Handmade: Dyeing to make a bold fashion statement

Jocelynn Brown
The Detroit News

In the world of fashion, it's not just the silhouette or fabric of a garment that determines how it's perceived, but the color(s), as well.

A solid color garment becomes a more noticeable work of wearable art after it's twisted, tied and dyed with one or more colors. Once undone, it bursts with a spectrum of color patterns, blended without rhyme or reason. 

At  Brightlytwisted, 1418 Michigan in Detroit's Corktown, a similar technique to what's known as tie-dye is used to produce beautifully hand-dyed women's garments. They also have a small selection of children's wear, T-shirts for men and socks.

Sales associate Maya Gangadharan, of Royal Oak, arranges scarves for sale.

"The technique stems from tie-dye," said Detroiter Alexandra Bourque, 28, one of three co-owners of Brightlytwisted. "We've taken the basic technique of tie-dye and created our own form." 

Dearborn residents Tammy Bourque and Greg Stemas, Bourque's mother and step-father, are also co-owners of Brightlytwisted. The couple launched Brightlytwisted about 10 years ago, after receiving an overwhelming response for their merchandise at art fairs in the early 2000's. That's when they started doing wholesales with boutiques across the country.

Brightlytwisted is the brain-child of Stemas, a former pre-school teacher who taught himself the art of hand-dyeing about 21 years ago.

Detroiter Alexandra Bourque, a co-owner of Brightlytwisted, wears a Brightlytwisted hand-dyed top in her Corktown shop.

"They were dyeing the T-shirts they sold," Bourque said. Then my mom joined by helping at the art fairs and started noticing how everyone flocked to their booth because of the different colors. She started buying nicer women's clothing (for dyeing). 

"They originally wanted to have a boutique for men and women, but then they went to fashion market in Las Vegas looking for whites to bring back to dye," said Bourque. "They wanted some that were a little more feminine and better quality. While there, an independent sales rep stopped my mom and asked her about her scarf. She said she could sell those. Then, about three months later, after we met the sales rep, she called and said Nordstrom was interested in purchasing from us. Over the years, we've done a few orders with them." 

These days, in addition to wholesale orders and its brick and mortar store, Brightlytwisted has an online shop at, where customers can make purchases, and sign up for dye classes, as well.

The well-attended classes, called "Dyed in Detroit," are held every Saturday, with one from noon-2 p.m., and another from 4-6 p.m. The fee is $55 per person and supplies are included. Each student dyes four garments -- two they keep, and the other two are donated. One is turned into a quilt for Children's Hospital of Michigan, and the other is made into dog bandanas that get donated to local dog shelters. 

"We recently started a drop-in dye class on Friday, from 6-8 p.m., where you can bring your own clothes and dye them -- like old clothes with stains. We have live music with refreshments, as well." The $30 fee includes as many pieces of your clothes that you can dye in an hour. Also, everytime you take a class, you'll receive a 20 percent discount off your entire purchase that day only.

Production manager/designer Zack McKeever, of Berkley, applies dye to a folded and tied garment.

"Customers can pick their colors, and have full access to our dye room. Two instructors are there to help with any needs they may have." The dyed pieces are left overnight to set for 24 hours. They can then be shipped to the customer for a $7 fee, or picked up from the store.

For a fun celebration or group activity, private dye parties can be arranged, as long as there are at least six participants.

Before its current location, Brightlytwisted was located in Livonia. "We were just beginning to do our dye classes and we really wanted a place where people could make an event of it, so we packed up our stuff and started looking around Detroit, and we found a place in Corktown," said Bourque, who's also one of the four dye instructors. 

Today, Brightlytwisted is more than a hand-dyed clothing business. "The front of our store is full of already dyed pieces, and we have white pieces that can be custom dyed," said Bourque. "Then, we carry other lines, and not just clothing, but things from other artists in the Detroit area, and from Michigan -- cards, jewelry, vintage clothing, and plants. We also have a small art gallery and some photography work."

Brightlytwisted hand-dyed garments range roughly from $25 for a pair of socks or hat up to $250 for a maxi dress. Women's sizes range from XS to 2X.

And, how's business for this unique and colorful operation? "It's good, especially now that it's gotten warmer," said Bourque. "There's more foot traffic because people are coming to see what's popping up in Corktown!"

Hours for Brightlytwisted are 11 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Tues.-Sat., and noon-5 p.m. Sunday. The shop is closed on Monday.

Detroit News columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtme Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, or facebook/DetroitNewsHandmade. 

Contact Brightlytwisted (1418 Michigan, Corktown in Detroit) at (248) 310-8579.  Email: