Kaftans For Everyone! And, Swimwear, Too!
“Fashion fluid,” “gender neutral,” “size inclusive,” and “age appropriate” are terms you rarely see in the fashion world.
When you consider that these ideas are wrapped up in a kaftan, then you can see the possibilities of an article of clothing that is the core of Middle Eastern culture can be brought onto the world. It is because the kaftan has always been a gender-less garment.
Oday Shakar has taken the kaftan another notch. His designs elevate this traditional article of clothing into fashion lounge wear for everyone.
The result is a company called KAFTKO. It is the vision of couture designer Oday Shakar and corporate attorney James Adelman.
Shakar had been designing for over 20 years with his namesake brand that he shut down in 2019. “James and I met in 2016,” Shakar explained. “When my business shut down, he immediately came to my side to start brainstorming what my next thing was going to be. It was a harder time back then to get into the luxury world was. Things were kind of changing very strongly in the retail world and so we both kind of thought of doing a direct consumer brand that was more focused on the needs of the consumer we were targeting or marketing to, but KAFTKO came about as more of something that we wanted for ourselves and we didn’t realize at the time that it was going to take off the way it did as a company.”
Between Shakar and Adelman, the idea turned into a more practical piece of clothing. “When [Shakar] initially came to me with the kaftan idea,” explained Adelman, “I said, ‘I don’t know, but let’s just try it.’ COVID wasn’t even on our radar so it was so interesting. We thought of the company name and the product in the Garden State Parkway and COVID hit and then he’s like, ‘What am I going to do with these samples?’ And he went out in the back of his Lower East Side apartment, and he took all these iconic pictures with him on this New York City. You see all those original pictures from our brand or just Oday on the back during the part of the pandemic…”
Those photos were taken on the fire escape of Shakar’s apartment. “We put those pictures up and we just sold through everything,” added Adelman.” We were shocked and it was wonderful, and we just went ahead and reordered and grew from there.”
Along with Dana Quadri as a co-founder of the company and their marketing person, KAFTKO developed a website to sell their clothing line. Quadri acts as the voice of the brand – one that defines their clothing line as one that is truly made for everyone and every body type.
Shakar’s vision came from not just fashioning kaftans into fabulous patterns and colors. “When I first started in design,” explained Shakar, “I worked for men’s sportswear brands and so I did very well in that area but it wasn’t my passion, but it was things that I wanted to wear and so, for me, when I see a traditional caftan, it’s not something that I immediately gravitate something I wanted to wear. So, I wanted to mix kind of a more fun, modern day prints and things that are more my style with a traditional garment. So, we always try to kind of have these more modern textiles and what I really learned is that I love textile design, so everything is now original prints and so it’s really about creating something that, to me, stands out and is special.”
The result is a lineup that reflects their vision for the “fashion fluid, gender neutral, size inclusive, and age appropriate” consumer. The line includes kaftans, swimwear of all sorts – including the Euro Brief – kimonos, bandanas for the head, shirts, and shorts. Their size range is wide, and their designs are available for all genders.
As Adelman explains, KAFTKO’s line “always include all body types, reflecting the world that we live in today. It’s actually much more beautiful, much more glamorous than just having one body type of one ethnicity or one right, you know like having some ideal, there is no ideal and what I love about working with Oday is that he has a background as a gown designer so one of the first things he said to me when he thought of KAFTKO thought of doing a kaftan, he said, ‘I know how to make a kaftan that will look amazing on a man’s body and will look amazing on a woman’s body too.’”
To further demonstrate their capabilities, Shakar, Adelman, and Quadri have been aligning their clothing line with several celebrities within the LGBTQ community. For example, comedian and RuPaul’s Drag Race judge Ross Matthews is featured in a campaign for a collaboration he had with KAFTKO called “Ross Matthews X KAFTKO.” Within this collection is the groovy “Pride-O-Scope” line bursting with colors beyond the rainbow.
Lance Bass, Billy Porter, and RPDR Season 8 winner Bob The Drag Queen have also been seen wearing some of KAFTKO’s designs within and outside of the brand’s marketing campaigns and materials. “It’s definitely helped with awareness of the brand,” explained Shakar, “for sure. When we started, a lot of these people or colleagues that I’ve known over the years from being in the fashion industry. I reached out to every person I knew to send them these pieces and some really, really loved it. The brand awareness has always helped through people with large platforms or social media platforms or celebrities, but really it’s out there like our allies and our family. We treat them as such, and they really truly love wearing the pieces.”
What really drew me to KAFTKO was their marketing, especially on Facebook. One of their ads is a rotating photo album that shows KAFTKO’s line worn by a myriad of very attractive human shapes, colors, and sizes. “We find that every ad that reflects a different body or a different ethnicity or a different color,” explained Adelman, “all these things attract their own micro audience so that everyone, we’ll have people reach out to us like thank you so much for presenting a bigger guy you know? Or people come up literally thank us or like, thank you for giving African American or people of color representation in your ads. For us, you don’t need to thank us because that’s the world that we see and as bigger guys, we always felt excluded from fashion in many ways and so for us, we’re just doing, we’re treating other people the way we want to be treated.”
Currently, you can purchase their line of clothing through their website (KAFTKO.com). Shakar stated that there may be pop-up shops coming as early as next year. Adelman added that because of their warehouse being located in Kentucky, they do ship to you rather quickly.
If you’re looking for something fun to wear at Twin Cities Pride – or, for that summer getaway by the beach or the cabin – try on something from KAFTKO.