Meet the mastermind behind the graphic T-shirts. Read more…
There is no doubt that the T-shirt is the universal staple in every single persons wardrobe and the hunt for the perfect tee can be an overwhelming one judging by the enormous variety that we're bombarded with on our shopping sprees. So what does it take to create the perfect T-shirt? Danah Taqi caught up with Mohammed Boland, the brains behind Capital District, to find out how local elements coupled with creative flair produce amazing high quality T-shirts that all Gulfies can relate to.
Khaleejesque Team: Describe Capital District in one sentence?
Mohammed Boland: Capital District is a new and unique Kuwaiti Urban clothing brand.
KT: How did you come up with the name Capital District?
MB: Back in 2006, I was working with my father in real estate, looking for some houses to invest in. He asked me to go to different real estate offices but after going to many and not getting what I want I thought that there must be some online sources for real estate especially in this time and age. After going through some real estate websites, I liked one in particular because it was in English first of all and second because it had a search option which enabled you to search by Governorates.
In Kuwait we have different Governorates as everybody knows, but as I was searching, the site had our Capital Governorate listed as “Capital District”. Since this was totally wrong for Kuwait, because we have no districts, I thought that it was a very catchy name if used for a logo especially that I’m a graphic designer and freelancer, so there may be a client out there that I could use this for. Well thank God, I didn’t use it for anybody else because I really think that its a very catchy name for a clothing brand.
KT: What does Capital District mean and/or symbolize?
MB: In the past Kuwait was protected by a long wall (Soor), which runs along the edge of Kuwait city today, that contained all of Kuwait. I think that the Capital District is the place that everything in a given city comes from such as art, business, social life and everything in between. I like to compare this to any other big city such as New York, London, or Tokyo and like to consider our capital to be as vibrant and lively as any other city.
KT: Where do you get your inspiration from?
MB: I really get inspired by everything that surrounds me. We have a rich culture and many different symbols which are native to Kuwait and the GCC countries. I realized that these elements were very beautiful and were neglected because they were things which were old and not in use anymore. I wanted to bring that rich heritage of our country back by using for example our old red flags and other elements such as the (Sadu) which is synonymous to our Gulf region. I do travel a lot, and to be honest I really get inspired by what I see abroad in the streets of other countries.
KT: Why did you choose to start your own business?
MB: I always had the inspiration to develop and run my own business, and since I was a young man, I always liked the idea of being an entrepreneur by introducing new ideas to my country. A clothing brand was one of those ideas, because I’m a graphic designer who loves to design, but I also am involved in other businesses and I always try to get contribute to new ventures and concepts.
I always liked the concept of mass production and manufacturing in particular and that may have derived from my late grandfather who was the first to bring the concept of Cheese Puffs (Buffak Boland) into the country, and who was able to build a brand that is still very well known today. I hope that someday Capital District will be a well known international brand such as any other American or European brand, and this is really my ultimate goal.
KT: Did you find support from your generation?
MB: Yes, since we started, I have been complemented many times on the effort which I put into this brand, and I was approached by many people who were really amazed by the quality and designs. Also many items of our current collection have sold out which shows the interest in such a product especially from my generation.
KT: What kind of difficulties did you face when first creating Capital District?
MB: The difficulties I faced were from the government when I tried to register my brand. When I went to register my logo and company, I was surprised at the amount of papers and documents which they asked of me. The frustrating issue was that they then discarded many of the documents which I provided, which made me wonder why they asked for them in the first place. Then when it was time for the actual registration of my logo’s, they asked for all the designs that I might use in the future which involved any emblems such as the Kuwaiti old flags. After that, it took a long time to get registered when it should of only have taken a few days or two weeks at most.
KT: What events did you participate in?
MB: I participated in K-Town, which was the first Kuwaiti outdoors exhibition (held in Wahran Park in Shamiyah), which in my opinion was a very successful experience because of the outdoor feeling of a Carnival, and P2BK.
