Melissa Squire is not your average designer, nor is she your average bride.
This past summer, the Saskatoon designer, who grew up in North Battleford, married Joel Clark, also of North Battleford, in an event that featured her own pinup rockabilly designs, including a truly untraditional four-in-one black and white wedding dress. The wedding itself was in no way traditional either, being held at Ness Creek in northern Saskatchewan with environmental friendliness in mind. Under the open skies, which poured rain down on them as the ceremony took place, the bridal party was decked out in Melissa’s glamourously quirky signature style, juxtaposed with the rustic charm of the boreal forest venue.
The co-owner of Alchemy Clothing and Salon’s experience co-ordinating her own unique wedding has prompted her to partner with make-up artist Jennilee Cardinal-Schultz in organizing the Not Your Average Bridal Show this coming weekend.
The announcement: “Taking place in the exclusive back area of Prairie Sun Brewery in Saskatoon, the show will feature Saskatoon’s coolest designers, photographers, salons, make-up artists, caterers, florists and more. All vendors participating in the show fit into one or all of these categories: custom-made, locally-owned and green friendly.”
About planning her own wedding, Melissa says, “Ordering run-of-the-mill, mass-made, low-quality wedding items from overseas just didn’t feel like it represented who my husband and I are – not to mention the environmental impact.” In setting out to find vendors who could offer her custom options for her wedding, she found an “amazing” pool of talent and products.
The Not Your Average Bridal Show came out of that search as an opportunity for couples wanting something extraordinary for their special day to meet vendors face-to-face all under one roof.
The show will also feature a fashion show by local bridal wear designers including Melissa, whose design sense is inspired by vintage ideals.
“Retro styles have always been very interesting to me, but I take a lot of inspiration from Betty Page, Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn and that sort of thing,” says Melissa. “The classic silhouettes seem to be what we always go back to from the decades since then and they seem to be more flattering for the majority of body types, I’ve found.”
Melissa says that’s why, as her career as a designer has progressed, she’s been sticking to her pinup rockabilly style.
“It’s really cute and the dresses are really fun.”
Her style may be based on an iconic look, but Melissa likes to add what she calls “badass pretty” to her styles, with funky prints and a little quirkiness.
If not polka dots and skulls, then it’s stripes and cupcakes and “all those cutesy, quirky, funky things.”
And she wears her own wares.
“Every day,” she says. “I don’t wear pants, always a dress.”
While her designs will be on display this weekend, Melissa points out the show is not necessarily leaning to rockabilly; it’s for people looking for interesting ideas, who don’t necessarily want the traditional white dress, classical music, church hall wedding.
“It’s for people looking for something different,” says Melissa, “something that really represents them as a couple.”
And that’s whether it’s a bride and groom, groom and groom or bride and bride, she adds.
“Being in the industry ourselves, Jenny and I have combined experience of about 15 years working with wedding parties, brides and grooms and because of that we know a lot of photographers, makeup artists and other vendors, and venues for that matter, that we respect and that we use a lot because we’ve had really good experiences with them.”
They’ve also talked with brides about their experiences with different vendors — what was good and what wasn’t good about them — and taking that all as inspiration they believe they have put together a group of people who are talented and more than willing to make that special event special, whether it’s a grad, anniversary or wedding, just what the customer is dreaming about.
She knows from experience it isn’t easy to find your dream wedding.
It was “a lot of work,” she says. “It was kind of a crazy.”
It’s hard to say just how much time she spent on preparations because there was so much else going on in her life as well.
“We got married July 5, and I had three fashion shows in June, also my grad dresses, and I’m on the Pride board in Saskatoon and Pride Week was two weeks before our wedding. It was a crazy time of not sleeping.”
In addition to designing and making her own dress, she also had five bridesmaids and five groomsmen to outfit, as well as accessorizing family members, flower girls and the mothers of the bride and groom.
The decor was eco-friendly. Their centrepieces were made with mason jars recycled from someone else’s wedding, plus pickle jars they had collected themselves. They were filled with vintage sheet music and flowers made from records and other recycled items. The place settings at the table were vintage records.
The rustic backdrop “in the middle of nowhere” was an interesting contrast to the rockabilly theme.
“A lot of people said that,” laughs Melissa. “They were asking what to wear, and I just said, ‘I’m going to be in a huge, fancy dress. Wear whatever you want, but that’s what I’m going to be wearing.’”
Her dress was designed with the day in mind.
“There’s a big dress that everybody has seen on Facebook with the big skirt, but the skirt comes off to reveal a mermaid-style dress,” Melissa explains. “The bottom portion, the mermaid part of the dress, is all black and the rest of dress is white with black accents. Then the black skirt comes off so it is a knee-length pencil dress, and that is also reversible to a plain black side.”
She laughs, “It was interesting to take off layers during the day and make the dress more functional, because it was pouring rain.”
They did have a backup plan of “not getting married in a field in the rain” but neither she nor Joel really wanted that.
“We decided it is what it is,” she says. “Nobody died from a little water.”
The minor disaster had an effect of bringing everyone together.
