Taiwan grandparents become Instagram stars modelling abandoned clothes

Amber Wang

Agence France-Presse

Taichung, Taiwan  /  Sat, August 1, 2020  /  02:00 pm
Taiwan grandparents become Instagram stars modelling abandoned clothes

In this undated handout photo released by Reef Chang on August 1, 2020 Chang Wan-ji (R) and his wife Hsu Sho-er pose for photographs at their laundry store in Taichung. (AFP/Reef Chang)

Taiwan's trendiest couple these days are neither young celebrities nor teen influencers -- they are an octogenarian duo who run a mom-and-pop laundry service and have become an online sensation by modelling abandoned clothes.

Chang Wan-ji, 83, and his wife Hsu Sho-er, 84, have racked up nearly 600,000 followers on Instagram over the last month as their attitude-filled fashion portraits went viral.

They have even been featured in the Taiwanese edition of Vogue and Marie Claire.

The couple have run a laundry for decades in a small town near the central city of Taichung.

Over the years, customers have either forgotten or failed to collect reams of clothing that the couple never felt able to throw away.

Grandson Reef Chang, 31, hit upon the idea of using the clothes to alleviate the couple's boredom.

"My grandpa and grandma were staring blankly at the streets because business wasn't good," he told AFP. "I wanted to find something new they could enjoy doing."

The pair were naturals in front of the camera.

"Modelling these clothes makes me feel 30 years younger," beamed Chang, when AFP paid a visit to the store earlier this week. 

"Many people are telling me 'You are famous now and you look younger'."

Hsu felt so, too.

"I am old in age but my heart is not ageing," she said. "I like to put on pretty clothes and go out to have some fun."

Read also: Egypt female social media influencers get two-year jail terms

Worldwide fame 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

6/27-7/27,讓萬吉和秀娥多麼驚奇一個月! 秀娥:「不要覺得自己老就想每天休息,因為這樣,只會讓你越來越老!」 一個月前的今天,姑且一試的發了照片,沒想到讓萬吉秀娥從不知道Instagram 的老人,變成了會看留言的年紀大的人! 👴🏼萬吉(身長160) 針織衫:至少5-10年未取針織衫 上衣:萬吉私服T-SHIRT 短褲:萬吉私服工作褲 👵🏼秀娥(身長155) 上衣:至少3-5年長版落肩T-shirt 裙子:秀娥30年以上私服 💡溫馨提醒|洗衣服請記得拿❤️ From 6/27 to 7/27, what a surprising month for Wan-Ji and Sho-Er! Sho-Er said, “Don’t just keep resting every day because you think you’re old. This will only make you older!” One month ago, I’d posted some photos and unexpectedly turned Wan-Ji and Sho-Er from old peoples that didn’t even know Instagram to someone that read through comments! 👴🏼Wan-Ji(160 cm) Sweater: unclaimed for 5-10 years Top: Wan-Ji’s own T-shirt Bottom: Wan-Ji’s own working pants 👵🏼Sho-Er(155 cm) Top: Long, oversize T-shirt, unclaimed for 3-5 years Dress: Sho-Er’s own dress, worn for at least 30 years 💡Remember to pick up your clothes ❤️ #萬秀洗衣店 #萬秀的洗衣店 #wantshowasyoung #grandparents - - _ #mixandmatch #clothes #ootd #instafashion #style #fashion #couple #夫婦 #80代 #grandma #grandpa #femmefuture #classyvision #vintage #古着 #コーディネート #love #laundry #outfits

A post shared by 萬秀的洗衣店|WANT SHOW as young (@wantshowasyoung) on

It was while modelling other people's garments, Hsu came to remember that she also had many forgotten outfits in her closet which she has since rediscovered.

"I even found some clothes I bought 30 years ago and I can still wear them. It's a happy surprise," she said.

The couple's Instagram account -- @wantshowasyoung -- is managed by grandson Reef. 

Chang currently only uses the Line messaging app to make free phone calls but Reef says his grandfather is keen to learn how to make the perfect Instagram post.

The account first started going viral abroad and around 400,000 new fans have started following in the past week alone after major international media picked up on their success.

Reef said he translates and reads out fan mail pouring in from all over the world.

"We're very moved by the messages," he told AFP, "Many people are saying that 'Wantshowasyoung' is the first happy news they've seen in this dark year marred by the Covid-19 pandemic and problems in many countries," he added.

The couple's worldwide fame has also prompted a few forgetful customers to pick up old clothes, while some local fans have started visiting their sleepy town to see the store.

The shop is named "Wan Sho" -- a combination of the middle character of their Chinese names.

Re-use clothes 

The couple tied the knot in an arranged marriage six decades ago, a practice then common in Taiwan.

Chang said he had thought about retiring but decided to stay on as long as he can as the laundry business has become less labour-intensive thanks to machines. 

"Elderly people should keep moving and remain active or we will age faster... When I am working and being kept busy, I don't have time to worry," he said.

Chang says he has lost count of how many garments have gone uncollected in his shop over the decades but he thinks there are at least 400 items at the moment.

Many more have been donated to charities and impoverished families over the years.

The couple hope to use their new social media clout to promote the concept of "environmental fashion". 

"Instead of following 'fast fashion' and keep buying new clothes, we hope people can see that old and second-hand clothes can be fashionable if you arrange and combine them in new ways," said Reef Chang. 

"This would cause less damage to the earth and the environment." 

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