The art of repairing clothes was being lost, but with half a million taking up sewing in the last year in the UK alone, a whole new generation is picking up the thread and the trend is quickly catching on here in the Middle East.

The demand for dressmaking and tailoring has skyrocketed

When Fabricandmore.net (“we sell fabulous fashion fabrics you just can't find in a souq,” says Simone Hasker, the shop's owner) opened its doors in 2015, they had expected to be reasonably busy. That turned out to be an understatement. They weren’t just busy, they were inundated, getting busier all the time. And then the recent economic slump arrived – and business went through the roof. 

“Since the economic recession hit recently, people became more conscious of cost and started valuing their clothes more. We have seen a huge increase in home sewing and tailoring,” says Hasker. The online shop, based in Dubai, turns out a constant supply of dresses and copied favourites. While the fabric sales are the bread and butter of the business, they have also on demand expanded into Wholesale fabric supply for local businesses in the fields of Fashion Design, Corporate Wear and Interior Design.

According to Simone it’s a huge growth industry but there are not enough trained dressmakers and tailors that understand Western clothing and levels of service. “I’m always being asked to show people how to put in a zip or sew a button. It’s just not taught anywhere any more. Good clothes are like old friends and it’s nice to see when people know what suits them best and copy them over and over in different fabrics and design variations.”

Making or upcycling clothes may seem like a humble pursuit. But research by the Craft & Hobby Trade Association (CHA-UK) shows that the entire crafting industry (which also includes knitting, cake decorating, painting and other handycrafts) is worth a whopping £3.1bn to the UK economy. It is also, as if from nowhere, wildly popular. About 3.5 million people in the UK are involved in making their own clothes with a sewing machine according to CHA-UK, and of that number 433,000 only started sewing in the last 12 months.

“The last few years have been epic for the industry,” says Simone. She thinks that as people stay on longer in the UAE, this has driven people towards a more Make, Do & Mend mentality, and growing environmental awareness is making people more conscious of where their clothes come from. “People are trying to be less disposable. They would rather buy something quality and keep repairing or copying it. TheGreat British Sewing Bee helped a lot [John Lewis has seen a 22% increase in sewing machine sales since the show ran last year] but shows like that simply piggy back on existing trends. It was already happening.”

Upcycling is an easy way to start sewing at home

Dressmaking and refashioning has also seen a huge upsurge in interest, partly thanks to the internet.  The techniques of sewing are the same now as they were 100 years ago. There is nothing new when it comes to making things. But over the last few years people have begun to find each other and share ideas as they have never been able to before. There are fresh ideas in terms of design and colour, and a change of aesthetic. It’s brought a whole new audience to the hobby.  

Sewing and mending communities are springing up and forming networks via Twitter or Pinterest, and learning has never been easier with Fabricandmore.net offering sewing classes from its Jumeirah studio from Beginners right through to Draping and Pattern Drafting for the more advanced.

"For those who can't make it to a physical class, our online courses have also proven popular, given they are supported with online chat groups with other students globally and the ability to watch and rewatch lessons in your own time and in the comfort of your own home".  Fabricandmore.net also offers sewing machines online which include instructional DVD's to get started.

That is a kind of satisfaction that can’t be beaten, according to the nouveau-stitchers. “People want the satisfaction of being creative,” Simone says. “But life is also busy and this is a way people can find each other, they can find their creative outlet.”

Do you love to sew and create your own clothing?   Do you find tailoring a difficult or simple process here in the UAE?  Share you thoughts with us below on why you love to make your own clothes (either yourself or by someone else).