Monday, June 10, 2019

Designing A Difference: Meet Rebecca Cahua of D.A.D. Sewing House

Rebecca Cahua of D.a.D. stands on the sewing machine floor at company headquarters in Dogpatch.
The fact that Rebecca Cahua is running late for our interview doesn't surprise me when I look around the busy sewing room of Designing a Difference (DaD), a full service sewing contractor, located on Indiana Street.

Workers at sewing machines with their heads bent and fingers moving rapidly worked on articles of clothing from local company, Amour Vert.  Nearby, tables were stacked with projects awaiting their turn from such companies as SalesForce and home interior companies such as Half Full.  A screen printing press next door worked on a t-shirt order for another client.

The white board behind Cahua's desk is filled with the status of incoming and outgoing orders and the smudges of completed orders are faintly visible under the new deadlines. Clearly, Cahua has a lot on her plate.

Her desk has a clear view of the action in the sewing room and although we couldn't yet see her we could hear the rapid clicking of high heels which announced her imminent arrival.

Why do you do what you do?
I see a real opportunity to have an impact in the community.  I want to be part of the creative process of others and help them bring their vision to reality.  And it is important to me to create local employment and keep contract sewing in San Francisco.  

We are a full service sewing contractor and we also offer screen printing and design development assistance.  We work with many corporate brands to oversee their entire production process.  One of the largest growth areas for us is in wearable tech products.  If it can be sewn then we can do it!

I was born in San Francisco -- one of six kids. We lived in the Mission but now I live in Burlingame. My mom was a single mom and drove for Muni -- including the T-line! She has some great stories from those days. I get a lot of confidence from my family. I was the first one of us to go to college and the first to own a business.  My siblings help me out a lot and I help them as well.  
Rebecca Cahua of D.a.D. in Dogpatch amongst her silk screen equipment at the company headquarters.

I graduated from SF State in 2012 with a bachelor's degree in apparel and textiles and then returned a few years later for my Master's degree.  While I was in college I created a successful swim line.

When I graduated in 2012 I founded a nonprofit called Hash Tag Lunch Bag SF.  I was inspired by a post I saw on social media of a group of young people in NYC who made lunches then gave them to the homeless.  I put the word out on social media here and a group of us met and assembled more than 300 lunches. They were gone in an hour.  We gather every month and all are welcome to join us.  

I also had the opportunity to work with football star Marshawn Lynch on his film -- Family First. I worked as a stylist and really did anything they needed on the film.  I found the experience really inspiring.  

I'm intrigued by the idea of meshing fashion with community service.  I also hope to restart a program that I founded to train people with employment barriers such as the homeless or at risk youth in the apparel manufacturing industry.  

In 2011 I had the opportunity to purchase the sewing machines and screen printing press machine from a company located in SOMA and was able to open the doors to DaD in this location in Dogpatch.

Why Dogpatch?
Even though I’m from San Francisco I didn’t know this neighborhood.  I started spending more time here when a family friend bought the building next door. 
(editor's note:  she is referring to the once famed party pad  and now the chic event space at 1200 Indiana Street.)

At the time our building was occupied by Hire-Ability, a non-profit job training program, as well as a mosaic tile packaging and manufacturing facility. We originally leased a small space from Hire-Ability then later the entire tile facility became available and we moved into that space as well.

I felt like there was not only a lot of creative energy in this space and in this neighborhood, but also a "get it done" attitude and both describe me and what I'm trying to do with my company.

What would you be doing if you weren’t doing this?
I would be writing and producing movies. The work I did with Marshawn Lynch on his project gave me a taste of that world. I feel that the best way to have an impact and spread your message is through film.

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