr. Chang loved wearing suits to show his professionalism. As a laundromat owner, he wanted people to see that he washes and irons his clothes properly. Ms. Hsu, on the other hand, was a fashionable girl when she was young, but now, she’s more concerned that the clothes are comfortable.

Their grandson came up with the project after the business slowed during the coronavirus pandemic.

“They had nothing to do,” he told The New York Times. “I saw how bored they were and wanted to brighten up their lives.”

At first, Mr. Chang was skeptical about it, wondering if anyone would care to look at their pictures. As it turns out, plenty of people do. Just a month after joining Instagram, their account goes viral and it has already gained over 442,000 followers.

“Knowing that people still like me makes it feel like I have more grandsons and granddaughters,” Ms. Hsu told CNN of her reaction to their sudden internet fame.

Fans from around Taiwan and other parts of the world saw the pictures as a relief during a very tumultuous year. In a photo celebrating the account’s milestone of surpassing 100,000 followers, a fan, jessicaso95, responded with: “You’re welcome. In these difficult dates, your post really made our day.”

Reef said the past few weeks have been very special to his grandparents. Patrons stick around the place and chat with them a little longer, and it made their days at the laundromat much happier. They also appreciate the lovely messages they’ve been getting from their fans around the world.

“Lately, whenever we eat together,” he said, “I can tell they’re elated.”

The laundromat’s history goes way back to when Mr. Chang was only 14. At that age, he began doing dry cleaning and laundry for his neighbors in Houli. Seven years later, he met Ms. Hsu, and they tied the knot in 1959. They went on to have two sons and two daughters, and now, they’re grandparents to six.

The couple worked together at the business, and through their efforts, they’ve built up a huge clientele. Some of their loyal patrons still bring their dirty laundry to them, despite having moved long ago to downtown Taichung.

While most people who become internet sensations tend to cash in on their fame, the couple has no interest in doing so. However, there is one thing that Mr. Chang is looking forward to – see the hundreds of people who left their laundry return and pay their bills.

“It would be nice to chat with them,” he said. “And to get paid.”

It seems like the universe heard Mr. Chang’s wish. For the first time in the laundromat’s seven-decade history, a customer who dropped off laundry over a year ago came back to claim his garments — and pay his bills! And that’s one of the benefits if your story goes viral.

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