Behind every clothing designer is a detailed story of color palettes, sketches, deadlines, fabric swatches, production, and eventually, a fashionable customer. While browsing shops and trying on clothes, we only see the result of all that work, and sometimes it’s important to pause, take a look at the garment in your hands and ask—what’s the story behind this?
Andrea Moore Beaulieu has been sewing for nearly her entire life. Starting with sewing bed sheets and blankets as a child, she now designs for her company, MOORE Custom Goods, a Portland-based fashion brand known for its neutral color palette, stellar textiles, and insistence to make everything in-house. MOORE boasts its own clothing collections, assists other designers with defining and making their products, and offers expert custom tailoring—all within a retail shop.
For Andrea, designs start with fabric. She gets most of her inspiration from textiles, some of which end up in the two collections that she produces each year. In her design process, fabric and color inspire silhouette and shape and are informed by seasons, rather than based on seasons—which means that her customers can shop collections straight from the runway. While her designs are known for a “hyper neutral color palette,” her upcoming collection was photographed in Taos, so we can expect to see some fresh pops of color and florals.
Sustainability is at the heart of MOORE’s mission, which presents obstacles as local businesses shrink and supplies must be sourced out of state. Still, Andrea makes a point to solely work with local or small businesses with which she builds relationships, using all-vegan materials. A self-described “tactile person,” Andrea sources supplies and notions that she can touch, made by people that she can meet. She works closely with Columbiaknit here in Portland, a knitting factory founded in 1921 that was once booming with machines and now boasts just a few knitting machines, on which they continue to produce high-quality fabric.
We spoke with Andrea about her history, her design process, and her mission, as MOORE grows into an essential Portland apparel destination.
When did you first realize that you wanted to design, and what was the first step you took to make that happen?
I started sewing when I was seven years old. Growing up in the woods of New Hampshire limited my access to resources, so I was using bed sheets, blankets, and towels to make clothes with my mom’s Singer sewing machine. She loves to tell a story about me as a toddler, looking people up and down, checking out their outfits. I feel like this is what I was born to do. My sister and I would try to sell things we'd made to our neighbors—I was always very entrepreneurial. Through high school, I would make my own clothes and alter clothes for friends. I went to college for Design and Merchandising at the University of NC-Greensboro. This expanded my knowledge of the industry as a whole—the first formal step toward living my dream.
Your mission talks about the importance of sustainability and local production. How does MOORE integrate those values into production and design? Why are they so important to you?
All product for the brand is made in-house. Additionally, we try to source locally as much as possible or at least work with American companies that produce their goods here. Supporting the "made in America" cause is an important part of our brand identity. At a time when overseas sourcing is so common and often comes in at a lower price point for the end consumer, we have found that the quality isn't always there. It is also challenging and costly to visit the factories to ensure the operation is being ethically run. Our guests are buying our product because of the experience they get when interacting with the brand in addition to the quality of the construction. There is something so special and unique about shopping in a place where you can experience the production process from start to finish. We don't hide it behind a wall or curtain—the machines are on the sales floor right next to the merchandised garments.
There is something so special and unique about shopping in a place where you can experience the production process from start to finish. We don't hide it behind a wall or curtain—the machines are on the sales floor right next to the merchandised garments.
You studied under a master tailor while you were in school. What was that like? What is one of the most important lessons you learned?
Garment construction was something I was very familiar with but deconstruction and rebuilding all kinds of garments opened the door to a different kind of education I was not getting in the classroom. First—it is really difficult. It is challenging but so important to be patient and meticulous when taking something apart. You learn a ton about production-style garment construction! The tailor I studied under was fast, accurate, and truly a master of his craft. There are unconventional things he taught me, like how to use a straight blade rather than a seam ripper. Second—it takes a long time to be good at this kind of work. Everyone has their own sewing style and comes up with their own techniques for putting garments together, but I have always prided myself on maintaining the integrity of the original construction methods so when the work is complete, you can't tell that anything was ever done to the garment. Third—the client doesn't get charged based on how long it takes you to complete the project. When you are a master of your craft, you are efficient. And when you are learning, everything takes longer. The price is the price—whether it takes you 3 days or 20 minutes.
You’ve lived and worked in many different parts of the country. Do you notice a difference in how fashion is perceived from state to state?
Absolutely. In Vegas, the fashion scene revolves around the strip and night life or party attire. Lots of sparkle. In NYC, fashion is nonstop. You don't leave your apartment without being done up in some way... but all black everything. In LA it is much more relaxed—lots of flip-flops or sandals, and color galore. Portland is, as you can guess, the most relaxed. Anything goes. These styles are reflected in the industry. In Vegas, shows happen on the strip and are a huge spectacle. Resources are slim so most designers use LA. NYC designers work so hard and the pressure never lets up. It is extremely competitive so the moment you stop to take a breath, you can be passed over. Los Angeles has the most easily accessible resources for designers. From trims and fabrications to production, custom printing, and wash houses. The fashion district is vast, making it easy for anyone to enter the industry but difficult to stay in business. Portland is a market that is easier to enter due to the supreme level of support for local small businesses and the lower cost of commercial real estate. It is by far my favorite place!
Which is more fun, working with entrepreneurs to create their products or designing your own? What are the challenges of each?
It is wonderfully fulfilling to assist brands as well as entrepreneurs with seeing their vision through to fruition. We get some clients that know exactly what they want and others that just have an ideal and don't know what steps to take next. This makes each project unique, which can be refreshing and challenging. It keeps me up to date on trends, sourcing options, production techniques, technology in fibers creation, etc. Though creating for others is satisfying, there is nothing like building a collection for MOORE. The major challenge with this is finding the time. I tend to work best under pressure, so setting a deadline for myself really kicks me into high gear. Typically that deadline is a show, like my FW18 shop the runway show for FashioNXT on October 12th.