Creating the Kulture: Kaftans slowly making its way into the fashion scene here
Founder of Kaftans Kulture, Haikel Jesman, said the idea to bring the Middle Eastern outfit here struck him while he was at a UAE mall
Haikel Jesman was strolling through a mall in Abu Dhabi, UAE, when a store selling kaftans caught his eye.
Traditionally worn in Middle Eastern countries, the kaftan is an ankle-length, loose-fitting dress with long, flowy sleeves often worn at formal events such as Eid.
Previously difficult to find in Singapore, kaftans have been gradually made available over the last few years.
The idea to market and sell them here then struck Haikel.
That was in 2017, when he was working as a social media coordinator in Abu Dhabi, recalled the 34-year-old, who now owns and runs Kaftans Kulture as a home-based business with the help of his mother, Siti Aisha.
“My mum was the one that gave me ideas and supported me,” Haikel told TNP. “Her blessings were one of the main reasons I did this.
His first move was to post photos of the dresses on Instagram to gauge consumer interest here.
The response was positive.
“I uploaded the photos to see if (people) actually liked the designs, and once they did, I started ordering and purchasing them from my suppliers. My clients’ opinions are still important to me up till today,” Haikel said.
“At that point in time, I don’t think kaftans were being sold in Singapore. Even if there were, it was limited in sizes. I wanted something versatile so that women of all shapes and sizes can wear it.”
The kaftans brought in are usually “free size” with an inner lining, so women would feel confident wearing them, Haikel explained, citing that as one of his unique selling points.
Things came to a halt when the pandemic hit in 2020, and he was forced to pause his business for over a year. “I managed to get it up and running only recently,” he said.
Before setting up the business, Haikel researched to find out who he could engage with to promote Kaftans Kulture.
He reached out to local actress Nurul Aini to promote his brand, and she did a review on Instagram after receiving the kaftans.
“The moment she posted, I think my phone exploded with DMs; customers started ordering,” Haikel said.
“Nurul Aini really helped the business take off. She was a very good influencer and she did it with an open heart.”
Haikel sells his kaftans off of Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/kaftanskulture/) through DMs or WhatsApp messages. The prices range from $99.90 to $159.90 depending on the designs.
Other local influencers and celebrities donning Kaftans Kulture include influencer and Singapore Idol 3 contestant Malaque Mahdaly, actress Lydia Izzati and singer Sarah Aqilah.
Haikel also reached out to Malaysian actress and singer Ayda Jebat to expand his business up north. “Her husband is a good friend of mine (but) we have yet to confirm anything. We are still in talks.”
Business hasn’t been without hiccups, of course. Aside from the occasional shipping delays – orders are now taken only after the product has arrived – sometimes the colour tone of the kaftan may differ from pictures to reality, deeming it unsellable.
Nevertheless, Haikel said he is learning as he goes – both the processes and consumer tastes.
He chooses designs which he thinks are suitable for the Singapore market, as well as designs that may not be found here.
“I think (Singaporeans) want something minimal but eye-catching,” said Haikel when asked which style is most popular here.
“So, I try to interact with the customer, or do a poll to see what they’re expecting. I try to remember that it’s not for me, but for the customers and what they like.”