Colleen Moore is the owner and creator of White Orchid Bridal in Knoxville, Tennessee. Modern Ink is privileged to have her guest blogging for us today, as she reflects on her childhood inspirations and the roads that have led her to become the creative designer and entrepreneur that she is.
As far back as I can recall, I have been fascinated by and have admired lovely, lady-like things. I was the child who carried a purse, sported dress shoes to the horse barn, and wore dresses whenever possible. I only played with dolls to change their outfits, and dressing up for me truly was “dressing up.”
One of my earliest childhood impressions was a book about a little girl who took ballet. It wasn’t the dancing that kept me interested in the book–it was the drawings of the costumes. I remember sitting with my sister and staring at the pictures, debating who would wear the short tutu and who would wear the long one. That was when the wheels in my head first began to turn–I loved the idea of making those decisions–which fabric was best for what costume and on whom.
I began taking ballet at the age of eight. I always enjoyed ballet and the art of movement, but I think deep down it was those darned costumes that truly stole my heart. I remember sneaking around the hallway corner in the dance studio I grew up in, with hopes of stealing a peak at the costumes and tutus hanging upside down…oh, how I desperately wanted to grab one and put it on! In the following years, I became very involved in ballet, and after the obvious wonder of what role I would be performing, the next important question to me was, “what costume will I be wearing?” I spent hours of my life drawing and sketching everything from costumes to ball gowns, and I delighted in every minute of it. This is the role I would later play in life– costumer, designer, and constructor of all things beautiful.
I decided to pursue a career, not in design, but in dance. To this day I wouldn’t modify that choice, though sadly my career as a dancer was cut short by a serious knee injury, again steering my life in a different direction. I graduated with a degree in dance, but I knew my path needed to head toward something else. I just wasn’t certain what that something else was.
After graduation, I spent a few years “coasting.” I waited tables, taught ballet, walked dogs…I began making things. I taught myself how to sew while in high school, and decided to utilize what I had learned by making my own clothes. I also slowly began making pieces for other people: odd things here and there, but one project in particular was of interest to me. A friend of mine was getting married, and she asked if I could make something special for her hair. She knew I made many of my own costumes and hair pieces for ballet and thought I would enjoy designing something for her wedding. Not only did I enjoy it, I instantly knew it was where I wanted my career to head.
So, I did it. It was gradual– a job here, a job there, while continuing to work my other jobs. I found it so rewarding, that it didn’t matter how much of my free time was occupied; it was how I wanted to spend my free time. I laugh now thinking back on those formidable years…working out of my apartment, with cats roaming around and guests sitting on my goodwill sofa! I am so thankful to each of those people; they trusted and allowed me to gain experience and a reputation, while I built my confidence and skills in the process.
I knew I needed to open a shop of my own. My business was rapidly outgrowing my apartment… all you needed was to look around. The kitchen table was completely overrun with fabrics and craft supplies; a huge garment rack hung in the hallway, and bridal magazines were strewn about everywhere! In 2008, I found a little store front absolutely perfect for me and opened my shop White Orchid Bridal. Why “White Orchid”?… quite simply, orchids are my favorite, especially the white ones.
Since opening in 2008, my life has been a roller coaster ride. My shop is unlike any other bridal shop around, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. When I initially opened, my concept focused more on custom accessories and vintage dress redesign and reconstruction. To my surprise, there was an interest in custom gowns, so that was the direction I moved toward, designing and sewing custom wedding gowns.
Each day of the week is unique, and each project I work on is varied from the last. It’s impossible not to walk away from my shop with unique and different… I never make the same thing twice– that would be boring for me! Some days I sketch and design; other days my hands are stained red from dying fabric, or I am busy taking apart someone’s mother’s wedding dress in order to make it wearable again.
I absolutely cherish what I do. It’s difficult and challenging in so many ways, yet nothing compares to seeing a blissful bride walk out my door. I’m an old-fashioned person–I put an incredible amount of hard work and time into every item I design and create… weddings are special and should remain that way. My goal is to continue designing and creating heirloom quality work in a time where everything is mass-produced and packaged. I like knowing I offer something rare, something one cannot find anywhere else, something personal…something special.
Visit Colleen online at http://www.whiteorchidbrides.com/ or at her store front: 1200 North Central Street, Knoxville, Tennessee 37917.