For Emirati Saleh Hamed, shopping for kanduras has always been a stressful experience.
From finding the right tailor and choosing the right fabrics, to the never-ending rails of white material, Hamed often found that his shopping trips threw up more questions than they answered.
“I’ve never found kandura shopping to be the nicest experience,” Hamed tells The National.
“I tend to be a very discerning customer, I like to know what I'm paying for. But often I would find that people couldn’t tell me why one kandura cost Dh250 and another cost Dh150, when on the surface they looked very similar. I just felt like things could be done better.”
After speaking to some of his friends, he realised he was not alone in his thinking. “I remember when I first started wearing kanduras, I'd have friends who were non-national, and they would ask about my kanduras and I’d tell them: ‘why don't you make one?’ but then them taking the step of going to a tailor, especially if they don't speak the language, for example, or even if they did, it can be a difficult and off-putting experience.”
As a result, the idea for CanCan was born. Hamed, who co-founded the app with Mohamed Al Jneibi, Yaqoob Al Shehhi and Khalid Al Hashimi, used his background in computer science to develop an app that not only simplifies the kandura experience, it revolutionises it.
CanCan is the world’s first platform in the traditional menswear market to use AI technology. Using body scanning imagery, CanCan takes accurate measurements through a smartphone camera, taking into account factors such as weight, height and age. These measurements can then be shared with its partner tailors to create a made-to-measure kandura that will be delivered to the customer's door within four days of purchase.
Hamed believes that CanCan will streamline the process of shopping for kanduras and open up the market too.
“Take women for example, they are not able to go to a tailor to buy kanduras for their husbands or sons, but they can order through our app,” he says. “And not only that, but a lot of these tailors are small, local and family run businesses, a lot of them do not have an online presence and are not reaching new customers.
“If there’s a tailor in Sharjah for example who is doing something new with his kandura designs, it’s unlikely a customer from Abu Dhabi would hear about it or make the journey. But we can offer that service for them through CanCan.”
CanCan also hopes to expand into other countries in the region and around the world, helping to connect customers with styles and garments native to their country that they might not be able to find in tailors where they live.
“If we could offer a service for people to order authentic styles and designs from home, that we know will fit perfectly and be delivered in a few days, it could really help people to feel connected,” Hamad says. “And not only that, we want to reach new markets too. We're taking the kandura to the world, basically, to anybody in the world. And I think it will help to build new relationships and new pathways, and new opportunities for cultures to meet.”
CanCan has a big focus on sustainability, with the hopes of prolonging the lifecycle of kanduras.
“Sustainabily is a key objective,” Hamad says. “We are a start-up right now, but as we grow, we want to tackle some of the things about the market that we are not happy with. What we want to do is have a unique ID for every single kandura that we make, to trace it through its life and then have a programme that allows people to give their kanduras back when they are done with them, and we'll refurbish them to a certain degree, and then we'll give them to less fortunate people or reuse the materials for other things.”
Sultan Al Darmaki, chairman of Al Darmaki Group, was one of the early investors in the start-up.
“CanCan is living proof that homegrown ideas and concepts work in the UAE and internationally, and can be a catalyst for others to take risks and explore new territory," he says. "The team is harnessing innovation to deliver a product that is integral to our culture in a way that suits today’s fast-paced lifestyles and consumers’ increasing reliance on technology. I am delighted to be part of this exciting new venture, and to promote growth among young, forward-thinking entrepreneurs."