6 November 2012

The Kandora

Spring/Summer 2012
Photographer: Monika Bielskyte
Model: Ahmed Abdelrahman

Autumn/Winter 2012

Ever since the first few teaser shots were revealed I have been watching Thamanyah, the line created by Michèle Lamy's latest protégé, Ahmed Abdelrahman, with an eager interest. The name Thamanyah, which means "eight" in Arabic, was derived from Abdelrahman's eight siblings and the eight pointed star (Rub el Hizb) that is so common in the geometric patterning of Islamic art and architecture. The line originally started as a personal meditation on the kandora (alternatively referred to as a thawb or dishdasha, depending on the region) for Abdelrahman to wear whilst abroad.

The kandora, as it is most commonly called in the UAE, is a traditional ankle-length, long-sleeve robe worn by men across the Middle East. Speaking with Alice Pfeiffer (article here) he noted that evolving the kandora "requires a deep understanding of the culture it is coming from. There are heavy tribal, religious, political and historical dimensions hidden in the garment." His background and familiarity with the garment undeniably allows him a far greater insight and understanding of the kandora than could ever really be expected by those approaching the garment from an outsider's perspective. Indeed his first collection sought to redefine it through careful re-tailoring and the use of more luxurious fabrics than the standard cotton affair.

After his initial collection, Abdelrahman introduced a number of more tailored pieces, contrasting the flowing kandora with sharp shouldered jackets, to create a look that was more global in its outlook. Although the idea of fusing East and West is at this point in fashion history quite thoroughly clichéd, it is here a more than appropriate description, for he effectively combined traditional tailoring from two distinct cultures to create an entirely modern look. His long and slim line, almost statuesque in its realisation, imbues the wearer with a sense of strength and monumentality. This monumentality is however complicated with the inherent fragility in the flowing nature of the robe, especially when seen in movement. This tension helps to create an image that is ever-changing in its dynamic as the wearer goes about their daily lives. He has developed his direction further with his latest Spring/Summer 2013 collection, which I will no doubt review in the near future, by introducing more trousers and jackets, thus diversifying his array of silhouettes. Although the kandora is for now his central theme, in order to expand his brand he understandably needs to create a more comprehensive wardrobe for buyers to choose from.

Whilst the kandora may seem an entirely alien garment to those of us living in the West, it is actually a style of garment I encountered quite frequently growing up. Like Abdelrahman notes however, it was usually in the form of a shapeless and ill-cut piece, outsourced to be made in a country where it was not an understood garment. Even so there has always been for me a charm, and creative potential, in the silhouette and shape of the garment. Imagined in a heavier weight fabric, and tailored slightly closer to the body, and the garment suddenly comes alive.

Below you can see me wearing a traditional kandora, over which I wore a lambswool cardigan, and an admittedly engulfing black parka coat. Being a rather untypical garment, I thought it would be interesting to introduce the silhouette and shape here. It is more commonly worn in a longer length, that skims the ground, however a combination of me being taller than your average Middle Eastern man, and not really liking the idea of dragging the bottom of my clothing along the streets of South London, and you see that I have a slightly shorter version. Much like Abdelrahman envisions, I do think it would benefit from a far more tailored choice of outerwear, however my wardrobe is as of yet still wanting in that direction. Even so, there are a myriad of styling options for the wearer to explore, and I have to admit, it is incredibly fun to wear.

(Yours truly wearing a traditional kandora)



  1. There is such a certain freedom in wearing such a garment. I'm sure.

  2. You are in kandora is so pretty. Neat and stylish and ethnic.I love man (and woman) wears skirt in this way!

  3. Syed,

    1.) I think this is the first time that I've actually seen you but then again I did take a long break from reading blogs.

    2.) I love this piece and label! It's totally probably the sartorial comprehension of those here in the States but given the chance I would totally try it out!

  4. Lamy must have a good eye for talent. These designs look very powerful and elegant.

  5. And I like your back silhouette walking down side walk(in front of your house?).You are skinny:)
    I dragged your photo in my place!

  6. I would love to be a fashion goth....

    one day...


  7. 1. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. The Middle Eastern garb has always been interesting to me, and so is Islam in general (due to my background).

    2. You sir, are looking dapper *coughyesIsaiditcough*