Culture Report: Slow Fashion at Barrio Logan’s Sew Loka
Claudia Rodríguez-Biezunski wants you to make your own clothes — and build a more sustainable fashion economy.
With more attention on the social and environmental costs of “fast fashion” culture — the demand for cheap, readily available clothing with frequent seasonal turnover — there’s a shift toward DIY fashion. Sewing, mending and handmade clothes are on the rise (the Instagram hashtag #slowfashion has 3.7 million entries). And notable newcomers are the young people whose parents did not sew or teach them to sew.
“It’s really interesting when you see the age gap of the people who are wanting to learn how to sew and the ones that knew how to sew, and the in-between,” said Claudia Rodríguez-Biezunski, owner of Sew Loka, a “modern sewing studio” in Barrio Logan.
Rodríguez-Biezunski grew up surrounded by sewing machines. Her mother was a seamstress and her father ran a denim factory. And this trait won’t skip a generation; she’s raising her own daughter, Ise, in much the same manner. On a quiet Saturday in Sew Loka, Ise sat in a small chair with a tablet, surrounded by stacks of brightly colored fabric and racks of bobbins (how Ise learned to count), while Rodríguez-Biezunski worked on a custom order, fashioning a bright red sports jersey into the lining of a finely tailored grey suit jacket. She’s also starting to gather early cosplay orders for Comic-Con this summer.
In 2013, Rodríguez-Biezunski opened Sew Loka in Bankers Hill, and moved to her current fuschia-painted spot tucked in a Barrio Logan alley just over a year ago. Sew Loka’s services include custom sewing projects (like costumes, cosplay, dresses, corporate orders and more), repairs and tailoring and sewing classes.
Rodríguez-Biezunski’s journey to making her own clothes unfurled much like that of many punk fashion trailblazers: finding cheap (sometimes zero cost) ways to be completely unique. She wants to share that with others.
“I feel like DIY and making your own clothes is a way to have endless creativity and kind of challenge what clothes should be and how you can express yourself,” Rodríguez-Biezunski said. She also stresses that DIY fashion challenges societal norms about body size and shape. Sewing clothing directly to an individual’s own measurements, rather than standard sizes, reduces the perception that their body is misshapen or wrong.
Despite an uptick in DIY interests, fast fashion’s pressure on the industry continues to rise. Not only do merchants and individuals expect refreshed shop displays and online inspiration in increasing rates (“Now we have like 35 seasons,” Rodríguez-Biezunski said), the public increasingly demands low costs and near-instant shipping. But a changing global economy also points to some growth in consumer expectations for ethical and sustainable social practices, which is changing the way some fashion retailers approach marketing, if not actual practices, according to McKinsey & Company and Business of Fashion’s “The State of Fashion 2019” report.
While there’s a slight shift toward systemized fashion rentals and second-hand or sustainable buying, consumption is still way, way up.
“Research shows that the average person today buys 60 percent more items of clothing than they did 15 years ago. But consumers keep that clothing for only half as long as they used to,” the report states.
And the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s “A New Textiles Economy” Report points to the multilayered environmental harm. With over 100 billion garment pieces produced annually, manufacturing and production waste accounts for significant pollution, water usage and waste, but less than 1 percent of this clothing ends up being recycled or reused.
“We have that disconnection with the fashion industry. We have these ladies that are making their stuff and they’re getting paid like $10 an hour, and we wear it for a day and then it goes into the trash or into the donation pile,” Rodríguez-Biezunski said. “We’re not appreciating that hard work that goes into it.”
Rodríguez-Biezunski wants to teach people one by one to not only appreciate the hard work, but how to do it. Classes are customized for individuals, and much of her approach revolves around what each student wants from the class, even if the student isn’t quite clear what that is. It’s a business model that may seem to take a little bit more time and labor out of Rodríguez-Biezunski and Sew Loka, but — just like sewing your own clothing — fosters thoughtful consumers with unique style.
Witches, Star Wars and More News for the Culture Crowd
- There’s Christmas in July, and then there’s … Halloween in May? An ancient, traditional European witches’ celebration, Walpurgis Night, is April 30-May 1. To commemorate such joy, the Comic-Con Museum will screen the 2015 film “The Witch” on Wednesday night. (KPBS)
- I love this profile of Viejas-raised poet Tommy Pico, who is briefly back in town to read tonight at UCSD and Wednesday late afternoon at SDSU. “Pico believes in poetry because poetry believes in him.” (U-T)
- The Old Globe recently announced its 2019-2020 season, including a September run of the stage adaptation of San Diegan Cameron Crowe’s “Almost Famous.” (Union-Tribune)
- Ah, date night: Cronenberg’s “The Fly,” screens at Digital Gym on Friday, and then a UCSD cognitive scientist will break down the science and feasibility of the film, part of the Digital Gym “Reel Science” collaboration with The Nat.
- The monthly First Friday at Arts District Liberty Station includes dozens of open galleries, plus performances by the San Diego Ballet and Recreational Music Center.
- Best Practice hosts Chantal Wnuk’s “ I Dreamt of a Perfect Ocean, I Dreamt of Stepping in a Hole” opening on Saturday.
- Saturday is May the Fourth, which means both Free Comic Book Day and Star Wars Day. Some highlights: The Lafayette’s in-pool screening of Empire Strikes Back; the trilogy playing on the big screen at Tiger!Tiger! all day, and Rafter DJing at night; and use this handy store finder and comic exclusives roundup to find some good comic freebies.
- On Saturday, there’s a community conversation at the Skyline Hills Library as a build-up to Artists Building Community Project’s MOSAIC 3: Policing Ourselves program. The group asks, of creativity and community: “What are the rules we live by, and why?”
- Dancers of all levels can study with visiting dancer and teaching artist Mayfield Brooks at White Box Live Arts’ workshop, “How to PARLay the Dance,” this Sunday. Organizer Anya Cloud suggests interested attendees read Brooks’ essay, “Improvising While Black” in advance. (Contact Quarterly)
- On Sunday afternoon, dancer Alyssa Junious performs at Oceanside Museum of Art alongside the VALYA: She exhibition. Junious begins a three-part installation taking audience suggestions, and then will perform the full piece in July. Plus, it’s Free First Sunday!
- The Matthew Barnes: Painter of the Night exhibition at Oceanside Museum of Art closes May 12, but this Sunday will be your last chance to see it admission-free.
- Submissions close soon — on Wednesday — for 1805 Gallery and Porto Vista Hotel’s vending machine art project.
- This comparison of what $40 will get you at seven local farmers markets is a fascinating insight into locally minded grocery shopping. (Edible)
- Eat.Drink.Read is a fundraiser for the San Diego Council on Literacy, held Thursday at the Air and Space Museum. Chefs will create dishes based on their favorite books. (I hope nobody’s favorite book is Roald Dahl’s “The Witches.”)
- I guess the Modern Times beer shares thing went well. (WestCoaster)
- This food take is only 33 percent good (mustard is gross) but 100 percent funny. (CityBeat)
- San Diego pastry chef Lori Sauer appears on this week’s episode of competitive cannabis cooking, in Viceland’s “Bong Appetit: Cook Off.” A+ on the show name there. (Pacific)
What’s Inspiring Me Right Now
- San Diego writer Tenley Lozano’s stunning new essay, “Less Than 1% of Military Divers are Women — I Was One of Them,” sounds like it’s going to be a feminist takedown of the institution (and it kind of is), but what I love most about this piece is the way Lozano writes about freediving — somewhere between meditatively lilting and packed with scientific precision. (Catapult)
- Baby giraffes are speedier, cuter and probably more capable than most adult humans, don’t @ me, and the zoo had a freshie born on Sunday! (Pacific)