All around us there are businesses small and big headed up by inspiring women. Some work online, some work in a physical space, some work during the days, some work during the nights, some work alone, some work together: the more we share, the more we can learn from each other. And the more we learn from each other, the more we can teach the ones following in our footsteps. May these women inspire you as they inspire us.
Today on the blog we interview Jaime and Tracey, the owners of sewing space Make Mee Studio in Lewisham, London. Enjoy!
We are Jaime Greenly and Tracey Mee and we run Make Mee Studio. We offer sewing lessons for children and adults from our backgarden studio in Lewisham and around our local community with youth groups, older people’s organisations, charities and schools. We were both taught how to sew at a young age and have always been passionate about sharing our making skills with others.
Tracey is a very experienced seamstress who has been working in the business for over 18 years. She started as a costume assistant working for Grenada and the BBC, going on to run her own bespoke label and then she began teaching 8 years ago and fell in love. She is one of the most precise sewers you’ll ever meet and always has a handy hint or trick up her sleeve. She loves keeping the studio neat, tidy and organised – everything has a place.
Jaime studied Textile Design gaining a Masters from Chelsea College of Art. Her passion lies in sustainable fashion and textiles, and she began teaching as an antidote to the endless cycle of fast fashion. Teaching people how to make, sew, fix and mend themselves can have a huge impact on how they consume and how they feel about their clothing. She is a self-taught dressmaker and loves encouraging people to make things unique. She’s a magpie for anything, velvet, fluffy or sparkly and is terrible at keeping to Tracey’s organised system.
You are the founders of Make Mee Studio in Lewisham, London. Can you tell us how you started and what was the inspiration or drive behind starting your own business?
Jaime: We met around 7 years ago when I started teaching at a sewing school where Tracey was already working. Tracey left to start a family not long after, but we stayed friends. She bought a flat in Brockley, where I lived at the time (I like to say she followed me there, but she disagrees!). She had her kids and I carried on teaching and doing different freelance jobs, but, working on something together had always been in the back of our minds.
Tracey: I have dreamt of having my own sewing studio for a long time, so my husband and I built the studio at the end of our garden where I could have a peaceful oasis to sew myself and teach from.
Make Mee: Starting the business together just seemed to make sense. We saw a gap in the market in our local area and it’s something we are both passionate about, and of course two heads are better than one! We each bring different things to the table and have the same core values about what we want from the business. We started running courses very tentatively for children and adults about 18 months ago to see if it would work and the business started to grow and grow and we added more classes and have applied for different bits of funding for external projects, now it’s almost a full time job for Jaime and being at the end of her garden Tracey is able to work around her young children.
What is the biggest challenge you face in your business?
Make Mee: At first it was getting people to know we existed! Being located in a back garden is lovely and tranquil, but we don’t have a shop front so we don’t get any passing trade. We had to work hard to flyer our local area, attend every networking event we could and have a strong online presence to get people through the door. Now it’s really great when we talk to new people and they say “Oh, yes I’ve heard of you!” And lots of people are spreading it by word of mouth, which is always the best kind of marketing. Lewisham and South East London in general is a hotbed for small start up businesses and everyone is so supportive of each other which also really helped.
You teach a lot of kids. How do you see your role in teaching these children about sewing and how clothing is made? Is there a responsibility you feel there?
Jaime: For sure! We teach children from as young as 6 and we think it is vitally important that children learn from a young age where their clothes come from and how they are made. So many children and even adults don’t realise that people are making their clothes, or even how fabric is made, being grown and farmed or synthesised from oil. We talk about it all the time in our lessons. We think the act of making something gives you a deeper appreciation for where the products you buy have come from, and the effort that goes into them. We try to instil a sense of pride in what our students make and encourage everyone to put their own individual stamp on a piece. We want people to love what they make and not worry if a line is a little wonky. Things will be wonky when you first start to learn a skill but that’s the beauty of it.
We’re also big on mending and upcycling: we’re running a Refashion Challenge at the moment (#refashionchallenge) to see what creative ideas our students and followers come up with from waste. It has been really inspiring.
What do you love most about passing on the skills of how to sew?
Jaime: I love meeting new people and teaching them something new and useful. I love how creative and enthusiastic the young people we teach are, they have far less hang ups than adults often do about things being perfect and just go for it. We try to get them making cool things they will want to wear and use: we get them making bomber jackets, jumpsuits, etc. Or even making up their own designs. Learning to sew doesn’t have to be about making a frilly apron, like it used to be! I love watching people who thought they couldn’t do something be proud of their achievements.
Tracey: Sewing is such a handy skill and I love passing the skills on. I love seeing people getting excited about what they have made and seeing them progress. I really enjoy meeting new people and sewing is so inclusive that you get to meet all different kinds of people.
How do you think sustainability will integrate into our clothing industry in the next few years?
Make Mee: We felt encouraged by the recent House Of Commons Environmental Audit Committee report on “Fixing fashion: clothing consumption and sustainability” as it seemed like they understood the problems and came up with realistic solutions, but whether any of those changes make it through parliament is another question. It’s a step in the right direction. They suggested, amongst other things: tax reforms, more transparent supply chains, companies being penalised for not adhering to guidelines, tax incentives for companies to reuse, repair, recycle, as well as sewing and repair skills being back on the national curriculum which would all make a difference.
We think change has to come from everyone: government, brands and consumers. We hope we are doing our small part by encouraging people to make and mend more and care about their clothes for longer. As teachers we want to spread the message to everyone, as young as possible that you can love clothes and fashion in a way that isn’t harmful to people and the planet. We think people are waking up to this idea.
Thank you Jaime & Tracey!
You can follow Make Mee studio on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and book classes on their website. Look out for their Refashion Challenge for Fashion Revolution Week!