BLUE HILL — Slow fashion, custom made for you and all your curves and angles. And, no, you don’t have to go to the city.
A Castine native has opened Tangle Syx, a slow fashion enterprise offering custom made clothing made from plant fibers in Blue Hill.
Alyssa Radcliff caters to female customers both local and global.
If you aren’t close enough to have her measure you in-person, she will walk you through taking your own measurements via the online conferencing platform Zoom.
“We all have our challenges, clothing shouldn’t be one of them,” she says.
Radcliff’s light-filled workshop is located on the first floor of the Eastlight Building on West Lane off South Street.
She has modern sewing machines as well as an 1888 New Home that she learned to sew on at age 8. Large fabric-cutting tables hold paper patterns. Bolts of linen and organic cotton hemp are stashed in a large dressing room. Spools of vivid hues of thread await projects.
In life, Radcliff says sewing is something she always returns to.
“I finally decided to take the plunge,” she says.
She cuts fabric on the bias so that the garment has some give and a nice drape.
“The bias lets it flow around you,” she explains. “It creates sort of a flattering shape.”
In keeping with her slow fashion philosophy, Radcliff prefers organic material. “I don’t use any synthetic fibers.”
“I really like hemp fabrics,” she continues. “It’s one of the most sustainable textiles. It’s a really durable fabric. It wears really well. It doesn’t wear out. It just gets softer.”
Hemp “used to be used for everything, sails, rope, money. The first American flag was made of hemp.”
But then, the plant once was outlawed in the United States and only became legal for use again in recent history.
Radcliff foresees a time when many companies will be making garments on demand.
“There’s a lot of technology that’s coming to make that happen,” she said. “It’s kind of a wave that’s coming.”
Making garments to order eliminates waste in an industry that is in general “full of waste.”
“I don’t have to carry inventory,” she relates. “My inventory is my fabric.”
Radcliff has always sewn off and on throughout her life, including now, making Halloween costumes for her children.
The designer draws inspiration from warrior women in the media, including the wardrobes of the characters on the HBO show “Game of Thrones” as well as “Wonder Woman.”
Radcliff also can help you highlight your favorite body parts while de-emphasizing those you don’t. She has sleeveless blouses, but what if you’re self-conscious about your upper arms? She can make your blouses short sleeve or a three-quarter-length sleeve.
She can raise or lower necklines, depending on your cleavage comfort level.
“When you’re doing on demand custom, you can pick those pieces,” Radcliff says. “Everybody wants to feel good and look good.”
The meaning behind the name of the business, Tangle Syx, is a bit complicated.
“I worked at Tanglewood 4-H Camp in Lincolnville as a summer camp counselor for several years back in the late ’80s, early ’90s and it was one of the best times of my life, and also where I got the beginning of my environmental education, which led to wanting to use eco-friendly fabrics and no plastics in my business,” she recalls. “So, the Tangle part of the name is partly an homage to that.”
To get that name out, both locally and nationally, Radcliff is giving away a free custom bias-cut shirt every month. The giveaway will rotate so that one month a local person wins and the following month a distant person wins. See her website about how to enter.
For those in the area, the shop also offers one-on-one sewing lessons, help with sewing projects, a peek behind the scenes of a slow fashion startup, and an opportunity to make your custom garment together.
A mother of two, Radcliff lost her husband Chris in 2016 to a rare disease called frontotemporal degeneration. Also known as “FTD,” frontotemporal degeneration is the most common form of dementia for people under age 60. The couple’s twins, now 11, had just turned 2 when Chris was diagnosed.
“It’s a disease no one’s ever heard of,” Radcliff says. “It’s a really challenging illness.”
Those who get the disease end up needing round-the-clock care. And such was the case with Chris, who’d had a successful engineering career. He’d worked as an engineer for the aerospace company Boeing in St. Louis for 15 years before the pair met and fell in love. He started getting hand tremors. That was the first sign of trouble before his diagnosis.
To that end, Radcliff pledges 1 percent of her sales to the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration. The mission is to improve the quality of life for people affected by FTD and help finance research for a cure.
Tangle Syx is located at 1 West Lane (off South Street) in Blue Hill. For more info, call 374-7159, email [email protected] and visit tanglesyx.com.