Thursday, January 17th, 2019

Local Linen

Posted on November 12, 2016 in Arts & Culture
By USM Free Press

By Dionne Smith, Free Press staff

Maine has a lot to offer. From walking around the Old Port, you see so many people, so many restaurants. You’re close to the water and you’re in the middle of all the action. Maine also has its fair share of local businesses. Local businesses help our economy thrive and help contribute to the state of Maine. There was one clothes shop that I had to check out that was a local Maine business. It’s called South Street Linen. Located on 5 South Street in Portland, this little clothes shop has tons to offer in terms of designs, and it’s all made of linen. Upon walking in, it was small and organized. The space lines up with a variety of different clothes for any customer to come in and browse. I was lucky enough to get an interview with one of the three owners, Jane Ryan, who is the second oldest of the three. The other two owners, Mary Ruthedstrom and Lynn Krauss, were not able to tend to the shop because they had their own things to do out of state. According to Ryan, the business started in 2010, when the economy was down. Ruthedstrom and Krauss decided they wanted to print on linen and dye linen to do something different and incorporated art. They sent Ryan the samples, and she loved them so much that she began sewing and they collaged 50 scarves in three months and they sold them for Christmas that year. Once seeing how well they sold they realized that they were in a business. Ryan, as a young girl, never saw herself being where she is now, in fact at first she was a psychiatrist for 20 years, after she majored in sociology in college. She went from that to doing art, that’s when Ryan, Ruthedstrom and Krauss got together, as the three knew each other in college. This store sells mostly women’s clothes. (I say mostly because they have one men’s shirt that’s also selling out).  The linen they used to make their clothes is made from stems of flax, a plant that grows mostly in eastern Europe. They get it from a manufacturer in Lithuania that works closely with the three owners to give them specific designs and to send them samples to see what they like. Their clothes are designed for women who feel like the clothes that they sell speak to them. Since in our fashion industry the women’s clothes are so custom tailored to skinny girls in their 20s and 30s, there isn’t a lot of clothes for older women. The clothes tailored at South Street Linen are geared towards those older women who feel like it’s okay to be their age and to be comfortable with their bodies because there are, indeed, clothes for them. She calls them “Relief clothing”. When thinking of new designs, the owners all ask themselves what they would want and they make it, which awesome. The clothes are described as artsy and architectural. She also describes them as comfortable, to flatter, and to feel comfortable in. So all in all women who like that kind of artsy look would really appreciate what South Street Linen has to offer for them, especially older women. The average price of their clothes is about $200. Their inspiration comes from different types of movements, different places that the owners traveled to, even Twiggy Ramirez was an inspiration for their clothes. I asked Ryan what separates her local business from large corporate businesses. She replied by saying she knows who makes her clothes, the people who help her, their families, and that these are strong relationships, the ease of business with someone a few blocks away than someone days away is also a big difference between local businesses and large corprate businesses She also feels like quality control is easier, and she likes that she’s feeding the economic community of Maine, which is important to her. In addition, Ryan likes the social environment of the job. She loves working with her partners and her friends to create new clothes that they like, she likes contributing to Maine, and she likes working with her customers, listening to their request and being able to fulfill them. Even during the interview she had to tend to some customers that came in, and her conversations with them were friendly. You don’t get that same social feeling buying from corporate stores. I was happy to be able to sit down and talk with Ryan about her business. She was  upbeat and talkative and fun to be with. If I was a girl, I’d be buying something from South Street Linen because just from looking around, I liked what I saw.

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