February 12, 2009

The Star newspaper dated 24th June 2007

Smocking good designs

Photo by RICKY LAI

For me, of all the crafts, smocking is the most practical because you sew on clothes" - ROZANA GARIB
A handicraft lover turns her hobby into a little business.

VISITORS to the Plaza Mont’Kiara flea market might walk past the unassuming stall. It looks like the dresses on sale can be bought from any night market.

However, if you examine closely you will notice these are no ordinary dresses for little girls. They are smocking dresses – that’s a careful embroidery technique over pleats in the fabric. At the stall sits seller Rozana Garib, 40. She not only sells these dresses, she’s also the one doing all the smocking.
Rozana says that she’s had shoppers dismiss her smocking dresses, thinking they were made in Vietnam where labour is cheap and then brought in by her and sold at a higher price.
Rozana has a pleater machine in her house and lots of fabric and some half-sewn ones for those who don’t believe she does the smocking herself. In fact, if you ask her, she’ll probably give you a demonstration of how she does smocking.
The humble and friendly woman explains that she went into this craft by accident.
She came from an accounting line and when she followed her husband to Cape Town, South Africa, in 2000, she stopped working.
She was introduced to smocking when one of the other Malaysian wives in Cape Town wanted to learn smocking and they needed a minimum of six people to start a class.
“I had never heard of smocking before that. I don’t remember if I ever had any smocking dresses when I was a child. So I said, ‘Smocking ... okay ... what’s smocking?’”
Since she loved handicrafts, Rozana joined the class. The classes only went on for about 10 sessions but that’s where she not only learnt the fine art of smocking but also how to cut and sew dresses.
Although she also attended decoupage classes and candle making classes, smocking is the one that she really fell in love with.
"I like smocking. For me, of all the crafts, it is the most practical because you sew on clothes. “Decoupage is nice, but it’s only for decoration,” explains Rozana. Initially she sewed dresses for her nieces. Then when she had her daughter Ameera, now three years old, she started sewing dresses for her instead.
“I used to tell my nieces to wear my smocking dresses to birthday parties and to make sure they tell others at the party that their aunty sewed the dresses. I had never sewn before and then when I came back I was wondering if I should go back to work or not. Finally, I told myself okay-lah, I will go and sell at a flea market once a week, but I wasn’t that serious about it,” says Rozana.
She was initially at the Subang Parade flea market where her smocking dresses sold like hot cakes. But the requirements to sell there were harder to meet and so last year she moved to the Plaza Mont’Kiara flea market.
Rozana explains that she’s more interested in doing the smocking than sewing a complete dress. What she does is she buys the fabric, does the smocking and then sends it to the tailor to sew into a dress. In a week she can complete the smocking for 10 fabrics.
"Sometimes the tailor cannot cope with the amount of fabric I give her. Sometimes I send 15 at one go. “Then I’ll call and ask her if she’s done and she’ll say, ‘Not yet, Kak. Not yet’,” says Rozana.
Knowing that smocking dresses are worn as party dresses and not in as great a demand as T-shirts and skirts, she doesn’t sell at the flea market every week.
In addition, friends also help her sell the smocking dresses in their offices. In fact, she says she sells better at the offices than at the flea market.
Rozana has considered all her other options for doing the business like having her own shop. However, she doesn’t want to end up minding a shop from 10am till 10pm daily.
As far as supplying to shops is concerned, it is much harder to sell because after the shop has marked up the price, Rozana feels the dresses become a bit too expensive. She explains that although her supply seems greater than demand for the rest of the year, she makes up for this during the Hari Raya season when there is great demand for her smocking dresses.
Rozana has all the smocking books she needs just in case anyone ever asks for a special design. But, she says, so far nobody has. Probably most people are still not familiar with smocking and the possible patterns and designs that can be sewn. Rozana is willing to custom-make designs for customers, too.
The dresses are for children aged six months to seven or eight years old.
“I like it. It’s interesting. But now I understand when people say you need to be mentally and physically strong to sell.
“If you sell at the flea market, on and off you can sell.
Rozana can complete the smocking on one fabric in two hour s.

0 Message(s):