Sweat Shop – Sewing Cafe, Paris

Sweat Shop – Sewing Cafe, Paris

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A Swiss makeup artist (Martena Duss)and an Austrian fashion designer(Sissi Holleis), came to the world fashion capital expecting to be wowed by Gallic savoir faire.

Instead, they found a city in which the relationship between ordinary people and the hallowed workshops of the great couturiers had broken down to the extent that – sacre bleu! – their French friends were asking to borrow their sewing machines

So they decided to open a friendly workshop in a quiet street near the trendy bars and boutiques of the Canal Saint Martin, where budding seamstresses and enthusiastic amateurs could practise their art while sipping an espresso or munching on Martena’s herb-laden Finnish cake.

The girls are also offering sewing courses and demonstrations from designers making it quite an attractive destination for budding fashion designers and fashionistas.

Martena Duss and Sissi Holleis have just opened this original new neighbourhood project, a ‘café couture’ where sewers can make their projects come alive. The cosy atelier space is available to anyone who wants to rent one of the ten Singer workstations for just 6€ per hour, or for a whole day (25€) in a cyber-cafe style set-up.

The Sweat Shop also offers daily workshops taught by professionals in the industry and held in small groups of 5 to 10 (20€-80€); the program is here. We recommend Sat afternoon’s (2-6pm)

The Sweat Shop is also open to anyone who wants to just repair and recycle old clothing, but doesn’t have the luxury of a sewing machine of their own. Their mantra: ‘Less buying – more trying !’

“We want to stimulate people to have a personal relationship again with their clothes,” says Duss. “In the last 100 years we have become estranged from the product. We live in such a consumer society. But if you make your own sweater you have a different relationship with it. You get closer to the product.”

Three weeks in, and business is already gathering steam. The clientele is mixed, with fashion students and vintage shoppers rubbing shoulders with children and older women who, like Duhs, enjoy the conversation as much as the craft. One customer, 32-year-old Julie Hervé, has signed up to the couture class in order to “perfect” her technique. “I like doing a bit of stitching but I don’t know how to do it really well,” she says. “This place seems very nice and it makes a good change from work.”

If the project succeeds in Paris, where handicraft is largely absent from the education system and still suffers from connotations of hippiedom and dowdiness, perhaps it could catch on elsewhere. Manchester, and London, maybe?

“There’s a crowd for it,” says Holleis, her heels clacking on the broken tiled floor. To her left, a counter of cakes stands alluringly in the Parisian sunshine, and the Singers sit on tables ready to whirr

written by Lizzie Davies /  UK Guardian

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