Unless your childhood can be most aptly described as Veruca Salt-esque, I’ll assume you’ve cooked at least one item of food in your life. Correct?
Scrumdiddlyumptious. Now, let’s take just a brief moment to pay homage to the awe-inspiring powers of culinary metamorphosis. Consider: that powdery substance known as flour. Thought by most to be inedible on it’s own, it holds the potential to be made into any number of delicious treats. While commonplace in the realm of gastronomy, this sort of transformation is a bit more of an anomaly when it comes to fashion.
Unless, of course, we’re speaking of Thomas Althaus, owner of Canned Goods. It seems only fitting that Althaus began his journey in the kitchen, where a tin can of food prompted him to make a monumental trip into his workshop. Inspired by an upcoming ten-year wedding anniversary, Thomas worked that humdrum food vessel until it was hardly recognizable and the perfect gift for his lovely wife.
The idea caught fire. Canned Goods now offers a vast range of hand-crafted earrings and bracelets. Though ethically-made jewelry constructed from recycled tin cans is a wonderful concept on its own, Althaus has taken the company to a new level with his Can Do Good program, which donates a can of food to those in need with each purchase.
Gorgeous jewelry that make a statement without being gaudy. You get a one-of-a-kind addition to your accessory repertoire and the world takes one more step toward being a better place. As Thomas likes to often state….We Can Do Good Together.
The Garbage Pile: Which ingredients in your background were most influential to your arrival to the world of accessory design?
Thomas Althaus: So, so many ingredients…here’s the short-list:
My wife Emily is the inspiration behind every design, she inspired the first CG pieces and will forever be the heart of the company.
My mother was my shopping mentor growing up. She taught me early about fashion and how to creatively look amazing.
My father taught me to look at a challenge, how to break it down, and how to conquer it. And he showed me the power of the mind and body…and how together they can work wonders.
Family, friends, mentors – In retrospect it all really makes sense. So many people need to be credited as influences.
And professionally – I’ve been fortunate to work with companies that were/are very innovative and story driven. As more and more “stories” began to unfold around CANNED GOODS, I felt more and more confident about how it would be received in the marketplace.
GP: What inspires your designs?
TA: Oh my, what doesn’t inspire my designs? These definitely do: people, nature, objects, architecture, memories, feelings, music, mistakes, remnants…pretty much anything around me
GP: Where do you usually find the cans you use to make the pieces?
TA: All sorts of places really. Friends, family, restaurants, neighborhood recycling bins. We have also started establishing some wonderful relationships with charitable organizations that serve meals to those in need. We collect their empty cans and then we give them full cans of food. It’s pretty perfect. It feels so good to work with local organizations and actually see the people we help.
GP: You mentioned that your sons helped you out during that first monumental tin can transformation. Do they still help out in the workshop?
TA: You’re right, they were right there next to me when I made the first pieces. They were wondering what in the world I was doing and encouraging me (because at that point I really didn’t know what I was doing either). I do bounce ideas off of them, they are really developing an eye for design. They are both pretty young, and because parts of the process involve really sharp metal, they keep their distance for safety’s sake. But they have caught the “bug.” They’ll bring me a scrap of something and say, “What can we make out of this?” I feel very fortunate to be able to have them at/in my workplace as I did with my Dad – it’s really special.
GP: You and your company seem to truly embody positivity! How do you keep your spirits up?
TA: Thank you! We try our best. We make every effort to keep moving forward while learning from what has transpired in the past. We’re not always “up”. We listen to a lot of music in the workshop, take creative play breaks, get out into the mountains for a hike, and go for “power-bike-rides” around town.
GP: Has your perception of the fashion industry changed since the creation of Canned Goods?
TA: In the beginning I wasn’t sure how receptive everyone would be to adding re-purposed/up-cycled pieces into their fashion arsenal. But since CANNED GOODS launched in November 2013 there’s become quite a supportive and sophisticated Eco Fashion community. And, the fashion industry as a whole has come to embrace the idea and has acknowledged the necessity to become more earth and people friendly.
GP: Do you have a favorite out of all your pieces?
TA: The newest pieces are generally my favorite just because they’re new and exciting to me. But of course my forever favorites are the first designs, CUFF-L Bracelet & PRISM Earrings, that I gave to my Emily for our 10 year wedding anniversary because the traditional gift for 10 years is tin – tin can. And fortunately, she loved them and that’s how this all started.
GP: Do you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs hoping to throw themselves into the world of ethical and sustainable design?
TA: Understand and be confident that Eco Fashion is not a trend, it is a shift. Once people are educated about it and have a number of more-than-satisfactory experiences, they will demand it and will probably never return to their previous buying habits. There is an abundance of opportunity as long as you can capture people’s attention, convey your point of difference, and have an innovative product/idea. Lastly, we live in an age of expected corporate transparency which is driving this movement and it’s only just begun…so, be true to yourself, your people and your product.
GP: What is your favorite aspect of what you do for a living?
TA: It’s an amazing feeling to be able to design and produce glamorous pieces out of an unexpected material and then to see people get excited about it. It’s humbling. And, to be able to give cans of food back to the local community feels so good. There’s just a whole lot of satisfaction in so many parts of the process.
GP: After growing up on a farm, do you and your family keep any crops of your own?
TA: The family farm is still in production back in Illinois…corn, soybeans, peas. Part of me will always be a farmer. My wife and I love to spend time being creative and maintaining our gardens here in Denver – vegetables, perennials, annuals. I will always love to work with my hands in the soil, to nurture and observe the growth, and ultimately to connect with the earth.
Interested in more info? Check out the Canned Goods website.