Like a concert pianist, Mariam Dudashvili took a deep breath, brought her fingers forward and pressed her foot into the pedal below. But instead of the classical music she learned as a child in her native Georgia, it was the repetitive sound that filled the room as she deftly slid fabric under the fast-moving steel needles of her Juki industrial sewing machine. hers. “I love that buzzing sound,” Dudashvili told me with an infectious smile, as she finished another apron in the We Make Good textile mill on Dublin’s Mountjoy Square.
udashvili, her husband and their two teenage children went to Ireland to seek asylum in June 2019 and the family has lived in Direct Provision since then, first in Gorey, and now in Wicklow.
Recent years bring a catalog of fear and drama to their lives as they flee Georgia. Having lost a pregnancy and suffered from depression, Dudashvili’s determination to do something positive during the pandemic has evolved into something very special and rewarding.
What started as a hand-made mask project at the Direct Provision center in Courtown quickly became a success story and with a friend, she made 4,000 masks, giving them away for free to those at Direct. Provision and nursing homes. . Locals in Gorey donated a sewing machine, fabrics and a place to display her home crafts for Christmas, all of which led to Dudashvili where I met her today. and her job is as the main machinist at We Make Good textile mill.
It’s been a long daily commute for Dudashvili from the Direct Supply center in Rathmore, Co Wicklow, where she lives with her family. Rising at 6am, you’ll find her behind the sewing machine at 8:30am, where she works until 4:30pm.
As Ireland’s first social enterprise design brand, We Make Good offers a range of products designed by some of Ireland’s best emerging innovators. All works are created by people facing social challenges and they are supported and trained so they can develop valuable skills and gain employment in their profession.
When Dudashvili and her family arrived in Ireland, they spent a month in the Clayton Hotel near Dublin Airport before being moved to Courtown, near Gorey. Two years later, they were moved to Wicklow, which Dudashvili found difficult to forge many good relationships north of Wexford.
“It was very difficult to live in Direct Provision, but I felt happier in that tiny room in Courtown. We were two adults and two teenagers in one room. We passed two door locks and also two Leaving Certs. It was really, really hard, but the people and staff were as supportive as they could,” said Dudashvili, who used to work in digital advertising in Georgia.
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Three years after arriving in Ireland, Dudashvili has now settled down here. “We met new people and had new traditions, new food. I love when I walk down the street seeing people smiling, saying hello even though they don’t know you, asking each other every day at work, ‘How are you? What is your plan for the weekend? ‘ like support people, always willing to help if they can. I can say that I feel more like here now. “
Dudashvili’s daughter hopes to study medicine. Her son played rugby for Gorey and Wicklow, and his dream is to one day become a pilot.
It’s been a year since Dudashvili joined the We Make Good studio, first making aprons, then cushions and Christmas products. This fall, she is working as principal mechanic in its collaboration with the Council of Fashion Designers of Ireland (CIFD). The studio sampled patterns for different designers, and Dudashvili worked on the AW22 clothing collection for designer Heidi Higgins, who was “very happy” with their work and continued for a second season. .
“This is the first time I’ve done such a large order and I’m really glad I did, because when I saw it being completed I said to someone, ‘OMG, I did it, I can’t believe it. Wearing Heidi’s clothes, it’s a very interesting style. I love her designs. ‘”
When you’re addicted, you just have tunnel vision and see one thing, which is drugs, and that’s opening your mind to a real new world.
On his daily three-hour commute, Dudashvili has time to think about what’s next and the possibility of designing his own pieces. “Since I was a child, I have loved sewing. Growing up, I used to watch my father work on a Singer sewing machine, making clothes. When I am sewing, I feel happy. I have never lost this feeling. When I’m in the car, or walking, I’m always looking at people and what they’re wearing… and I’m drawing up new styles for each person,” she says.
You can see the same chains of hope multiplying in all corners of the textile mill, which now has seven people. It is managed by Sarah Verdon, who has previously worked for John Rocha and Simone Rocha, and she helps mentors expand their skills and create new lives for themselves.
In addition to providing work for refugees like Dudashvili, We Make Good helps people rebuild their lives after a variety of challenges, including those already struggling with addiction. Dubliner Nadine Flood once dreamed of becoming a hairdresser, but drug and alcohol addiction pushed her off that path and became homeless.
Flood said: “I left school pretty early at 14, to do my hair and get an apprenticeship, and then life got a bit chaotic.
“I started taking drugs around the age of 15 and for many years it was a feeling of euphoria, no stability, no sense of purpose, to be honest in this life. I had a job, I worked in accounts payable, hairdressing, retail. I work at Laura Ashley, so I got a feel for the fabrics from there.
