Photo: Rizwana Matadar at her sewing machine. Photo supplied by Rizwana Matadar

Islamic Lifestyle

She said sew: British modest fashion designer’s abaya and shalwar kameez online courses are flying off the shelves

Rizwana Matadar doesn’t just design, produce, and sell modest fashion. She also teaches people how to sew it.

“I just wanted to encourage the community to go back to sewing again,” the entrepreneur told Salaam Gateway about her motivation to start the online “Because I Said Sew”.

Rizwana picked up needlecraft at the age of twelve and she now teaches sewing techniques, covering everything from measuring, pattern drawing, and cutting and sewing abayas and shalwar kameez.

“My approach of going through all the small details for beginners makes the difference,” said the entrepreneur.

The approach has paid off—the courses quickly gained her hundreds of registrants and almost 5,000 followers on Instagram.

“It's just absolutely hit the roof,” the designer said. “I've got 500 people in six months on this course,” Rizwana said about the more popular shalwar kameez course.

Fees for the abayas and shalwar kameez courses start from £100 for specific skills such as measuring, drafting and sewing to £200 for direct support from Rizwana herself.

She also provides free tutorials, bonus lessons and cheat sheets to help participants pick up or sharpen their sewing skills. The designer also runs a private Facebook group where students can reach out for support and share their tailoring stories.

Encouraged by the response, Rizwana last month added a new children’s wear segment.


Because I Said Sew isn’t the British-born Indian’s first taste of entrepreneurship. In 2018 she set up a few industrial sewing machines and hired a couple of seamstresses to start her modest fashion label COVERME.

“I do all the designing and fabric sourcing myself,” said Rizwana, adding that 90% of the garments are made in-house.

For her last collection, she exclusively purchased materials within the UK, and despite supply chain disruption concerns due to the pandemic and Brexit, the business still ships worldwide, including to the U.S., Canada, India and the UAE.  

“The world is your oyster. That's the best thing about online, isn't it,” said Rizwana.

Pre-pandemic, COVERME was sold on the brand’s own e-commerce site and was also stocked by several small retailers across the UK. This year, however, the brand reduced collaborations and works exclusively with one retailer — the J Islamic Lifestyle Store by’s ability to take larger volumes simplified Rizwana’s sales operations during the economic upheaval caused by the pandemic, which saw the UK’s total annual expenditure on clothing drop by 11.5% within a year from 61 billion pounds to 54 billion pounds in 2020. (Retail sales have shot up in April and May this year as shops re-opened.)

It takes the fashionista typically three months from initial idea to a ready-made collection but she doesn’t design from scratch each time. Her strategy has been to carry through for redevelopment into different fabrics the best-selling designs from the previous season. She also adds at least four to five new pieces every season.


Rizwana is emerging as quite the talent in the UK.

She was on the finalists’ list for the British Muslim Awards 2020 as “One to Watch” and in June she was shortlisted for the inaugural Faduma’s Fellowship design competition, alongside only five other British designers whose remit is to create a functional and culturally-nuanced collection for wheelchair users that will be shown at London Fashion Week in September.  There’s also £10,000 up for grabs.

Back at COVERME, Rizwana has spotted a gap in the UK modest fashion market that she believes she can excel at.

“I think there is a massive gap for really beautiful chic abayas that fit into the UK market,” she said, a conclusion she arrived at after researching the market, trends and catwalks.

“This year, we managed to do the matching hijabs as well.”

COVERME’s latest collection comprised 500 pieces.

Moving forward, the businesswoman sees her competitive strength in producing exclusive prints that set her abaya designs apart.

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