In Gaza, retouching tailors under attack

Forcibly moved to Rafah with his family because of the war that has been raging in the Gaza Strip for eight months, Abou Bilal goes to a street designer, such as one can find in the congested arteries of the city where he piles up more than a million refugees, to “to patch up” clothes, tells a Palestinian journalist to the Lebanese site Daraj.

This is one of the consequences of the conflict for the inhabitants of Gaza. Number of these displaced people who had to hastily flee their homes “only have the clothes they wear”. So, over time, they end up wearing out. And because of the lack of food, “many people’s clothes have become too baggy” for them.

And since new clothes are very rare and unaffordable for most Gazans due to the almost total siege imposed on the enclave, many “have no other choice” than turning to retouchers to patch or shrink the only clothes they have.

Pedal sewing machine

Akram is one of these tailors from Rafah. He tells Daraj that it works non-stop, that the number of customers can reach “around a hundred people per day”. Initially, he sewed by hand, without his electric sewing machine, which was inoperable due to the electricity shortage, but the amount of work was too great.

“With the increase in work, I decided to look for an alternative to operate the machine (…) and I found an innovative method on the Internet by connecting the machine to a bicycle.”

An exercise bike, to be precise, connected by a chain to the motor of the sewing machine which turns with the pedaling action of Akram’s son.

Nassim, another designer, also opted for the bicycle system but it is he who operates the pedals and by hand. He explains that the main difficulty “is to obtain the raw materials for the work, such as thread for example”.

Shortages make all these materials more expensive, and retouchers, to find their way financially, are forced to adapt the price of their service. “Everything is expensive, the goal is to have money to live”, Akram explains. Despite this, it is still less expensive to go to a tailor than to buy new clothes.

His clients, Akram says modestly, “find in my work a solution to their difficult situations”.

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