Traditionally, buying a kandura meant visiting the tailor, showing a sample of your design, and waiting for it to be made within a few days. For many decades, the practice has been the same. But with the rising popularity of online shopping in the region, buying traditional men’s clothing is steadily being modernised.
It was this gap in the market that drove Khaled Al Huraimel and Saif Al Midfa to open their Dubai shop Bait Al Kandora and establish an online shopping platform. Unlike many aspects of life in the UAE, they saw that the routine of shopping for Khaleeji men had remained relatively unchanged.
“This country has excelled in every aspect, from tourism to providing the best quality of life,” says Al Huraimel. “What we are proud of – the national dress – never developed. No one took care of the dress.
“You go to a tailor and you choose whatever fabric offered to you and leave, but we decided that we were not going to be another tailor.”
In launching their business, the duo plan to improve the shopping experience for men. Usually during special occasions, such as Eid, many men shop for a new kandura, gutra and sandals, but there are few shops that offer everything in one convenient place, he says.
“Usually, men have to go to different shops to complete their accessories,” says Al Huraimel, but often they have little patience for this. It was this realisation that led the team to offer home and online services to appeal to men who aren’t fond of shopping.
Bait Al Kandora launched last year, although Al Huraimel and Al Midfa came up with the idea 13 years ago. They wanted their brand to include kanduras, plus a full collection of wardrobe essentials, such as gutras, wallets, sandals, cuff links and undershirts. One point of difference is the fabrics, which come from Japan and Switzerland. All products carry the brand’s logo, which depicts a falcon with the Arabic numeral “V” (seven) on its neck, representing the seven Emirates.
The website, which gets about 2,000 hits a day, allows shoppers to choose colours, fabrics and different detailing options, and see it all come together. First, the customer chooses from Arabi, Kuwaiti or Qatari designs, then the fabric and colour, then details such as stitching and the style of the tarboush. The customer then enters his measurements, which are saved for future use, and places the order.
Ahmed Al Qasser from Sharjah finds online shopping easy and efficient. He started making his kandura purchases online when Bait Al Kandora launched. So far, his experience has been positive. “I am a very busy man, and don’t have much time to go the tailor. Online shopping has made life easier. All I have to do is log in, order my kandura, and wait for it be delivered. It’s like shopping on Amazon.”
Bait Al Kandora isn’t the only company tapping into the market for online men’s shopping. Ahmed Janahi, an Emirati from Dubai, launched Al Nashama Boutique three years ago. The boutique offers kanduras, perfumes, sunglasses, sandals and gutras, and is a one-stop shop for men who prefer not to spend too much time in a mall.
Al Nashama has also branched out to offer online shopping – the website allows customers to virtually create their kandura as they go – and has also developed an app for men who like the convenience of shopping via a smartphone. The uptake has been somewhat slow, however, and some buyers prefer to do their research in-store before making an online purchase.
“When it comes to buying kanduras online, most UAE residents prefer to visit the store and try different fabrics or styles,” says Al Nashama’s shop manager, Nibal Massry.
Since working at the boutique, Massry has noticed that many Emirati men tend to go to the same tailor. Each month, only a dozen people place an order online for kanduras. “Similar to the abaya, many men are meticulous about their kandura purchases. Placing an online order sometimes might not be satisfying for some customers.” And although a home service is available, in which a tailor is sent to the customer’s house to take the measurements, many still prefer to visit the shop and test the fabric themselves.
Both Bait Al Kandora and Al Nashama have found their online presence has helped attract international buyers, however, particularly from the United Kingdom, United States, Netherlands, Korea, Japan, Malaysia and Canada. “There is a large amount of Muslims and Arabs residing in those markets,” says Al Huraimel. Many of these customers wear a kandura for Friday prayers or occasions such as Eid, Al Massry adds.
In another twist on shopping for traditional men’s clothing, Bait Al Kandora, which recently opened a branch in Sharjah and will soon be opening in Abu Dhabi, has employed female shop assistants to advise women who are buying for the men in their lives.
So while there has been a mixed response to online shopping, men are steadily changing the way they purchase their national dress, and both companies hope that by improving the shopping experience for men, they can become a benchmark for the industry.
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Source: art & life