When it comes to fashion, Portland may not be New York or LA, but then again, it doesn’t want to be. Like all things Portland, we pride ourselves on high-quality and eclectic designer goods.
Andrea Moore, founder of MOORE Custom Goods, has lived in both New York and LA but has chosen Portland as her new home. And according to Portland Monthly, she already has the Portland fashion scene “buzzing.” Here, she tells us a bit about how she is fulfilling her childhood dreams:
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I knew from a young age that I wanted to be an apparel designer. My mother shares a story quite often about me as a toddler—she says when we were in crowded public places, I would look people up and down, head to toe, staring at their clothes and shoes, as if I was inspecting them for approval. She says it was so funny to watch my judging eyes as a tiny child.
That aside, I started sewing when I was seven, making clothes from old bed sheets and blankets and any other fabrics I could find that seemed to be rarely used. My mother was a seamstress, my Nana and great grandmother were as well. They all made clothes for their children, matching Easter outfits, Halloween costumes, etc. My great grandmother would make my mom the newest fashions in the 1960s—bell bottoms and fun dresses—she was the best dressed girl in school. My Nana was more of a tailor—she went to school for tailoring, and she would make the most beautiful clothes with excellent craftsmanship. It is such an honor to carry on this skill.
Tell us about your company—how did you get started and what problem are you solving?
When I opened MOORE Custom Goods in 2014, I didn’t have a business plan. In fact, I was just looking for a studio space to sew out of, but when the landlord asked if I was interested in a retail space, I jumped at the chance to live my dream on my terms. At the time, I was freshly transplanted from Los Angeles, making custom clothing for stylists. I knew the scene here was very different, not celebrity driven, so I needed to come up with a plan.
I set up my little retail space and my sewing machines, put up my signage and before I could open my doors, I had walk-in traffic asking what I do. In my first week I was sewing custom tee shirts for a local ER surgeon that has a unique body type. My next client was his wife, and just like that my name was being passed around. While designing, producing and selling my clothing line, MOORE, I was sewing one of one garments for the Portland crowd.
Every project is different. Every day is different. So over two years later I have expanded my space, hired a part-time employee, and worked with so many wonderful people.
How did you come up with the name?
MOORE is my middle name, my mom’s maiden name. Growing up I was embarrassed that I didn’t have the typical middle name of Marie or Ann, etc. After learning about my family tree and the strong women who carried that name, particularly my mother and Nana, I became so proud. It seemed only natural, like an homage, to name my brand and shop after such incredible women. For me it is about strength, determination, independence, and passion. It also helps that it allows for so many fun play-on-word scenarios.
Do you have a failure story to share?
When I was living in New York in 2012, I opened a shop on 5th Ave in Park Slope, Brooklyn with my business partner. He and I had been working together for about a year building a streetwear brand prior to making the decision to open the shop. He was creative, but didn’t have the money, tools, or skills to execute designs. I worked a full-time day job in retail management and would spend my nights sewing the clothes.
My partner ran the shop and handled the day-to-day operations. I was pumping money into the project, wearing myself thin, but it all seemed worth it. My job moved me to Los Angeles and the shop stayed open, but our communication began to fail. A couple months passed, and I began asking about the financials. We were selling so much product, but I had yet to see any returns. When I reviewed the flow sheets and ledgers, we were very successful, but there wasn’t anything to show for it. The rent wasn’t being paid, and we had to close our doors.
My partner was using the money for personal gains and squandered it all away in no time. I was angry and frustrated, to say the least. We didn’t have any formal documentation to outline our partnership so I was not protected. I had spent half of my annual income for two years without any way to get that back. I was foolish and too trusting, too eager. So many lessons learned from that experience.
What is your #1 piece of advice for a budding entrepreneur?
Work hard, do what you love and be nice. In an industry that is so competitive, you have to work hard to make an impact. This can mean working many jobs at once; working 15+ hour days for weeks, months or years; wearing many hats; staying in a place of learning; and being goal-oriented. When you are passionate about the industry in any capacity, it is the most effective source of strength and motivation. And let’s be real, being nice is not a common trait of many industry professionals. Not only does this set you apart, it makes people remember you and want to work with you over and over. This doesn’t mean you are a pushover, or that you don’t know your value, or that you won’t have haters. It just proves that you can see the bigger picture.
Do you think Oregon is a good place to start a business?
Oregon has been very good to me. I have lived in a lot of places, some creative epicenters, others still carrying on with an old-world way of doing business. Oregon, Portland in particular, is filled with makers. Not only is a huge part of the population doing what they love, but they are actually successful. This isn’t possible without the support of the community and organizations (like OEN!). There is an air of caring and genuine interest in things made locally. There are so many events to participate in that can lift you up, giving you visibility, allowing for growth and success. It is just awesome! My favorite place!