Sustainable fashion has made its way from the catwalks of New York City and London to smalltown USA in the past couple years, and local bag designer Alaina Marie Harris is benefiting from the trend.

In business for a little more than a year, Harris recently signed a contract with J.Crew to provide the company with just under 1,000 of her utilitarian line of clutches and wallets, which are inspired by the bait bags used by lobstermen and which are made from the same marine-grade material.

“Each clutch is handmade, from screen printing to sewing, and this process ensures that each clutch is unique and no two are exactly alike,” the Alaina Marie website states. Harris, who grew up in South Portland, makes all of her products at her 79 Ocean St. shop.

Harris is now 26 and said she always wanted to be a designer and to own her own business. She attended the University of Southern Maine where she focused on art and entrepreneurship.

Up until now Harris has worked alone creating her clutches, wallets and key chains, but with the recent large order from J.Crew, she’s now hired an assistant, along with a couple of local seamstresses.

“The products I make are all handmade from start to finish. I use a marine-grade mesh, which is the same material bait bags are made from and (that’s) where I got the inspiration behind my line of bait bag products,” she said.

“I have taken a material intended for a certain industry and transformed it by using it in an unexpected way. My products are not only fashion forward, but are also very practical and durable for everyday use. I think this is why my products have caught on with consumers.”

Harris added, “(My products) are very unique and are handmade in Maine. I love that they are reflective of the commercial fishing industry because that is a lifestyle for many here in Maine and just another element that makes them unique.”

It’s her hope to expand into offering other fashion products, but Harris is taking things slowly and is still fleshing out the viability of various ideas.

“I definitely want to expand,” she said. “I have some ideas but am not sure what direction I will take just yet.”

She credits her determination and work ethic for her success to date and said, “This has been my dream for a long time – to start and run my own business creating my own product here in Maine. And I have worked so hard to get here. I never give up and will continue to work hard everyday to grow and run the brand I have started.”

Harris features her springer spaniel, Gia, in much of her promotional materials and said her dog is her constant companion.

“I would say that my success so far just goes to show that if you have a passion and are willing to work for it, absolutely anything can become your reality,” she said.

Each Alaina Marie clutch is handmade in South Portland out of marine-grade material. Advertising for the line, which was inspired by the bait bags used by lobstermen, often includes the designer’s dog, Gia.  

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