The micro boutique run by self-described revolutionary clothiers Ben Ruggles and Jen Liedel features everything from wallets made from National Geographic maps to clothing and accessories fashioned from rescued fabrics.
Créme Brulee also sells works on consignment by young artists as well as vintage and new clothing. The overall mix is about 60 percent vintage, including many pieces of locally-made recycled clothing, and 40 percent new items.
Opened two years ago in May at the Front Street Commons in downtown Traverse City, Créme Brulee is grounded in a philosophy that combines simple living with human empowerment - of the owners, other young artists and their customers.
This commitment extends to refusing credit cards (if someone wants something badly enough, they are encouraged to visit a nearby ATM) and painting the formerly grim walls with broad primary-colored stripes only after multiple sources of paint came into their lives.
I dont believe we should be doing anything that isnt empowering someone else, the empowerment of the individual, said Ruggles. Just being resourceful is a way for me to make my politics real in a relevant manner.
Calling Traverse City an incubator for sustainable living in Michigan, Ruggles believes that clothing -- one of four basic human needs that include food, shelter and energy -- can also be sustainable. The store swims against the tide of consumerism, determined to spread a way of life as much as sell clothes and art.
You have to separate need from want, he said.
Ruggles and Liedel both note a momentum building for self-sufficiency, both on an individual and a community level.
I just see more people wanting to know how to make clothing for themselves, said Liedel, who also works at Mackinaw Brewing Company. People being more aware of and interested in where clothing comes from and that supports local artisans.
In keeping with do-it-yourself and re-use-it mandates, even 1970s polyesters get a new lease on life in Liedels hands as she transforms them into skirts. Their kicky designs and fun accessories are firmly 21st century.
I draft some patterns on my own and some are vintage patterns that I update to make my own, said Liedel, who along with Ruggles loves harvesting treasures at garage sales, trash days or used stores.
Liedels grandmothers provided the genesis for the business. No family member wanted the extensive collection of fabric, notions and sewing implements when the two women died. Liedel did not want everything going to Goodwill wasting the passion pursued by each woman over her lifetime so she took the material in for reuse.
From that it just kind of came to the point where I sewed a little bit, it really picked up, and I found myself doing it more and more, she said of a collection that included art deco sewing boxes full of old buttons. [They had] nice little aesthetic things that make sewing fun and all of a sudden I had it.
Ruggles fashions collages from rescued material for use as decorations on a range of items. The resulting shirts, pillows and bags encapsulate his philosophy as an artist.
When you simply dont have any money to spend, you turn to any sources you can it makes you use your creative faculties more, said Ruggles, who also works at Oryana. It kind of winds in with the whole ethos of the store: the art and the thrill of the hunt.
Situated upstairs in the Front Street Commons, Créme Brulee is open Monday through Saturday from noon until 6 p.m. See myspace.com/cremebruleemakingtcfreaky or email firstname.lastname@example.org.