The Piedmonter’s refined dress designs already have a faithful following.
Finding herself at a critical crossroad in life, Piedmont resident Kia Moore chose a courageous path. When her second of two adult sons left for college in 2019, the long-time stay-at-home-mother began to think about the next phase—only to have her ideas to return to the workforce abruptly halted in early 2020 when the pandemic hit. In 2022, Moore buffed up her resumé that includes a background working in finance and serving in multiple capacities as a parent: classroom volunteer, chauffeur, at-home educational supervisor, bookkeeper/oversee/manager of the family’s medical, legal, and financial obligations and daily schedules, and more.
“Searching for work and making a resumé was, well, not fun,” she says in a phone interview. What was fun, however, was thinking about the sundresses she has long loved and dreamed of creating under her own brand. A memory from years ago involving working with the fashion stylist for Brooke Shields to retrofit the actress’ wardrobe reminded Moore of her instinct for fine fabrics and an eye for clothing with refined, simple designs that fit like a second skin on the female body.
Following a trip to Los Angeles with friends that inevitably included shopping for and researching custom designed dresses, Moore dove in to her entrepreneurial urges. She went online to register Kia Moore Dress as an LLC and began buying fabric at retail prices and engaging a Piedmont-based dressmaker who could make items without patterns. “I would draw a cruddy drawing and describe it, and then we’d make adjustments. I knew it wasn’t sustainable to work that way: buying expensive fabric for one or two dresses,” she says. “But I was figuring out what I ultimately wanted to make. After six months, I went to the Los Angeles Fabric Show and looked at fabrics from all over the world. They were much less expensive because they were wholesale.”
Realizing she had to slow down and restructure her process, she attended fabric shows and seminars, took classes online, and talked to everyone possible to learn more about the industry. Soon, Moore found a company that assisted her to develop her first few dresses and made the patterns and the tech packs she now takes to a factory in San Leandro for production.
Development and manufacturing took longer than anticipated, with her first summer dresses launching in September 2023. “That timing is the number one no-no,” she admits, before returning to her innately sunny and optimistic outlook. “This means I’ll have them ready in the Spring and I’m working on three new ones to add so I’ll have five summer dresses, two fall/winter, and about eight dresses in the line.”
Piedmont’s Lesley Evers is a local designer Moore has followed and offered advice during the early days. “I called her and told her what I was doing and she said, “Do not do it. Run away.” Later, when I went ahead and launched, she called and said she’d help me with anything. It’s a tough industry and I know as a sole, woman-owned business, the odds are against me. I’m trying to be savvy and smart as I find my niche.”
Central to Moore’s “niche” are likely to be the highly curated sustainable fabrics she selects. “It has to feel good, be comfortable to wear. I can’t really say how I know, it’s just instinct?” she says.
The Beth Dress (pictured in top photo), a mid-length dress lined from the waist down and featuring a self-tie belt, front slit, and sleek silhouette, comes in a silky navy blue and pink paisley fabric. “The moment I saw the fabric, I had to have it. I asked the vendor, “How much do you have?” It’s deadstock from Italy, meaning it was leftover from something else and is considered sustainable because it’s already been made. By buying it up, I’m saving it from going into the earth, into a landfill.”
Her dresses, she likes to say, are unfussy, simple, and “one-and-done.” A person can toss it on, dress it up or down with a jacket or jewelry, and always count on comfort. “There’s no tight waist like in pants. When it’s hot, it’s heaven, compared to jeans and a t-shirt. It’s the opposite of restrictive. And I try to have pockets in all of them. Everyone but my sister likes that; she’s in the minority.” Inspiration drawn long ago from designers like Calvin Klein, whose clothing was sophisticated without being fussy, extend to Moore’s overall style. “My hairdresser is always trying to get me to have my hair blown dried, lifted, and swirled. I just want mine straight, and to wear no makeup, like you’re on the beach. I have an old photo with my sister and [me] in matching dresses. They’re pink and orange stripe, sleeveless, and straight, like a shift.”
In her closet today are favorites: a Cynthia Rowley dress that’s blue with pink, orange and yellow flowers she says are “four colors that just work together.” The fabric in another dress is pink, purple, light blue and dark blue. “People stop me, including men, to say they love it. It’s an Indian block print by a brand named Banjanan,” Moore says.
Asked about selling online at her website and advertising her brand through social media, primarily Instagram and Facebook, Moore says her immediate plans are to take her brand to more online clothing platforms, specialty bricks-and-mortar boutiques, and resort shops in Hawaii and Southern California. Recently, she celebrated a milestone: the first dress sold to a stranger instead of someone she knows locally or through friends, family, and social connections in Piedmont. Eventually, with more visibility and orders, Moore hopes to change the company’s name from Kia Moore Dress to KMD. That, she says, would be fun to have on the label.