New Brunswick

Syrian tailor opens own shop in Fredericton

Ahmed Hallaq studied for five years to become a tailor in Syria. He said he and his brother-in-law built up a tailoring business that at its height had 30 sewing machines.

Father of 2 works part time job while sewing coats in his own shop

​Ahmed Hallaq just opened his own tailoring business in Fredericton. His shop known as Ahmed Designs. 0:43

​Ahmed Hallaq's hands fly over the pattern he has created for a coat he designed. The outline is marked in chalk, and Hallaq begins cutting the material to make a sleeve that will have thin strips of leather to match the design on the front.

Hallaq has just opened his own tailoring business in Fredericton. His shop known as Ahmed Designs has one sewing machine, a vacuum press for pressing clothes, a serger, cutting table, many bobbins of coloured thread, small stacks of material, and some recently finished women's coats. It is located at 930 Prospect Street in Fredericton, Suite 203.

Hallaq studied for five years to become a tailor in Syria. He said he and his brother-in-law built up a tailoring business that at its height had 30 sewing machines. 

"We were not workers, we were owners. And then the war started and we had to leave, we had to leave everything," said Hallaq.

Hallaq and his family were living in Aleppo when the bombing started. He remembers leaving in the early morning, with only what they could carry.

They rented an apartment in Turkey for four years, but were told they would never be granted citizenship, as millions of other refugees poured into the country. Hallaq, his wife and two children arrived in Canada in February. He told his story through the friend and interpreter sitting next to him, Antoinette Ajaltouny.

Encouraged to start business

Antoinette Ajaltouny, a tailor herself, says she encouraged ​Ahmed Hallaq to open his own business. (Catherine Harrop/CBC)

When Antoinette Ajaltouny, who is a tailor herself, interviewed people for part-time work at Moores Clothing in Fredericton, she said Ahmed Hallaq stood out from the rest.

"So he came to us for work at Moore's, I got to know him, and I knew that he could be something great, seriously," she said. 

She encouraged him to start his own business.

Hallaq works two days a week at Moore's and the other days he is in his own shop from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. 

Ajaltouny said almost everything in the small room, and the room itself, was subsidized or donated by people who believe he can make it into a thriving business. 

Presently, he is making floor-length coats for Syrian women who can't find any in Fredericton, but he is open to all work.

"People around here are really good people, because without that I wouldn't be anywhere," said Hallaq. 

Hallaq quickly added he wanted to "thank the Canadian people and the government for giving me a second chance in life."​

About the Author

Catherine Harrop loves a good story. She has been a journalist for more than 25 years.