Celebrating a strong, creative, resilient Lunenburg County
NOW, MORE THAN EVER...
Story by Leena Ali
It’s a Thursday afternoon at Rezan Iso’s tailoring shop and a steady pace of customers drop off items for alteration or repair. Pants to be hemmed, curtains to be fixed, and garments to
be picked up. In between customers, Rezan works on orders and we chat about his work, shifting back and forth between speaking English and Arabic.
As I sit in the shop, I think back to when I first met Rezan, his wife Shahnaz Hamo, and their young son during their first summer in Mahone Bay. My father and I went to their home for a barbeque. I had heard so much about them from my dad and was looking forward to finally meeting them myself. I learned that the Syrian-Kurdish family had lived in Damascus where Rezan worked as
a manager in a clothing factory, and Shahnaz was studying law, before fleeing to Turkey during the Syrian civil war.
This fall marks four years since the family arrived in Lunenburg County, and many have come to know Rezan as ‘The Syrian Tailor of Mahone Bay.’
“Coming to Canada was a surprise,” says Rezan “Good surprise.”
“They told us, there’s a group that wants to sponsor you from this small place called Mahone Bay,” he says in Arabic, referring to the Mahone Bay and Area Refugee Sponsorship Group.
It was on his birthday when the family hopped on a flight headed to Canada.
“In the beginning, it was difficult – a new language, different habits – but there were people who I felt were trying to help me so that I could adapt to a new life,” adding that his sponsorship group also helped organize get-togethers and activities to help introduce the family to their new community.
After seeing that there were no sewing factories in the area, Rezan set up his own workshop in the basement of his Mahone Bay home. It was there that he designed and created women’s dresses, coats, children’s clothing and more. You don’t have
to spend much time with him to see the talent and passion he has for his craft. He says that his work was a key part of helping him get through the challenging transition of moving to a new country, adapting to a new culture, language and life.
During his first year, he also began sewing hats for Anna Shoub, owner of The Hat Junkie, in Lunenburg, and later worked on a line of yoga pants for local yoga instructor, Anastasia Akasha Kaur, among various projects for other community members. He later began operating out of a workspace above Ali’s General Store in Blockhouse, where he spent most of his time creating designs for the future.
“Here is good, there is work” he says, adding that if you have an idea, “you can do it.”
Today, he owns two businesses located in the Bridgewater Mall. In 2019, he purchased an established tailoring business, offering a range of services including custom tailoring, alterations and repairs. Just a few steps across from the tailoring shop is Rezan Clothiers, a venture he launched in February, selling men’s suits created from his original designs and manufactured in Lebanon and Turkey.
Since their arrival, Rezan and Shahnaz also welcomed their second child. In just a few years, it feels as though they’ve all become a part of our family too. Rezan even refers to my dad as his uncle.
Both Rezan and Shahnaz tell me that Lunenburg County has been a “nice and quiet” place to raise their children.
“It’s very good here for kids. Here it’s safe,” says Shahnaz, adding that her son really likes his school. At first it was “hard and new for us,” she says. “But we got support from our group and in the community here. People here are so nice and helpful.”
Rezan continues to study English and says that interacting with customers day-to-day has helped him improve his language skills. In the future, he plans to sell his men’s clothing line internationally, and one day expand his business to open a manufacturing facility of his own.
“When I want to do something, it starts with idea,” he says in Arabic. “The idea starts small and each year it gets bigger and bigger.”