UAE National Day: Self-taught seamstress creates a special clothing from recycled material for Dh51

Indian expat Shefali Gogna creates a specially designed jacket for the UAE's 51st National Day


Lamya Tawfik

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Shefali Gogna. — Supplied photo
Shefali Gogna. — Supplied photo

Published: Mon 28 Nov 2022, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Mon 28 Nov 2022, 10:06 PM

A self-taught seamstress gave herself a challenge this National Day: Create an item of clothing from recycled material at a cost that doesn’t exceed Dh51.

“I wanted to pay tribute to the UAE’s 51 years and put in all my creativity to design and produce the piece,” said 26-year-old Shefali Gogna, who hails from Punjab, India, and has lived all her life in the UAE.

To keep the project under Dh51, Shefali and her mother had to use some serious negotiation skills. “Someone was selling this jacket for Dh80 and my mom brought down the price to Dh30,” she said.

The different elements she used include beads that she had bought for a different project and which she used to write the words of the national anthem at the back of the jacket – she estimated Dh3 for them. She also used two metres of fabric that is made by using the local weaving technique telli (Dh8), lace fabric with the colours of the flag (Dh8) and a flag that she added to the front of the jacket which cost her Dh2, bringing the total to exactly Dh51.

Shefali used the telli fabric as a design element and to add the outline of Burj Al Arab to the front of the jacket. She also painted an image of the founding fathers and an image of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan against a flag all done with glitter. One of the sleeves she wrote the names of all seven emirates in different languages: Arabic, English, Urdu, Bangali, Malayalam, Hindi and Tagalog. The mountains and sand dune are also featured on the jacket and of course, the words “Happy National Day”.

“I wanted to keep this on a small budget because while anyone can spend money, when you have limited resources, it becomes a creative project,” she said.

On the National Day, if she stays in the UAE, Shefali plans to wear her jacket and go to the Global Village. She would love to tell the story of the jacket to anyone who asks, she said.


Growing up, Shefali said that she was inspired by her mother’s creativity. “She would take a simple piece of fabric, add lace and then turn it into something fancy. I remember as a child thinking, I want to do this.”

After getting her Bachelor’s degree in commerce, Shefali worked in customer service before deciding to leave the corporate world and pursue her passion – sewing. She said that while she likes to design, her true enjoyment is in working with her hands. “I love the craftsmanship and I love to stay active. At home, I would never stay idle, if I find some time on my hand, I’ll stitch anything, even a sofa cover,” she said, laughing.

Shefali said that she learned everything she knows from YouTube and from walking into random tailoring shops and talking to those working. “This is practical knowledge which is extremely valuable. I speak to them and learn about the latest sewing machines and things I need to get to become better and better. You know, the machine I use at home was actually recommended by a tailor,” she said.

One day, Shefali said she would love to make a career out of it. She hopes to study fashion technology and in the immediate future, she plans to start sewing clothes for people professionally. “I already do that, I started out by sewing scrunchies and now I stitch dresses,” she said as she went through pictures on her Instagram account.

One of her objectives is to move people away from fast fashion that she said sometimes exploits cheap labour. She is starting by herself and wants to gradually change her wardrobe and only wear things that she makes herself. “I think I would like to teach people to do the same. It’s sustainable too,” she noted.

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