Chenille Mens' modern take on the traditional kandura

Chenille Mens, a Dubai fashion house that is putting a new twist on the kandura.

Afsana Haji of Chenille Mens. Jaime Puebla / The National
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Salat Al Eid usually sees a sea of white kanduras kneeling in prayer in mosques across the UAE on the first day of festivities after the end of Ramadan. This year, however, don't be surprised if the scene is punctuated by some new eye-popping combinations, including brown, maroon and blue – all of which may appear on one -kandura.

This the handiwork of Chenille Mens, the brainchild of the Dubai-based husband and wife team Rizwan Bangee and Afsana Haji, from the UK.

Since the launch of the brand 18 months ago, the couple’s range of men’s kanduras has created a stir locally and internationally with their innovate blend of colours, embroideries and fabrics including cotton, polyester and wool.

With their Jumeirah Lakes Towers office used only as the designing hub and a boutique based in the United Kingdom, UAE orders are placed online. And with Eid starting in just a couple of days, online orders for new kanduras have been plentiful.

Fresh from the success of her female collection – known simply as Chenille – the head designer Haji created the Chenille Mens brand to “funki-fy” the kandura.

“When it comes to the women’s abaya, for example, it has now moved on from being this traditional wear to something that is very fashionable and glamorous,” she says. “For some reason, with the men’s kanduras, it has been a bit slower with people tending to stick with things that are more traditional. I just wanted to shake things up and provide different -options.”

The dearth of innovation in the local kandura scene inspired Haji to design a batch for her husband to wear at business meetings and family gatherings.

Bangee, responsible for the company’s marketing and financial affairs, recalls the design – a grey cotton and polyester kandura with a peach coloured placket – was well received.

“They wanted to know where I got it from,” he says. “They liked the design of it and the fact that it was so different.”

The resulting enthusiasm led Haji to experience a fashion designer’s worst nightmare: copies of her kandura began circulating around Bur Dubai and Deira.

“What happened was the tailor probably placed a copy of the design in his shop and people liked it,” she says. “Of course it was very flattering to see a lot of people wearing them.”

It was the final piece of encouragement needed before launching Chenille Mens.

Haji and Bangee copied the same formula used for their successful women’s line and designed men’s kanduras to fit all occasions.

The jabba, priced from Dh244, is designed for casual and social outings. The designs – with collar and without – accentuate the shoulders with the darker plackets resembling a skinny tie.

Hajji explains the jabbas, another name for kanduras used by Muslims in Europe, are meant to look more modern.

“Seasons and styles change when it comes to suits, shirts and other clothing,” she says. “Why can’t it be the same for the kandura as well? I think stylish kanduras will be embraced by young practising Muslims and encourage them to wear kanduras even more.”

The jabbanis are made with weddings and other special occasions in mind. The upscale item, available from Dh421, derives its name from its mixture of the jabba and the Indian and Pakistani ceremonial dress known as the shrivani. The latter boasts intricate embroidery on the shoulders and chest, some of which also have cufflinks and crystal buttons.

Rizwan says there has been a high demand for both jabbas and jabbanis in father-and-son packages.

“That is really a beautiful story for us,” he says. “We have been seeing a lot of instances where both father and son attend these events, whether it is a wedding or the prayers, dressed in the same style.”

While ruling out the option of opening a boutique in the UAE in the near future, Haji says Chenille Mens is open to discussing placing their stock with existing retailers.

She says Chenille Mens’ second range of jabbas and jabbanis will be released within the month.

“We are always exploring different ideas,” she says. “I am always aware of what’s happening in the fashion world and always on the lookout for new trends. I think we will always be developing. The ideas never end.”

For more information on Chenille Mens go to For orders email

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