Rome may be the epitome of a classic Italian city – but it has also long sat at cultural crossroads.
Today, that international influence is probably best seen in the city’s Esquilino neighborhood, so I was thrilled to head there a few weeks ago to meet with Lydia, Dawda and Kara to talk about their new initiative – The Sewing Cooperative.
Out of a studio near Santa Maria Maggiore, they have worked together to combine their experience as a dressmaker and Fulbright scholar (Lydia), and trained West African tailors (Dawda and Kara), into a one-of-a-kind creative collective.
The morning experience begins over coffee and pastries to discuss the initiative – which also takes place in collaboration with the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center.
The studio space is the perfect place to browse of the pre-tailored pieces and look for inspiration for custom designs.
Before leaving, you will have your measurements taken and a list of needed supplies in order to create your dream piece.
Then, it’s time to shop.
The Sewing Cooperative allows you to play a role in the design of your chosen creation. You can select from pillow cases, skirts, pants, or dress shirts – or come armed with an idea for something else.
You also select the fabric that will serve as the base of the garment, so we all set off together towards Mercato Esquilino to browse the stalls in the non-food section of the buzzing marketplace.
This was the most difficult part for me!
There were so many fabrics to choose from, that I had a hard time settling on the perfect pattern for my future pillows.
Luckily, I also got to live vicariously through the other guests on the tour that day and admire their choices for their bespoke garments.
And honestly, after seeing the trousers that were created for Pei after our market day – I will have to be it touch with The Sewing Cooperative for a few garments of my own:
Not only does the Sewing Cooperative show you an often unexplored side of the city, it also supports community members like Dawda and Kara (who are refugees) to continue to apply their long acquired skills here in Rome.
You can book the full experience, learn more and see available dates via Airbnb. However, it is also possible to support The Sewing Cooperative via direct orders (either custom or selecting from their catalogue of pieces). Please feel free to be in touch with Lydia.Witt@gmail.com to discuss!
As for our beautiful pillowcases, I am looking forward to falling asleep among the colors. And Jimmy? His verdict when I showed them off with a flourish: “Wow. We’ll be so fancy now!”