What started off as just a hobby for couple Greg Stemas and Tammy Bourque, soon became full time employment. Stemas first began dyeing shirts fifteen years ago when he was thinking of ways to make money during the summer months off from teaching a classroom full of kindergartners. He had a young daughter at the time and wanted an occupation where he could stay home with the baby. By using his artistic background, tie-dyeing soon became a lucrative summer employment.
The garments Stemas made were first being sold at local art fairs and flea markets here and there. When Bourque and Stemas started dating, Bourque had no idea how to do any of the dyeing, so she was in charge of sales for him at the fairs. “I guess I was super surprised when I went to my very first fair where I worked for him. It was in Ann Arbor and I was completely blown away by the response and the amount of people that went to look for his clothes and to personally buy from him,” Bourque said. Because she had a fashion background, she instantly started to buy better clothes and materials for dyeing. “Right then, I realized he was onto something.”
If you were to enter their dye room, one would be fixed upon the countless number of various dye bottles. Their color selection is a little different than most –eggplant, coral, sage green, and turquoise. The process of dying is like an art form –extremely time consuming and not everyone can do it. Stemas messes around with the blank clothes and comes up with new techniques all the time. “It is really fun waking up the next morning and seeing how things have turned out. Pretty much everyone is showing off what they did or hiding what did not turn out,” Bourque said.
With Stemas’ unusual color combinations and composition and Bourque’s retail and fashion knowledge, they made the perfect pair. That following summer, Stemas taught Bourque the ropes of dying clothes. Beautiful pashmina scarves also came into play. At Christmas time in 2009, the couple started to get swamped with business. The first store that bought the scarves was in Birmingham, Michigan, called Lori Karbal, whose storeowner saw Brightly Twistedat a flea market and asked if they could make scarves for her. “She bought 18 the very first day and the next day they were gone. We’ve been making scarves for them ever since,” Bourque said. A few months later, Bourque was wearing one of their handmade scarves at a Las Vegas market to purchase clothes for the company. A sales representative saw the scarf and instantly asked if she could represent their line.
It has been two and half years since Brightly Twisted began selling wholesale and ever since, their success has been remarkable and the company has been growing rapidly. Within the first month of being discovered in Las Vegas, Nordstrom’s began selling their scarves. Now 400 boutiques, five or six department stores, and a couple accounts out of the country sell the products.
Bourque just got back from Dallas where their first fall line was completed. There are about fourteen new pieces. The fascinating aspect of the company is that no two pieces are alike and each article of clothing is dyed by hand. A one of a kind scarf sells anywhere from $78 to $98, while their tops, pants, dresses, skirts, and maxi-dresses range anywhere from $89 to $170. They even started dyeing velvet pillowcases!
Stemas and Bourque have their hands full at this point. They anticipate to be creating an online store soon and will also be doing two art fairs this summer. Brightly Twisted will be at the Plymouth Art in the Park and the 50th Annual Downtown Grand Haven Art Festival. They will also be traveling down to Louisville, Kentucky for the St. James Court Art Show, which is one of the best in the country. So expect to see a lot more bright things to come from this company! ~Danielle Turcotte, Regional Director
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