Sew much creativity: Truckee designer stitches eclectic style into one-of-a-kind apparel
December 8, 2014
TRUCKEE, Calif. — Whimsical, imaginative and free from any sort of traditional wardrobe, Kaiya Waler's hand-sewn clothing line has generated a sizeable following from North Lake Tahoe to the Gulf of Thailand.
The laid-back thrift-store junkie is known for her eccentric style and patchwork aesthetic, gleaning inspiration from a blended palette of nature, music and self-expression.
"I love when I'm out walking with Leia (dog) and I catch myself staring mindlessly at patches of colors — leaves, lakes, anything really — and all of the sudden a new idea for a color scheme or pattern will come to me," said Waler, scratching her loyal husky, Leia, behind one ear. "We're lucky to live in such an inspirational place."
STITCHING THE PATCHWORK PIECES TOGETHER
Raised within Southern Oregon's progressive and artsy backdrop, Waler developed an eye for risky and eccentric styles at an early age, but her seamstress skills needed time to catch up.
"When I was 16 or 17, I remember making a Halloween costume using my dad's staple gun," she said while taking a break from the needle and thread at her home studio in Truckee. "My mom didn't sew much, but she owned a sewing machine and when she started to notice my interest in making clothes — well, stapling them together at that point — she handed it down to me."
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Waler laughs at the flashback, revealing a striking smile, adding "it's crazy looking back on where it all began."
At that point, Waler knew next to nothing about being a seamstress, let alone running a business, but like any determined rookie, she began experimenting with different colors, materials and styles, honing in on feminine and ethereal trends.
"I started digging through thrift stores, cutting up whatever I found, and mismatching the pieces back together or adding patches to things," Waler said. "I progressed to the point where I could see what patterns worked well together and what didn't, and how I could create my own look out of recycled pieces."
After graduating high school, Waler moved to Bellingham, Wash. — another small city characterized by its picturesque scenery and free-spirited culture.
CUT FROM THE SAME CLOTH
Through a friend's referral, Waler snagged an ideal living situation with a self-taught, expert seamstress who shared in Waler's views on eco-friendly, handcrafted wearable art.
"When I first met her, I knew we were going to hit it off right away," Waler said of her now-business partner, Glacia Rain. "She pushed me to realize I could sew full-time, and she also taught me how to use a Serger sewing machine, so I was able to create better quality items that would last longer."
At the time, Waler was well on her way to establishing her precision, artistry and individual style, but she was still dabbling in random odd jobs to pay the bills.
As the new roommates settled in, Rain encouraged Waler's growth as an artist, so the young designer slowly started letting go of the outside distractions that were diluting her creativity.
Under Rain's established brand, Intergalactic Apparel, the designer duo got down to business, building their inventory of authentic, gypsy-like, festival wear and launching a sales page on Etsy.
The brand instantly took off on Etsy, opening the door for Waler to become a full-time designer with complete creative freedom and a top-notch business partner to boot.
INSPIRATION FROM AFAR
In 2011, one year after the launch on Etsy, Waler and Rain found themselves being pulled in different geographic locations amid their growing business endeavor.
"When we were sewing across the table from one another, we bounced ideas off each other, we'd construct things together, and we played off each other so well," Waler said. "That part hasn't changed — we don't need to be across from each other to still be able to inspire one another."
The pair parted as roommates, with Rain en route to Colorado and Waler bound for Tahoe, but their friendship remained strong and their business even stronger, evolving in ways that reflected their growth as individuals and as artists.
"We get really busy in the summertime vending at festivals all around the West Coast, and we try to attend all of them together so we can represent our items, plus it gives us a chance to meet up and share our work," Waler said.
SEW MUCH LOVE
A few months ago, Waler introduced a modern, edgy spin-off line dubbed, Sew Much Love — a career milestone that marked her first stab at a solo brand.
The design aesthetic of Sew Much Love — which operates under the Intergalactic umbrella — showcases a medley of Waler's gypsy-like-festival-style (think authentic feather headdresses, tribal-inspired dresses and tops, and an overall fairy-meets-gypsy-meets-forest-pixie vibe) blended into a collection of sophisticated, tailored jackets and hoodies that reflect Waler's ease and undeniably cool fashion sense.
In collaboration with local graphic artist Tyler Minnick, of Sacred State Design, Waler has been dabbling in screen-prints — a fresh form of creativity that she's incorporating into her brand of hand-stitched pieces.
"Working with Tyler has really inspired me because there are so many possibilities with screen printing that I had never even thought about before," Waler said. "I want to keep working with artists like that who challenge me, and I'd also like to get Sew Much Love items into local retail stores.
"I'm ready to challenge myself and take things to the next level."
You can learn more about the brands at etsy.com/shop/IntergalacticApparel —or, search "Intergalactic Apparel" on Facebook
Jenny Goldsmith is a North Tahoe-based freelance writer and a former reporter for the Sierra Sun newspaper. Have an idea for a merchant to feature? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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