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Fashion, Urban Culture

Why Not Sew That $500 Designer Dress?

When was the last time you stared at a D&G window and wished you could own that pretty pair of floral pants without having to spend your entire salary? Or how often do you try a blouse you like but wish it were tighter from the sides, slimmer on the waist, larger on the shoulders…

The first thing that comes to your mind when you land on a Facebook page with a sewing machine as profile picture is “definitely not for me!”. However, this time I insisted on digging deeper to see what the sewing machine had to offer. Behind a page called “The Old Fashioed Way” was a young talented women who taught people how to sew whatever they want, ranging from pyjamas & clothes to bags & headbands! This short interview with Layla, an english teacher who turned into a sewing teacher, will definitely make you try to design that perfect dress you’ve dreamt of but never been able to find in the stores…

Tell us a bit about Layla, what are your hobbies (apart from sewing), your likes & dislikes.

I’m English, from London, but my father was Lebanese. I had never visited Beirut before 2009 when I came here on holiday and met my husband! I was a high school english teacher in London and wanted a change when i moved here so I listed all my ideals in a job and came up with “The Old Fashioned Way”. It started as a hobby on the side but since then has become my only job. Apart from doing that, I love cooking, and that has crept into the sewing business too as I bake for all my classes. Other than that you can probably find me sitting in the sun with my head in a book or playing with my two cats.

Can you give us a briefing about what products & services you offer?

I offer different levels of sewing classes to anyone who wants to learn: women, men and children! The beginner course, for those who have never touched a sewing machine, is a 4 week course, where you will learn everything from the basics of threading a sewing machine to making simple clothes. I also offer more advanced classes in clothes making and longer courses covering detailed tailoring techniques, such as making a winter coat. I’m hoping to begin a class in pattern drafting soon.

Do you provide students with ideas or you let them bring their own inspiration & sew as they please?

In the beginner class students have set things to make such as a tote bag, a zipper bag, a pair of pjs or a top but within that scope they can use their own inspiration to pair colours and fabrics together and come up with an original piece. In other classes we usually stick to one garment, example a dress but again within that they are free to choose their own style. At present I have a coat making class with 9 different students all making 7 different coats….its tricky for me but I want them to love their finished piece. If a student comes to me with a specific idea or project in mind, I’ll do my best to help them fulfill it. I’ve had one student make her wedding dress and others make bridesmaid dresses.

How did you come up with the idea of sewing your clothes and bags? Was sewing a family tradition?

My mother always sewed when I was younger so I kind of always knew a little bit about how to sew but it wasnt until about 5 years ago, when I started becoming obsessed with vintage clothing, that I really learned how to make clothes. I was frustrated with not being able to find the clothes I wanted to wear in the shops and turned to ebay where i found masses of vintage sewing patterns. My mum came to stay for a weekend and we sewed a few dresses together and from there I was hooked! After that I started thinking further about how unsustainable and damaging for the environment and others buying clothes was and decided only to wear what I had sewed. From there, it was a natural progression to get others sewing too so that they could also limit the amount of cheap fast fashion they purchased.I see sewing as a way to escape mass consumption, creating my own clothes and helping others to create theirs is a form of self expression that is not dictated by the fashion industry or consumerism. Sewing and “The Old Fashioned Way” isnt just a business for me, it’s an ethos, I dont want to be part of a capitalist system where we are made to feel we have to keep buying or dressing a certain way in order to be part of society.

Are you a fashion lover? Do you follow the latest trends or do you prefer setting your own original trends?
I wouldnt say I’m a fashion lover in the sense that I dont believe in following any fashion trend that has been dictated to me by the media or the industry. But I do love clothes! And I love the way that I feel I can express myself through my clothes. Most of the time I would say I dress like a cross between an 8-year old and a 1950s housewife….I’m not sure that’s a trend!
If you’ve fallen in love with the idea, you can contact Layla through her Facebook Page or Blog

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