In 2008, Tessa and Torrey Valyou were dating when they started New Duds, their screen-printing and sewing business, in Colchester. Tessa made bags, often using recycled materials, and Torrey screen printed clothing featuring his unique drawings. Since then, the couple has married, had two children, moved their business three times and expanded to a staff of 20.
Seven Days senior multimedia producer Eva Sollberger first met the Valyous at the Winooski Farmers Market and began to collect their eye-catching gear. You can spot their distinct duds all over Vermont — the most popular design, “Burlington Vermont Sunset,” features the sun setting behind the Green Mountains. The company also prints goods for many local businesses, including Foam Brewers, Cabot Creamery and Vermont Lake Monsters.
Sollberger profiled the couple for “Stuck in Vermont” in 2011, when it was just the two of them working together with their dog, Nancy. These days, Nancy is 15 and stays home. To see what else has changed, Sollberger toured the current Colchester location and talked with the Valyous about their brand’s growth and evolution.
On Saturday, October 14, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., New Duds will hold an open house and warehouse sale — the company’s first since the pandemic. There will be food, and attendees can screen print clothing items with one of six New Duds designs.
Sollberger spoke with Seven Days about filming this episode.
Why did you feature the Valyous again?
I have been a fan of New Duds’ work for years. I spotted the Valyous’ stall at a farmers market and instantly became obsessed. I collected a variety of their T-shirts and a few of Tessa’s Foliage handbags, too. New Duds’ designs are a collaboration between Tessa and Torrey, and both are incredibly creative. She comes up with the ideas and art direction, while he does the drawing and illustration. New Duds’ first design was a brigade of octopuses. I cherish my bright blue T-shirt with this quirky print in a florescent yellow. The clothes are colorful, and the designs are unique. I was excited to see what had changed since I profiled them in 2011.
Their new facility is huge!
Their first shop, where I filmed in 2011, was 900 square feet. Their current facility is 14,000 square feet and houses many cool machines and a rainbow of inks and threads. I was impressed that they have a forklift. It was interesting to talk to the pair about the complex process of scaling up. Having 20 employees sounds great, but you have to provide a break room and enough restrooms for them. You have to streamline the printing process to ensure quality control — all these little things that are incredibly important but not always top of mind to creative types. Tessa and Torrey do a really good job of working together to figure things out and move forward. And they have attracted other artists to work with them. Like their tagline says, they are “Vermont’s Small & Mighty Print Shop.”
A lot has changed over the past 15 years.
Back in the old days, they were scrappy and DIY. Torrey used a manual press to print their designs, which have a really original look. He brought that press to a few Seven Days parties at the South End Art Hop and manually printed shirts for people to order. These days, New Duds’ focus has switched to custom work for clients, and Torrey no longer prints every item by hand — they now have three automatic presses and offer embroidery and poster screen printing. The couple have a high attention to detail and make everything look easy, but it isn’t.
So, how do two highly creative artists evolve with their growing business? Torrey draws less nowadays — unless he is on a plane drawing fungi or imagining creatures for Foam Brewers’ cans. And Tessa closed down her bag business but is making neck warmers, change purses and hats for her line called FLIP, sold at Burlington’s Thirty-odd. As she said, there are lots of ways to be creative. The two get satisfaction from growing the shop, providing a healthy workspace for their employees and having quality family time. But just like in 2011, they had a million designs and projects to show me. Their creative spirits are obviously alive and well.
Tell us more about their open house.
Before the pandemic, they had an annual open house. I attended one in 2011 with my camera at their first space. I think it was a chili cook-off with their friends. Over the years, I went to open houses at their second facility in Winooski. The events are really fun, with good grub and lots of familiar faces. Plus, you get to print your own clothing using their manual press. Their Burlington sweatshirt, Winooski T-shirt and Vermont hat have helped brand our state. And New Duds is cleaning house this year, so this is the last call for many of its original designs. I hear the old-school octopi may even be making an appearance. I will be there, waiting for my turn with the squeegee.