Roots New York & the Roots Raw Collection


Since 1973, Roots has been quite the household name for many Canadians. Inspired by the beauty and nature of Ontario's Algonquin Park, co-founders Don Green and Michael Budman have supplied North America and Asia with high quality apparel and leather products. Deeply inspired by our environment, Roots holds an exceptional environmental commitment that has supported environmental organizations such as The Rainforest Foundation, Stop Global Warming Fund, and the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada just to name a few.



228 Elizabeth st., New York, NY

This weekend I was invited down to check out the new Roots New York shop located on Elizabeth St. in Soho. Surrounded by frozen yogurt stands and Bohemian boutiques, Roots' cozy, yet eloquent storefront can capture the eyes of any young shopper passing by. While there was a large quantity of Roots' classic sweats (easily the most comfortable sweatshirt/sweatpants set on the market), there was also an array of leather products and other featured collections.


Accompanied by my good friend and designer Mackenzie Carey, the Roots staff provided us with a few garments from the Roots Raw Collection. These off-white pieces are just one example of Roots' continuous efforts in supporting our environment. Roots is known for using eco-­friendly products, increasing the use of
organic cotton, recycled cotton, recycled polyesters and natural sustainable fabrics such as wool, bamboo, hemp and soy according to their site.

Our task at hand was to design an original piece using the Raw Collection, as seen on the Roots Canada Instagram page.

With Mackenzie and I both having a fine art/design background, we were eager to start this DIY project. We both agreed that we should stick with one common theme: New York. With Roots originating out of Toronto, opening a new shop in New York seemed like a very big deal to us. Although New Yorkers can get a bad reputation for being rude and uninviting, we wanted to give a warm welcome to Roots with our New York-themed designs.


Now, a brief tutorial in how exactly we went about designing our work.


  • An item or two from the Roots Raw Collection
  • Fabric Dye of any color (We used the brand Rit)
  • Pigma Micron Pens/Sharpie Fine Point Pen
  • Fabric Markers of any color
  • A ruler or straightedge
  • Spray bottle
  • Bathtub or a large bin
  • Inspiration! (Ours was the NYC Skyline, and NY State Geography)


Soak your Roots Raw Collection garments in hot water until they are completely saturated. Keep in mind the water is hot, so when you ring them out you don't scorch your hands. For some reason I forgot this as my hands submerged into the tub... 


Ring out the clothes as best you can, and let them hang on a clothesline or in our case hangers. (Hanging a clothesline in Queens is just about impossible)


Now you're going to mix your fabric dye and water. We used two tablespoons of dye, then about a cup and a half of water in a spray bottle. You can obviously add as much as you'd like, but because we wanted an ombré gradient, we held back on adding too much dye. After you secure the spray bottle top, gently shake the mixture. Make sure the spray nozzle is on a fine mist. Now, here comes the fun part. Apply a layer of dye on your freshly soaked material of choice. Keep applying the spray mixture until you reach a gradient you like. This step can get a bit messy, and fabric dye isn't the easiest to wash off of your skin, so gloves are recommended. We never used gloves clearly, but because we were art students we were pretty used to having a layer of ink stained our hands at all times.


This might be one of the longer parts of this project. Drying the fabric is crucial to your finished design. Because we used ink and fabric markers on these pieces, we had to be sure that both items were fully dry. The shirt dried almost fully on its own just hanging there, then we lightly dried it with a blowdryer. Because the crew neck sweatshirt was a bit heavier and held in some water, we brought it to a laundromat and dried it on high heat for 40 minutes.


If you want a smooth gradient with minimal dye splatters, we highly suggest throwing your piece in the dryer. If you prefer the splatter look, avoid dryers at all costs!


Design, design, design.

Because Mackenzie is a very talented and seasoned designer, this part was a breeze for her. She nearly free-handed the entire New York City Skyline, using the ruler for minimal details. I used the ruler quite a few times for the overall outline of the state of New York. But because we both have experience in drawing, we took the risk of free-handing our pieces. If you aren't comfortable with just sketching something up on an amazing sweatshirt or shirt, we recommend making a stencil or finding a pre-made stencil set at a local craft store.

*The pens and fabric markers usually need about 20-30 minutes to fully dry before wearing*


Wear your finished product! Once you complete your design and give everything enough time to dry, you're good to go! Here are a few photos of our finished products: