Why cork fabric?
"Cork fabric is such an amazing alternative to leather. As soon as you tell someone what it is they immediately want to touch it. They expect it to be hard or brittle. It isn't. It feels like a quality leather, smooth and pliable.
Corks, actually, is better than leather because it is sustainable, WASHABLE, antimicrobial and hypoallergenic.
I want to expand my brand beyond the Islands. To bring "Made in Hawaii" to the masses, not just tourists. My designs reflect where I live but still translate to an urban setting. You can carry one of my Awa bags across the country and it doesn't look as if you just got back from vacation. It looks as if you are carrying a stunning, unique, well-made bag."
What drives Sew Da Kine?
"First, I love the process of creating. It's almost an obsessive need to fabricate an idea. However, the things that make all the late nights and long hours worth it is when my 8 year old daughter holds up a bag and says, "Look what mama made!" You can see that she's proud. Or when clients tell me how they love their bags. It's the best validation when someone that I've never met personally loves something that I have created."
How did Sew Da Kine and the Awa line begin?
"When I first moved to Hawaii I couldn't get, as my mother would say, "A real job". Thankfully, I had brought over all my supplies and sewing equipment from the States. I started sewing for other designers making their products. I watched the handmade market here in Hawaii. I looked for my niche. The coffee farms here use printed burlap bags. The tourists love them. I then started making burlap totes, hobo bags, and clutches. I'd sell the finished products back to the farms or I'd sell them at the farmers markets and craft shows.
I also wanted to do higher end bags like I designed in New Mexico. That was always in the back of my mind. But bills had to get paid!
At one of those craft shows I met an amazing local jewelry designer, Oona. (she is in my Kickstarter video) She told me about a local gallery she was in and thought they might like to sell some of the burlap bags on consignment. A sales rep saw my bags in the gallery, asked for my contact info, and called me up. She eventually got my bags in several stores on different islands.
During this time I was trying to figure out how to do higher end bags. Leather is HORRIBLE in the tropics. It molds and mildews in a matter of months. I started looking into vegan alternatives. I don't like vinyl. It just didn't read as high end.
Eventually, I was in a little general store on the island and saw some cork fabric bowls. That got me thinking. It had the feel of leather. I’d never seen anything like it before. I went home and started researching. All the high quality cork fabric I could find online was around $175 a square meter, retail cost. Obviously, I couldn’t afford that. Also, you can’t sell a product wholesale when you buy in your materials at retail prices and expect to make a profit!I bought 2 square meters, at retail, just to try it out. I fell in love! I started searching for manufactures in Portugal. Most of them wanted you to buy full rolls, 40-70 square meters. The price was reduced but still that was significantly more money than I could put down on a new, untested material. I found one sales rep from a manufacture who was nice. I talked to him back and forth about it for almost a year! Finally he let me buy a small amount at a wholesale price.I made a few bags and brought them with me to a small outdoor festival just to see the public’s reaction to them. People LOVED them. Even men were picking them up and touching them. No one around here had ever seen a purse made of wood that felt like leather. That’s how the Awa line of bags started."