Not everyone thinks about where their clothes come from, how the fabric was created, how much water was wasted, or how the person who sewed it was treated and paid for. That’s why Leah Rich’s mission is to help people rethink their purchases by creating an alternative with her business. Return goods.
Rich redesigns the clothes with an artistic touch, using recycled thrift store pieces and vegetable dyes. Colorful shirts, scarves and sweatshirts fill its shelves; each includes color splashes and washes in muted tones that make each item one of a kind.
Her idea for the company arose when she wanted to dye miniature flags that she made for a friend’s party. âI searched for natural dyes and something clicked,â she says.
Rich was already interested in sewing and textiles, and his new business combines that with his passion for sustainability. She took the plunge after years of dissatisfaction with pursuing a career in product design.
âNot all the jobs I had felt like the right environment for me,â she says. âI was so stressed; I had to take a break and find something else.
Rich studies vegetable dyes and buys his fabric from thrift stores rather than buying new fabric. âCreating new fabrics uses so much water and chemicals,â she explains.
She looks for fabrics made from natural fibers, which work best with vegetable dyes. âI save money several times a week. I’m looking for 100 percent cotton or linen, âshe says. âI check for wear. If it is too worn or stained, I do not receive these items. … I’m looking for lightly used items that have a good weave and are well made.
Clothing goes through what she calls a âscrubbing processâ before being dyed. âMost of our clothes have been treated with a petroleum-based fabric softener – almost like a coating on the fabric – so they’re soft when we buy them,â she says. âI take it off to make the dye hold better, and then I soften them again with natural fabric softeners. If it stays too rough, I’ll use the material for something else, like a textile wall hanging.
The dying process is where her artistic side comes into play. She experiments with various plants to observe the colors they produce and keeps track of the methods behind certain colors and designs. âIf I come up with a look that I’ve never produced before, I want to be able to replicate it,â she says. “So I do my best to record every dye session.”
Rich sources her plants from a variety of places. She has her own dye garden around her house and even fodder for wildflowers by the side of the road. âI’m learning where it’s okay to do this,â she says. âI don’t take anything in wild areas; I want to be respectful of the space and the ecosystem. She also asks her neighbors to keep the flowers in their gardens and ecstasies Botanical colors, an online store that purchases its products from sustainable farms.
Rich has also created DIY kits for those who want to try their hand at vegetable dyes. âI want to encourage people to make their own clothes,â she says. âSo I put these kits together with a stripped bandana, a piece of test fabric, and instructions. I’ve listed a few common things you can use for tincture, such as onion peels, avocado pits, turmeric, or paprika.
She recently added herbal inks, which she uses to paint designs on shirts such as fish scales or eyeballs inspired by aspens. She also uses ink for screen printing.
Rich used the pandemic halt to learn about dyes and treatment to launch his clothing line and founded Round Trips Goods LLC in 2020. She says she is grateful to her partner, Jasper Segal, for supporting her while she spent time thinking about her business. This year, she started selling in markets, where she was able to chat with people about the benefits of slow fashion, recycling second-hand clothes, and herbal dyes.
âPeople are so used to buying a $ 15 shirt from a fast fashion store,â she says. âI want to help them understand that if something is so cheap, someone else will pay for it down the line. I really want them to see the value of something handmade.
As she prepares to sell from her booth at Globeville Horseshoe market, at 4751 Broadway on November 27-28, Rich describes Round Trip Goods as casual wear with an artistic twist. âI like to let the colors be the main focus – they’re unique and expressive,â she says. âI love this idea of ââthe all-American t-shirt. I have a thing for old rock and roll t-shirts and the way you can pair them with just about anything. … they can be laid back, but also layered and more dressed.
Rich is not completely comfortable with the label of a fashion designer. âI think that can be a really intimidating term, and it’s really exclusive,â she says. “I think the ‘fashion designer’ has to evolve as we move away from fast fashion.” She considers herself an artist who advocates slow fashion.
âDesigners are skilled problem solvers. I think the responsibility of designers today is not to make stylish new things, but to solve the waste problem. We have already produced so much material that should be reused and reused, âshe says.
Rich hopes people see Round Trip Goods as a way to break the cycle of buying and disposing of trendy clothes and dressing more sustainably. âI like to connect plants and people in ways they might not know. Not many people think about what’s behind their clothes. I am delighted to be able to connect the dots.
Return goods will be at Horseshoe Market Globeville, 4751 Broadway, from From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, November 27 and Sunday, November 28. Horseshoemarket.com.