“It was really cool,” says Melissa. “Everybody got out their big umbrellas. Someone had a nice, big, white stand-up pop tent, so we got married right under that. Everybody came together. It was amazing.”
At one point during the ceremony, the rain just stopped.
“Everybody just kind of noticed it happening all it once,” she says. “It was very magical. Ness creek is a very magical place ... we forced everybody to drive hours and camp at our wedding, but nobody was sad about it.”
In fact, she says, guests who knew them well and those who didn’t came up to them to say it had been an amazing experience.
“They said they could feel the love and feel that everybody has this greater connection with us, which I found really interesting. It seemed like everybody knew us so well.”
Once the wedding festivities were over, Melissa and Joel took a week to go back to Ness Creek for the annual Ness Creek Music Festival.
“We spent four days at the festival hanging out with friends and relaxing and camping for a few more days after that, then we went skydiving at Moose Jaw.”
Melissa says she’d gone skydiving when she was 18 or 19 and she had always wanted to do it again. Her husband had never tried it, so she checked into it.
“The day I looked into going was the day the Saskatoon sky dive camp was over.”
They were disappointed, but decided to make a six-hour drive from northern Saskatchewan to Moose Jaw, went skydiving then drove home to Saskatoon.
Saskatoon is where Melissa and Joel ply their respective trades.
Joel is a journeyman electrician, with a goal of someday helping Saskatchewan become more environmentally friendly.
“We could use that,” she says.
Melissa, one of Pat and Brian Squire’s family of four daughters (all girls, even the dog) is continuing her career under her professional, maiden name.
“I’ve been working on that for too many years to change it,” she laughs.
And she’s had success.
In 2014, she was invited to do a runway show at Viva Las Vegas, the biggest Rockabilly Party in the world. The annual event sells out every year with 20,000 plus in attendance and is “a must” for those interested in rockabilly culture around the world. Her business partner Sara Whyte (also originally from North Battleford) and co-owner of Alchemy Clothing and Salon, Vamp Make-up’s Jennilee Cardinal-Schultz also attended to help prep a crew of Saskatoon models for the runway show.
It wasn’t the first time Melissa had received international attention. In 2012 she participated in Brooklyn Fashion Week where she was part of the “Emerging Designers Powerhouse,” showing off her line of clothes for spring and summer 2013.
In 2013, she was invited to include items in the Oscars’ Swag Bags that are handed out to all the hottest celebrities at the award show.
Back in Saskatoon, things are busy.
“At the store I carry over 40 other local designers’ products,” she says. “That helps, getting to know other people in the crafting and arts community and the design community. It gets our name out there a lot.”
Alchemy opened up four and a half years ago. In addition to Sara Whyte’s hair salon, there is a tattoo and piercing shop. Tatooists Shannon McLean and Kim Bernhard (who is originally from North Battleford) decorate not only the salon’s clients, but Melissa as well. She loves anything “pretty,” and some of her tattoos have been inspired by trips to exotic locales.
“I got one major tattoo per trip that we went on and now I don’t really have any excuse, I just get them,” she laughs.
She and Joel have a couples tattoo, a wedding gift from Shannon McLean.
Joe, the son of Dave and Naomi Clark who own Blueshield Locksmiths, has a skeleton key with roses on it on his inner bicep.
“It’s cool because his parents are locksmiths and he helped out with the business,” she says.
On the end of the key is an M for Melissa and on her own tattoo sleeve, there is a woman wearing a locket with a keyhole.
Melissa’s passion for design and sewing has been life-long.
“I sewed with my Baba a lot around five and she gave me my first machine when I was nine, for my birthday.”
Once she graduated from North Battleford Comprehensive High School, she started helping Linda Coe at her dance costume shop.
“I danced forever at Annette’s [School of Dance] and Linda was our costume mistress, so when I got done dancing in school I helped her quite a bit on costumes during competition season,” says Melissa. “When she closed her shop, she ended up giving me a serger for helping her out, and that was basically the day I started designing.”
There was, however, a false start toward a career in medicine at the University of Alberta.
“I only took a year then came back home,” she says. “It wasn’t for me.”
Instead, she worked at various jobs, saving money to travel with family and friends to places like Thailand, Indonesia, Samoa and Costa Rica.
“I didn’t have a career. I was working here and there and doing what I wanted. I was happy, that was what I was doing, being happy.”
She says just being happy is what she learned from travelling.
“It influenced a lot of things in my life, and I think the biggest one was just seeing people doing whatever makes them happy. That was a big thing,” says Melissa.
She adds, “I found once you come home, anybody that you see who hasn’t seen you for a long time asks, ‘What do you do now?’ It’s ‘what do you do, what does everybody do.”
For Melissa it’s not about what you “do,” but whether you are doing something that makes you happy.
She had always continued to make jewelry, accessories and clothes for friends and for herself. She was working part time and doing her designs from home and it was becoming something larger, prompting her to open her design store in Saskatoon.
She continues to do what makes her happy.
“It’s really nice to come to work every day and be doing something I very much enjoy,” she says. “It’s an extremely creative environment and I work with very creative people who are very, very encouraging.There’s always something interesting going on here.”