Sew Loka Handmade Artisan Collective | Claudia Rodriguez | www.sewloka.tumblr.com
Tell me how and when everything started.
I’ve been sewing since I was 8 years old. My father was a denim distributor in Los Angeles, and he taught me everything I know about clothing and fashion. I have always dream of opening a small boutique where I could allow my creative juices to run wild, and that dream became a reality in February 2013. We found an awesome location in Banker’s Hill and immediately began inviting local artists to join our handmade collective and sell their beautiful creations at our store. We now have more than thirty artisans in our collective, and everyone does something different. Sew Loka is handmade heaven!!
When did you first know that you wanted to be a business owner?
I have always aspired to be a business owner; when I was very young I used to help my dad sell his handmade creations at the local swap meet and I would also organize monthly yard sales at my house in San Fernando. Even when I was working odd jobs during my teenage years, I still would make time to create custom one of a kind handbags and sell them to my co-workers. I started to notice that my creative side business was more lucrative than the nine to five job that gave me zero artistic pleasure. It was then that I decided to focus all of my attention on fashion, design and creation. I quit my day job, left my home in San Fernando, started my new life in San Diego and never looked back. It was the beginning of a new artistic journey!!
Where do you get your inspiration for your shop?
Sew Loka was inspired by the awesome handmade artistic community that exists in San Diego. Before opening Sew Loka, I used to vend at many cool crafting events all around San Diego; I met many local artisans and was very inspired by their unique, one of a kind creations. I wanted to open a store that showcased all of the local talent that existed right here in beautiful San Diego. I also wanted a studio space where I could work my own custom projects that included the upcycling & recycling of gently used fabric and clothing. I realized that if I opened a storefront I could achieve both of these goals. My fiance and I put our entire life savings together and decided to take a chance and open Sew Loka’s in Bankers Hill, San Diego. It has been a wild ride!!!
What advice would you give someone considering a similar path?
The first bit of advice I would give is “stay positive”. In retail, a fun, cool, creative personality is everything. There will be very hard times, difficult struggles, setbacks, and financial issues – but you must always remain optimistic and never lose hope. For me, the struggle continues each and every day but I know that with hard work and a positive mindset, I can achieve anything.
What makes your shop unique?
Sew Loka specializes in one of a kind creations. Our local handmade artisans contribute funky items to our store that you can not find anywhere else in the world. I also specialize in the upcycling and recycling of gently used fabric and clothing – what does that mean? It means I can take your worn out jeans and turn them into a cool, stylish wallet or I could cut up your old jacket and transform it into a fashionable handbag. I tell people, don’t throw away your old clothing!!! Turn them into something new!!! RECYCLE RECYCLE RECYCLE!!! Everyone recycles plastic bottles, paper, cans, etc., but clothing is the fastest growing waste product in North America, with 12 million tons of textile waste just last year. Our motto is “Why toss, when you can floss?” 😉
How would you describe your personal style?
My personal style is inspired by the artistry of my Mexican ancestors. I enjoy working with fun, youthful patterns that incorporate bold, beautiful colors. I also love the concept of creating something from nothing. Recycling/Upcycling clothing is my true passion!
What’s next for your company?
Sew Loka is planning more awesome events for the upcoming holiday season. We just hosted a free upcycled fashion show for the local community and it was an awesome success!! I also plan to continue educating everyone I meet about the importance of recyling their unwanted clothing and demonstrate to them the many ways that Sew Loka can help them save the planet in style. I will also be in Las Vegas for the Magic Trade Show on August 19th, displaying my handmade handbags and zipper pouches for potential buyers all over the world – very excited!!