Kaftans for everyone! And swimsuits too!

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‘Fluid fashion’, ‘gender neutral’, ‘size inclusive’ and ‘age appropriate’ are terms you rarely see in the fashion world.

When you consider these ideas wrapped up in a kaftan, you can see the possibilities a garment that is central to Middle Eastern culture can be brought into the world. This is because the caftan has always been a genderless garment.

Oday Shakar has taken the caftan up a notch. His designs transform this traditional garment into trendy loungewear for everyone.

Photo courtesy of Kaftko

The result is a company called KAFTKO. That’s the vision of couture designer Oday Shakar and corporate lawyer James Adelman.

Shakar had been designing for over 20 years with his eponymous brand which he shut down in 2019. “James and I met in 2016,” Shakar explained. “When my business closed, he immediately came to my side to start thinking about what my next thing was going to be. It was harder to get into the luxury world then. Things were changing very drastically in the retail world and so we both thought about creating a consumer direct brand that was more focused on the needs of the consumer that we were targeting or marketing to, but KAFTKO came across more as something that we wanted for ourselves and we had no idea at the time that it was going to take off like this as a business.

Between Shakar and Adelman, the idea turned into a more practical garment. “When [Shakar] The idea for the caftan came to me first,” Adelman explained. “I said, ‘I don’t know, but let’s try. COVID wasn’t even on our radar so that was so interesting. We thought about the company name and the product in the Garden State Parkway and COVID hit, and then he thought, “What am I going to do with these samples?” And he walked out the back of his apartment on the Lower East Side, and he took all these iconic photos with him in this New York City. You see all those original photos of our brand or just Oday on the back during the pandemic part…”

These photos were taken on the fire escape from Shakar’s apartment. “We put those pictures online and we sold it all out,” Adelman added. We were shocked and it was wonderful, and we just went ahead and revamped and grew from there.

With Dana Quadri as the co-founder of the company and their marketing manager, KAFTKO developed a website to sell their clothing line. Quadri acts as the voice of the brand – the one that defines its clothing line as truly made for everyone and for every body type.

Shakar’s vision came not only from making kaftans in fabulous patterns and colors. “When I started in design,” Shakar explained, “I was working for men’s sportswear brands and so I did very well in that field, but it wasn’t my passion, but it was my passion. were things that I wanted to wear and so, for me, when I see a traditional kaftan it’s not something that I gravitate to right away something I wanted to wear. So I wanted to mix prints more fun and modern and things that are more my style with traditional clothing so we always try to have these more modern textiles and what I’ve really learned is that I love textile design so everything is now original prints and so it’s really about creating something that for me stands out and is special.

The result is a range that reflects their consumer vision of “fluid fashion, gender-neutral, size-inclusive and age-appropriate”. The line includes kaftans, swimwear of all kinds – including the Euro Brief – kimonos, head bandanas, shirts and shorts. Their size range is wide and their designs are available for all genders.

Photo courtesy of Kaftko

As Adelman explains, KAFTKO’s line “still includes all body types, reflecting the world we live in today. It’s actually a lot more beautiful, a lot more glamorous than having just one body type from one ethnicity or one straight, you know like having an ideal, there’s no ideal and what i love about working with oday is that he has a background as a dress designer so one of the first things he told me when he thought of KAFTKO thought of doing a kaftan, he said, ‘I know how to make a kaftan that will look great on a man’s body and also look stunning on a woman’s body.'”

To further demonstrate their abilities, Shakar, Adelman and Quadri have aligned their clothing line with several celebrities within the LGBTQ community. For example, actor 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 color beyond the rainbow.

Ross Matthews. Photo courtesy of Kaftko

Lance Bass, Billy Porter and RPDR Season 8 winner Bob The Drag Queen has also been seen wearing some of KAFTKO’s designs in and outside of the brand’s campaigns and marketing materials. “It definitely helped the brand awareness,” Shakar explained, “that’s for sure. When we started, a lot of these people or colleagues that I’ve known over the years in the fashion industry I’ve reached out to everyone I know to send these pieces to them and some have really, really loved it Brand awareness has always helped people with big platforms or social media platforms or celebrities but in in reality, it’s like our allies and our family. We treat them as such, and they really love wearing the pieces.

What really attracted me to KAFTKO was their marketing, especially on Facebook. One of their advertisements is a rotating photo album that shows the KAFTKO line worn in a myriad of very appealing human shapes, colors and sizes. “We find that every ad that reflects a different body, different ethnicity, or different color,” Adelman explained, “all of those things attract their own micro-audience so everyone, we have people reaching out to us like thank you so much to feature a bigger guy you know? Or people literally come to thank us or like, thank you for giving representation to African Americans or people of color in your commercials. For us, you don’t have need to thank ourselves because that’s the world we see and as bigger guys we’ve always felt left out of fashion in many ways and so for us we just do, we treat other people as way which we want to be treated.

Photo courtesy of Kaftko

Currently, you can purchase their clothing line through their website (kafkto.com). Shakar said there could be pop-up stores as early as next year. Adelman added that because of their warehouse located in Kentucky, they ship to you pretty quickly.

If you’re looking for something fun to wear to Twin Cities Pride — or, for that summer getaway to the beach or the shack — try something from KAFKTO.

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