Biddeford fashion designer anchors in the Old Port

 

Roxi Suger and Julian Schlaver in their new shop.

Lookout Lululemon, there’s a new athleisure player in town.

Where pottery was manufactured, exported and imported in the 1800s, soon eco-friendly wraps, skirts and versatile women’s clothing will rule from 271 Commercial Street.

Biddeford-based designer Roxi Suger, plans to open her second Maine store in May in the E. Swasey and Co. Pottery Building. As a counter to Athletica, the GAP leisurewear company opening around the corner, Suger’s flexible frocks couldn’t be more local. Her comfortable and chic Angelrox line is manufactured a few miles south in the mills of Biddeford.

“Moving into Portland has been on our radar for years,” said Suger, who opened her first Suger boutique on Alfred Street in Biddeford three years ago.

When she found this historic address, last home to a lingerie store and tile shop before that, she was hooked. “It is almost like a movie set. It just screams Old Port,” said Suger.

But it didn’t feel like the Old Port inside.

Since taking possession of the 1,600-square-foot space a few weeks ago, Suger and her husband/co-owner Julian Schlaver have been working overtime to change that. Original floors have been revealed to showcase the building’s rustic past. Reclaimed wooden walls and shipping crates-turned-shelves complete the hand-made vibe. “The industry of the Old Port, the ships and all the history really felt right,” said Suger.

The shop will carry the entirety of Suger’s eco-friendly, bamboo-based Angelrox line. These dynamic styles that transition from board meetings to yoga class to a night on the town, are sold in independent boutiques in almost every state across the country. “We call it Maine made comfort that’s elegant and versatile,” said Suger, who launched in Manhattan in 1999. “It’s a wardrobe that takes you from work to wellness to sleep. Great for travel.”

An original crock made by E. Swasey and Co. is an ode to the past that complements the mod frocks at Suger.

Suger will also carry jewelry, apothecary products, and men’s apparel from fellow Maine makers, as well as bags from Ethiopia and a few housewares like rugs — “bits of luxury and beautiful things crafted around the world,” she said.

They are putting love, care and attention into the remake of the storefront, which they are leasing for six years. Approaching it like an art project, the couple are reusing slats to cover up walls in the back and sourcing foundry items, adding steel plates to the floor and patching in wood from the mills of Biddeford to give the boutique a patina of place.

By showcasing the history of industry in America they hope to add another element beyond “just the shopping experience.” Said Suger: “Let’s celebrate that bricks and mortar survive as an experience for everyone to enjoy.”

Kathleen Pierce

About Kathleen Pierce

A lifelong journalist with a deep curiosity for what's next. Interested in food, culture, trends and the thrill of a good scoop. BDN features reporter based in Portland since 2013.