Long before Facebook statuses and Twitter posts, the T-shirt was the ultimate form of expression. Two Emirati entrepreneurs want to bring that allure back, with a pop culture twist. Qamees, the brainchild of Faisal Al Hadi and Ammar Mohammad Al Attar, has only been three weeks in existence but the boys say they’ve already been inundated with orders.
Al Hadi, an HR guy with a Dubai airline, says he first came up with the idea of selling unique T-shirts with an Emirati touch, but didn’t quite know how to go about it. But once he shared his idea with Al Attar, his cousin and an artist with a rich catalogue of works documenting life in the UAE, the idea for Qamees was born.
The Directory caught up with the pair to talk fashion, inspiration and the big future they foresee for their small idea.
Q: When did you first come up with the idea for Qamees?
Al Hadi: The idea of creating a T-shirt brand was in my mind for some time. I pitched the idea to Ammar [Al Attar] who liked it. We initially had several meetings to discuss the way forward. We brainstormed many ideas but didn’t see how they were different from what is already on the market. Then, we decided to pursue a different concept by incorporating photography in our T-shirts. Ammar’s main idea behind his photography work is to document the UAE and the region’s pop culture. That is where the idea of Qamees started. We wanted to create a brand that would be a tribute to our pop culture and that was our differentiating factor. We went through Ammar’s database of photography and shortlisted photographs that we felt would suit our concept. The whole project from brain storming ideas to production took about a year.
Q: How did you come up with the name?
Al Attar: Since the main concept of our T-shirts was the Emirates and the region’s pop culture, we wanted our brand’s name to reflect that. We thought of the name Qamees since it could mean different things in Arabic: a T-shirt, a shirt, a polo shirt etc... Also, variations of the word Qamees can be found in Italian, Spanish, Maltese and Urdu to mean at least one of the Arabic definitions.
Q: There are already T-shirt brands in the UAE and in the Middle East. What makes yours different?
Al Hadi: The different thing about Qamees is the use of extracts from actual pictures on our T-shirts. Hence, each Qamees has its own story to tell. Moreover, we are highly involved in the production process of the T-shirt itself. We were highly involved in each step, from choosing the fabric to stitching the T-shirts and later on the printing process.
Al Hadi: We wanted to start with T-shirts because they were the best platform to illustrate our idea to people. Also, a nice T-shirt will always attract attention and create a buzz. For the future, we are exploring other garments that we can sell under the name Qamees.
Q: Was it difficult to get production off ground?
Al Hadi: Getting Qamees off ground was not an easy process at all. During the course of this project we overcame numerous challenges. The biggest challenge we faced was sourcing the correct type of fabric. After that, we faced other challenges such as perfecting the patterns to finding professional screen printers.
Q: What kind of response have you received so far?
Al Attar: So far the response has been very positive. Many people praised the idea of Qamees and its uniqueness. We have been accepting orders on daily basis not only from UAE but from the Gulf region and the UK as well.
Q: Who is your target customer?
Al Hadi: Our target market is mainly the youth and anyone who is interested in a brand that would bring out nostalgic memories. Qamees is not targeted to certain nationalities, yet we acknowledge that our customers from the region would be able to relate more to it. Although the prints on Qamees are based on the region’s pop culture, the beauty is that the prints are very fashionable and can be worn by anyone who wants to stand out of the crowd.
Q: Where else would you like to take Qamees?
Al Hadi: We have several plans on how to take Qamees forward. We are currently working on our website to give it a proper checkout system. Additionally, we are currently in talks with several online stores to showcase our T-shirts. Also, we are looking at having them sold in stores. With regards to the brand itself, our long term plan is to have different Qamees branded garments and not to confine ourselves with T-shirts only.
*Qamees is available for both men and women. Prices start Dh100. Go to myqamees.com.