We first met Abdallah in February 2015 in a small, cramped workshop in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s largest city. He shared the workshop with 3 other, much younger tailors who he seemed to go out of his way to mentor. The workshop was very hot and humid, and we can remember finding it difficult to try on samples!
It didn’t take us long to realise that Abdallah is an exceptionally talented tailor, and a specialist in pattern cutting. The beautiful African print clothing he was producing was made even more impressive considering his working conditions. Each time we visited Abdallah at the workshop our hearts sank as we felt that he deserved to be running his own workshop and business.
A few months later, after Abdallah had finished making our new collection, our founder Sian was delighted when he asked her if she could help him to buy a new overlocker machine. Sian knew it would allow him to start working from home, as he already owned his own sewing machine, so she jumped at the chance to help!
A New African Fashion Workshop is Born!
As soon as the new overlocker was purchased Abdallah turned the front porch of his house into a miniature workshop. He was now able to work from home for our next order and retained all of the profits for himself instead of sharing them with others. However, we soon realised that this set-up was far from ideal as Abdallah shares his house with other families. We knew it was necessary but also only a short-term solution.
After finishing the collection we gave Abdallah a small project to focus on when Sian returned to the UK. We asked him to find out where would be a good location to open a new workshop and how much it would cost. We did not want to open a workshop for him, as it would not be sustainable, so we were delighted when he told us he had a plan!
In May 2016, Abdallah proudly opened his very own workshop for the first time using the profits he made from our orders. He also invested in 7 new, good quality, industrial sewing machines and employed two other tailors to help him during peak times. His new recruits are called Hassan and Mrisho. Abdallah taught them how to sew when they used to live in Arusha (northern region) together.
Abdallah’s new workshop is directly opposite his home so he no longer has to travel by bus for at least an hour each way to the shared workshop. His children often play in the street outside so he gets to spend more time with them and they can also learn what their father is doing.
The new workshop is also next to Abdallah’s mosque so he can easily attend prayers throughout the day and pop back home for lunch. In the near future, Abdallah plans to move to a larger workshop closer to the city centre. He intends to hire and train more tailors to work with him so that he can utilise all his new sewing machines to increase productivity.
The opportunity of working with Kitenge has allowed Abdallah to increase his income, job security, become more financially independent and provide for his family more easily. Abdallah has recently been able to purchase some land so that he can start to slowly build a family home of his own. It has also helped to reduce local unemployment.
Find out more about Abdallah, his amazing work and his new workshop in this video interview.
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