A head for business, an eye for art

laila rosenthal with soccer ball at Narragansett Beach RI
Laila Rosenthal ’23 turns thrifted clothing into one-of-a-kind works of art. Photo by Nora Lewis

As a midfielder for the URI Women’s Soccer Team, Laila Rosenthal ’23 understood the push-and-pull of competition and her role in it: to negotiate the middle, to be ready to attack or defend, as the situation warranted.

Off the field, Rosenthal, a business major, found herself mediating another sort of tension. A designer and photographer, she wanted to create a line of clothing without adding to the 92 million tons of textile trash deposited in landfills every year. At URI’s Launch Lab, Rosenthal found a way to channel her competing interests in entrepreneurship, accounting, and art into an environmentally conscious clothing business.

From secondhand to one-of-a-kind

Launch Lab, a space dedicated to student entrepreneurs’ idea generation, collaboration, and innovation, helped Rosenthal establish and grow Lrosenphoto, which upcycles thrifted apparel with a twist: each piece bears one of Rosenthal’s photographs, effectively turning “secondhand” into “one-of-a-kind.”

“I see fashion as self-expression,” Rosenthal says. “It’s more than just whatever you’re wearing; it’s a statement. And sustainability is important to me, so the thrifted clothes, minimalist packaging, and recycled thank-you notes I write to buyers are all part of the theme.”

Launch Lab offers students advising and networking opportunities with URI faculty, staff, businesses, potential investors, and peers. Rosenthal took advantage of all opportunities offered.

“The people at Launch Lab are so enthusiastic about entrepreneurship and innovation and they were really helpful in terms of understanding my business—where I’m at, what my goals are, and how I can get there,” Rosenthal says. “At Launch Lab, you can achieve what you want to achieve.”

Rosenthal graduated with a job in accounting already lined up. A self-described go-getter, she doesn’t expect any issues in juggling a full-time job and a budding business. If anything, the two endeavors complement each other and address Rosenthal’s desire to do work that is meaningful. Quality clothing not only repurposed but made better is good for business, good for the environment, and good for the soul, she says. “In choosing thrifted clothing, you are placing value on and purpose into what you’re wearing,” Rosenthal says.

“This is art you can wear.”

—Marybeth Reilly-McGreen