Photographed by: Rachel Maucieri | Interview of: Natalie of The Rich & Strange
How did you get started?
I started The Rich & Strange when I realized that my love of textiles and design could translate to a viable business, though it took me a few years after graduating from college to really get started. My idea for The Rich & Strange crystallized during a two month trip through Colombia, where I was heavily influenced by the country’s regional aesthetic and the work of local artisans.
Upon my return I reached out to my aunt Carola, who has her own antique and vintage textile business in Austin, and ended up apprenticing for her for one year. The experience was invaluable and gave me the confidence to venture out and begin my own business. In 2015, I took two trips to Mexico and Guatemala to learn about and source handwoven textiles. The materials I brought back were used in The Rich & Strange’s first collection.
What influences you?/ Where do you get your inspiration?
I am heavily influenced and inspired by my family and by traveling, especially abroad. Growing up, I traveled to visit family in Germany and was always fascinated by the old objects, textiles, and jewelry in my grandparents’ home. My aunt Carola would also send my sister and me vintage kimonos from Japan, which I would accessorize with a turban and loads of beads. Dress up was definitely my favorite pastime as a child. Thinking back now, that process is very creative and imaginative–I might have to bring it back.
Traveling in a foreign country is the most inspirational time for me. Visiting local markets and observing people and their spaces energizes me. I am especially obsessed with Guatemala and Mexico. Both countries are so culturally rich, and that permeates everything–the architecture, the food, the decor. I try to take as many photos and notes as possible while traveling and make sure to keep some of them visible in my workspace back home.
How do you balance your personal + work time?/ How do you create separation?
This is something I am still trying to figure out. I currently work from home, which is a challenge! Once I return from my upcoming trip to Mexico,
I plan to either adopt a library or coffee shop as my own or join a co-working space. I fully realize the importance of getting dressed and leaving the house to work, and the novelty of working in my robe has officially worn off. Human interaction will also be nice!
What keeps you motivated?/ Why do you love doing this?
The incredible female entrepreneurs in DC that I know, and those that I don’t around the world but follow via social media are huge motivators. Their tenacity and vision keep me inspired.
I love the challenge of creating something from what was once just a small vision in my mind. Understanding that vision, thinking about how to bring it to reality, and how to share it with others is very exciting. I love that process, and I love connecting with artisans and learning about how and why they do what they do. There is a lot of cultural symbolism woven into each textile which I find fascinating.
Where do you see yourself in 2-5 years?/ What's next for your brand?
Right now I am transitioning The Rich & Strange business model. I want to move away from sourcing vintage textiles and instead work with artisan weaving cooperatives to create new, handwoven textiles using traditional methods. Many of the traditional spinning, dyeing and weaving techniques are waning. I hope to partner with artisans to create beautiful textiles in a sustainable and scalable way.
I’ll also be branching out from home goods into clothing. I want to create flattering, handmade pieces with an edge that integrate easily into the modern woman’s wardrobe. I see The Rich & Strange offering a tight collection of limited edition pieces via our webshop to young women at an accessible price. That is very important to me now, to find a way to make the brand accessible and inclusive, while also taking care of the weavers and their needs.