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Friday Feature: Synapse 206
January 9, 2010  |  Business, Friday Feature

Tina, the founder of clothing store Synapse 206 graciously took some time out of her day to tell me about her store. Open for seven years now, Synapse has a great atmosphere and a great philosophy and they have prices that fit any budget.

For a little bit of history, Tina has lived in the neighborhood since 1988 and has been involved in a few different businesses. She started Neds restaurant, which was ruined in the 2001 earthquake, and Java Diner (now known as Planet Java), which she sold to the current owners.

Instead of doing my own write up, I thought I would post this as a Q&A so that you can get a better sense of the store in the enigmatic owner’s own words.

Q: What made you want to start a clothing store?
A couple of things – the first thing is – I really like interesting clothes, and I found that in Seattle, many of them are priced way beyond what I thought was reasonable.

The second thing was that I had run across various people that wanted to express themselves by making “wearable art” (in the design sense) and there really wasn’t a platform for those folks. And so I said “well, screw it, I’ll just give it a shot.” So I have a mix of ready to wear and original work, and it’s trying to give a platform to artists from Berlin, Pioneer Square, and every place in between.

Q: How do you choose what clothing to put in your store?
I’ll look at any artists’ work, I may or may not elect to put it in the shop. It has to speak to me in a way that I feel good about it. There’s a lot of work out there that I think is great that is not appropriate for this shop. I try not to be trendy. I try not to be young – it’s not aimed at an age group, it’s aimed at an attitude.

Q: And what’s the attitude?
A little more confident, maybe. A little more experimental – not out there, out there, it’s just not mainstream – it’s the edge of mainstream.

Q: Is every piece here unique?
Not every piece, but I’d say about half of the inventory is unique. The rest of it is pretty much limited production work.

Q: What about the name? Where did it come from?
The street address and the area code is 206. It’s about creativity, it’s about the synaptic connections in the brain. This is the city loan building and the history of this building is that it has always been filled with creativity: dancers, modern dancers, graphic designers, artists, culinary artists. Now it’s filled with a bunch of techie companies, but it’s just a building whose energy is creative. And I do believe places have energy. Because of the relationship to neural firing and the synaptic connection, in searching for a name, Synapse just fit. It just fit.

Q: How has the business been?
It’s great – it suffers from the economy just like every other business, but it’s an amazing business. It’s amazing to help someone find their voice in a way that is a little more personal than you might normally expect. And to be able to do it in a fairly economically approachable manner.

Q: Do you ever do fashion shows?
I used to, but my experience in Seattle is that they don’t really help you sell clothing. It would be different if it were really a way to move product, but it’s not. It’s a way to get exposure, so you have to balance it. Maybe if I did more ready-to-wear, I might be more inclined to showcase stuff, but with this stuff, it’s either such limited custom production, or comes from Berlin – it just doesn’t work for me.

Q: How do you think your location in Pioneer Square affects your business? Or do you?
I think that I would have more volume if I were closer to downtown, but it wouldn’t be the same business. This business fits Pioneer Square – it’s ambitious, it’s entrepreneurial, it’s showcasing originality, it’s not fancy in the sense of energy or environment. I can’t imagine replicating this in a neighborhood that had a different energy.

Q: What are your prices like?
All over the map — you can spend a couple thousand dollars on an item here or you can spend 50 bucks an item. Or you can buy the world’s best tank tops for $17.50.

Q: What else should people know about your store?
There’s 28 different artists represented here. Of those artists, probably 26 of them, every piece is original. 2 of them is artists — one is from Lithuania, one is from berlin — do custom work. So, they don’t make it unless they order it — it’s very limited production. There’s something here for pretty much any age group — we even carry little kid’s squeaker shoes.

To see more, visit their website at or stop by their store at 206 1st Avenue South.



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