“Last year, I cleaned up and started volunteering in a charity shop on Camden Street. Then I saw this job advertised on a website and I said I would give it a try.”
A year since she joined the studio team, Flood is now adept at backing up, and she laughs as she announces to the group, “Curtains next.”
Every morning when she arrives at work, Flood, who now lives with her family, says she feels close to achieving her dream of having a home, a stable life and, of course, giving wings to her dream. ever dream. she first ended up homeless.
“This time three years ago, I was in treatment. After 8 months of treatment, I recovered and relapsed. When I started here in the textile mill last November, I was very clean. I fell in December but work fully backs it up. Anyone else would get you out the door but they worked with me all the way. Seeing myself still standing here today, I cannot thank them enough.”
Flood says the team on set has been a huge support for her. “Honestly, I am still standing but they are with me, we are with each other, all of us. Not only did I get through it, the whole team got through it.
“I know absolutely nothing about fashion and I couldn’t even sew a button on my first day here. As soon as I knew I could use the machine, I flew – and I don’t know myself now. I have my own machine there to take home. I’m just enjoying the process. I want
see myself making both fashion and homeware in the future. “
As for creating a cushion for a future home, she says that’s what she’s hoping for. “I want to be able to do that. I talked about that from the very beginning. It will be nice, something to look forward to. “
As part of her recovery, Flood has support from Smart Recovery CBT in Donnycarney and completes the Steps program the studio facilitates when it comes to time off. “When you’re addicted, you just have tunnel vision and see one thing, which is drugs, and that’s when you really open your mind to a new world.
“I walked the streets, slept in tents, stayed in hostels and stayed at the Portobello Hotel for a while, but I decided to go back to my grandparents, Joan and Christy. They mean the world to me and, especially when I’m recovering like that, there’s just so much temptation out there. “
Since joining the studio, Flood spends a lot of time watching videos on social media platforms about clothing and homewares.
“Now I check everything, even the clothes that I receive – are they properly taken lightly? Are there threads hanging out there? The main goal is that I now have a machine to work with and listen to. From makeup bags to sewing your own dress one day, who knows what the future holds? “
Across the set, Virgine Gnrofoun is a fashion face, as she wears traditional African clothing. She came to Ireland with her husband and family as a refugee from Togo in 2005 and when it comes to her Irish citizenship, she has the biggest smile on her face. She now lives in Rush, Co Dublin, where her 18-year-old son is attending the Leaving Cert program.
“I always sew African printed cottons, dresses, blouses, dresses, blouses and I heard about We Made Good through one of my clients, a woman from Kenya that I sewed. clothes for them”.
It was 2019 and at the time Gnrofoun was homeless and was on Gardiner Street. She started working at the studio in August of that year.
“I have been making clothes for many years. I learned to sew when I finished and have sewn every day since then; that has always been my job,” she said.
What Gnrofoun enjoys most about working at the studio, she says, is all the new skills and techniques she’s acquired. “I don’t know many technical parts of sewing and construction. I learned a lot of new things about sewing and products ranging from zippers and pockets to knitted garments and finishes.
“I love to wear African clothes and I have a lot. In the summer, if I go somewhere where there will be a lot of Africans, I like to wear African clothes that I did. Sometimes I wear my African clothes on Sundays, even just at home. In my country on Sunday, everyone likes to shine. We put on our best clothes and wear them all day. And on Saturday, you cook everything, so on Sunday you can enjoy the food in your nice clothes without the smell of cooking. “
The last CIFD AW22 show gave the entire studio crew a chance to see their work on the professional catwalk. They spend time watching videos with cups of tea and slices of cake to celebrate.
CIFD President and Founder Eddie Shanahan said the partnership is going very well. “What we have in the studio are people who are skilled, passionate and see the real path to success and personal fulfillment. We Are Good is providing a much-needed service to the Irish fashion industry and manufacturing to international standards, says Shanahan.
After a flight up the stairs from the studio, Caroline Gardner and Joan Ellison, the co-founders of the studio, which opened in 2018, are busy in their offices, working on new projects. “Behind each of our products is the story of an individual who has overcome adversity in life with extraordinary determination,” says Ellison. “We partner with renowned and growing Irish designers to show what we can achieve when we all work together to create a better and beautifully designed world. than.”
We Make Good sells a range of lifestyle products on its website, wemakegood.ie, and will be available at the Airport Ethical Christmas Market from next Saturday, November 19.
https://www.independent.ie/style/fashion/the-women-sewing-their-way-to-a-better-life-i-knew-nothing-about-fashion-and-couldnt-even-sew-on-a-button-the-first-day-i-came-in-here-42130558.html Women who sew their way to a better life: ‘I knew nothing about fashion and couldn’t even sew a button on my first day here’