We had the good fortune of connecting with Sean Kam and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Sean, what’s the most important lesson your business/career has taught you?
Making the decision to run your own business takes courage, determination and understanding the amount of risk. But of all the things I’ve learned so far it is to be open to new ways of learning what I thought I already knew. In the words of Yoda, “You must unlearn what you have learned.” Sometimes, it’s not enough to just simply know. Of course, we’re enlightened with new discoveries, but to relearn something from a different perspective is always inspiring. It’s what drives me in every aspect of what I do as an artist, an entrepreneur and as a person.

What should our readers know about your business?

A great deal of thought goes into executing as many “re-envisioned” opportunities as possible. No collections. No middle man. No sending things outside the U.S. to be made. I take care of it all – from design and pattern drafting to construction and sewing. Specializing in ready to wear and made to order for women, men, and children. The clothing and textile industry are one of the leading contributors in global waste. I’ve taken great consideration in the production of every garment and how they are packaged, from garment production to packaging and tags.Together we’ll “create, re-envision, and repeat”. What I’m discovering lately is that I am receiving a lot of prototype and replication requests. To be a part of someone’s idea to create something new and turn them into 3 dimensional objects is truly rewarding. In addition to that, it’s nice to get requests from those who can’t find their one favorite garment anywhere. Rather than buy something they’re unfamiliar and unsure of, they get to have their favorite garment replicated into whatever fabrics they choose, sometimes with custom modifications. This adds character, longevity and quality to their garment.

What I’m finding rewarding and proud of is my internship program. When I started accepting interns, it was by coincidence. I hadn’t put out any solicitations and it was around the time I was considering help. Learning the ropes of entrepreneurship, taxes, and balancing my workload; YIKES! It’s enough to make you want to give up. But that’s why I started it. It wasn’t going to be easy and I knew getting help would make a huge difference.

I took my experience from past employers and internships and internalized all of what I enjoyed and what I didn’t, to create a fulfilling internship program. I want my interns to walk away with more than a “job experience” regardless of the paycheck. Here it’s learning to shift gears and adapt quickly, fine tune their sewing, draping, and pattern making skills, develop interpersonal skills while assisting clients and customers, identifying what skills they don’t like (cause let’s face it, you’re more likely to make a living for what you’re good at), and improve their knowledge. In school we’re all pressed for time, sometimes balancing 6 different assignments. In the studio we spend 2 hours at the end of the day working on getting interns closer to that job that they have their eye on or their entry submission to the design school of their dreams. Whatever it is, I got time for their professional aspirations and goals. They have access to supplies, the studio, professional mentorship, and based on skill level, assigned projects where they get to earn the commission they worked for.

Son of fishing parents and raised in Hawaii, I was raised to respect and care for the ocean and all its living creatures. As children my older brother and I would play in the tide pools watching all the little creatures swim and crawl about. Now working long hours as an ethical dressmaker takes a lot of my time. I started these illustrations as a way to break up my work day and get back to being creative and my Hawaiian roots. I began posting them on social media with information about each creature. It’s amazing how much I’m learning about them whether it covers myths, science, history, or cooking. It’s all interesting and amazing. You can find them on my website and at the Waikiki Aquarium on Oahu. Please remember to respect the land, sea and all its inhabitants. Malama Honua: “Take care of the earth.”

When I started my business I knew there were going to be challenges, long hours and lots of “huh?” and “WTF?!” moments. Understanding state and federal taxes is enough to make anyone’s mind explode. There are those moments when you feel like the system is working against you by creating all these confusing hoops to jump through. But I didn’t want to let my dreams and passions fall to the side simply because I gave up. So I learned everything I could just to get started. Doing everything myself does take a lot of time, some might call it counterproductive. To me it just means I’ll never be bored and I’ll have more knowledge when the time comes to expand. I’m in it for the long haul, so I might as well learn to see the red flags before it becomes a problem. Problem solving is a major trait that you need to acquire to run your own business, if you don’t already have it.

The point is to keep going and get to know people- professional or not. No one can do it all alone. So get out there, network, be vulnerable and have humility. “If you want to get there fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
My best friend is actually visiting from my hometown, Hawaii, as I am writing this. We both love animal watching and the ocean, so we’d probably start the morning snorkeling looking for leopard sharks and stingrays. Followed by the San Diego Zoo. We’re both surf heads and wanderers of the sea, so what better place to head next than the ocean. Surfing will always be in the cards. So we’d hit up some of the surf spots like Cardiff and surf till the early evening. Then we’d probably hit up In and Out Burger. He’s a professional photographer of wildlife and landscape, so ending the day at Sunset Cliffs for drone video shots and recording the sunset would top it all off.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?

“It takes a village to raise a child” and I believe that this is relevant throughout our entire lives. The person that we currently are is more than just where we came from and who we knew. Experiences and who we shared them with, even if just for a moment is all it takes to spark an idea or an ounce of courage to move in any direction of your life.

My mother was part of my first decision as an adult, to enlist in one of the military services. I chose the Coast Guard and after eleven years I believe I walked away with more life lessons that most don’t experience until their mid-thirties. But it wasn’t until the end of that career I began to see what the possibilities would be for me- a career in fashion and as an artist. My now husband played a huge role supporting my decision to attend design school and become a small business owner. Through it all I was able to have the confidence to take risks, ask all the questions and be passionate.

Website: thedressmakerca.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/the.dress.maker/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/seankamdesigns/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/dressmaker_llc

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DressmakerLLC

Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-dressmaker-san-diego-3

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutSocal is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.