Growing up in Eau Claire about a block from a thrift store, Moua would go shopping there with her family or even by herself. “I would buy the most random clothing that all my siblings would tease me about how weird I was,” Moua recalled. “Since then, I have been always looking for the most unique pieces. I feel you can only find the true, one-of-a-kind pieces at thrift stores.”
After making a thrift store find, Moua would alter the clothing, sometimes combining garments, to make unique pieces that expressed her fashion interests.
“My creations as a kid were rarely a success because I didn’t know how to sew and I was too impatient to hand sew,” Moua said. “I fondly remember that I would always try to alter my clothes to fit me or remove trims like a zipper and then add a newer and bolder zipper. I also recall shortening a maxidress into a miniskirt.”
After starting at Chippewa Valley Technical College to complete her general education classes, Moua transferred to UW-Stout to earn her bachelor’s degree.
“I picked UW-Stout because it is affordable and it was the closest school to me that has a fashion design program,” Moua said. “I love all the technical concepts I am learning in all of my apparel classes. I believe the knowledge I have, and will continue to gain from these classes, is what employers are looking for.”
Last fall, Moua was told by a friend, who used to work as a stylist for SHEIN, about an opportunity to collaborate on a collection, and Moua quickly contacted SHEIN.
“They liked my portfolio and wanted to work with me,” Moua said, noting SHEIN targets young and stylish women with affordable clothing. “I sent them a total of about 20 designs, and they agreed to produce all of them. The theme I wanted to follow was bright spring colors that shout out fierce, fun and flirty.”
Moua’s clothing line is named Sayndo. It is short for do what you say and say what you do. That was a motto her father, Nhia Shoua Moua, who died in 2017, lived by and instilled in his children. “It means to stick with what you promise and follow your passions,” Moua said, noting she has nine siblings.
One of her favorite pieces in the collection is a floral one-sleeve glove dress, Moua said. “I absolutely love this dress because of how sexy it is, yet fun, because of the spring-inspired floral print. I got to pick this print along with the colors that the print would be dyed. It was very fun.”
Another favorite is a backless blazer that has tints of yellow. “I am so passionate about blazers, as there are a few in this collection, and this is one of my absolute favorites,” Moua said. “It is very sophisticated with the shawl collar and unique one button, yet reveals the back in a sexy way, while having the security of the belt closure.”
‘A very talented designer’
Belinda Banike, UW-Stout’s fashion and retail program director and lecturer, said Moua is a great student who is committed to her coursework and continually produces high-quality work.
“Kalia is a very talented designer,” Banike said. “Her design sense has grown and improved over the time I have known her. Her designs are sophisticated while still feeling fresh and youthful. She also has a great eye for photography. I’ve enjoyed seeing her vision for her pieces come through using that medium.
“Kalia is a great example of a student we hope to see come out of our program. We give students the tools they need to succeed, but it’s really up to them to put in the work and make the most of their time here and she is definitely doing that,” Banike added. The company is working with dozens of up-and-coming designers, including Moua, who also turned the opportunity into an internship for school.
Students often work with companies as part of their internships, Banike said. “To have the opportunity to design a few pieces under (her) own name in collaboration with a company is quite rare and a unique experience,” Banike said. “It was a great opportunity for her and one that speaks to her abilities and talents as a designer.”
Moua said much of the work for the collection was done earlier in the fall, including the concepts and designs
“I had to sketch and use illustrator to create technical designs to share with the SHEIN production team so they can make the prototypes,” she said. “Then once created, they would send me pictures to revise/analyze fits and fabrics of the garments. Toward the end of the internship, up until now, I have been self-promoting my collection on social media, as I get a commission from sales.”
Having her collection out and for sale is just surreal, Moua said. “I honestly continued to scream out of nowhere throughout this entire journey because I had so much excitement and was in such disbelief that this was all happening,” she said. “When my collection went live, I had never been so happy and proud of myself, and it is definitely a milestone in my career.
“I can’t thank SHEIN enough for this generous opportunity and cannot wait to see what else is in my future. My dream job is to create clothing of my own, style it and photograph it. I want to create a brand that represents artists like me that love to make a statement.”
UW-Stout’s fashion and retail major offers three concentrations: fashion design and development, fashion marketing, and retail analytics.