KT: How do you deal with the many competitors in the industry?
MB: Honestly, Capital District is a Kuwaiti Urban Brand, and because this is our categorization, I really don’t see any competitors which are competing in this category. There are other clothing brands which have emerged during the last year or so, but because they are not focusing on our culture and things from our Kuwaiti past and present, thats why I don’t consider them as direct competitors.
If we consider the Gulf region, then I know that there are three or four main competitors that are directly involved in the same category that I’m in but from different Gulf countries. Actually I always like to keep up to date with their designs and styles so that I can determine where the market is going, and honestly I like to come up with designs that are very risky. I believe that having very interesting concepts and elements that are very strange to this region helps keep my brand competitive and interesting to people from this region, and people from abroad.
KT: We’ve heard that you’ve been copied and have found cloned versions of your designs at a store in Kuwait; give us your stand on that? Are there any copyright laws? What have you done about that?
MB: To be honest, we don’t have strict rules about copyrights in Kuwait or the region, although they are present but unfortunately not enforced. When I saw the cloned T-shirt I was furious because I spend a minimum of 8 hours on each design that I come up with and execute. The design that was ripped off in particular took me more than 16 hours to create and to see that somebody just took the idea and made a replica to me is very unprofessional and wrong, especially that it's another regional brand with a good reputation and many eye catching designs.
I think they did so because they know that they are in another country and even if I would use the law to get back my rights, it would take a lot of effort, time and money which is not worth it at this time especially that I just started out this business. Frankly and thanks to all the new networking sites such as Facebook, I was able to send out the message that this was wrong but we as Capital District were proud that another strong brand would take one of our designs and just copy it!
There are copyright laws which will definitely get me my rights back but I will have to spend a lot to hire a good lawyer and I wont get anything out of it because we are not in the United states. Instead, I talked to the owner of the shop who carried the cloned t-shirt and after returning to the same shop in a week, the t-shirt was removed. I guess the message reached people and they tried to do something about it.
KT: Do you get demand for your designs from across the Gulf? How about internationally?
MB: Yes, I do send my goods worldwide. I remember when I first launched this collection, I believe my third order went out to South Carolina, USA. I have sent orders to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the UAE, but my most interesting order was for my 50’s Cadi and Flags, and Kuwait Lines t-shirts to Italy. I was really amazed that an Italian ordered two shirts which were about Kuwait, and I’m very pleased that my designs are reaching a global audience who are really happy to wear Arabic words that they don’t understand and elements from a country that they have never been to but because they think that the designs are interesting.
KT: What’s in the future for Capital District?
MB: We will be delivering two collections each year, one for summer and one for winter, and we always have designs that are for specific Kuwaiti events such as Liberation day and Ramadan. We have added more products to our collection such as Trucker caps, and flip flops which will be available in our summer collection at the end of May. I hope that we can become an international brand that sells to the whole world and I hope that we can see our Kuwaiti flag and our local elements on foreigners just as we wear there flags and elements in the name of fashion and being hip.
KT: What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
MB: To register every idea you come up with locally and abroad. Start small and expand gradually because if you grow rapidly you'll make more mistakes and risk everything you worked for.
KT: What advice do you have for an entrepreneur starting out today?
MB: The best advice that I would give is to always believe in your self and your idea/concept because nobody will ever believe in your product as much as you will. Always be focused, set goals to follow, and know that there is nothing that is impossible, if you really want it bad enough then you will have it and make it happen. Every problem you encounter will teach you something, and will make you stronger.
My true advice would be to go personally to every ministry and do everything you need to at least for the first year of business and never solely rely on another person (Mandoob) to finish your work no matter how small the job. Believe me, you do learn a lot and know the ways that will eventually lead you to what you want done, especially when you have to register your company and/or your goods.
Always think outside the box, and never let anybody put you down just because you think differently.
To see more of Capital District's designs and to place an order, visit http://capitaldistrict.com.kw/
Images courtesy of Capital District.
– Danah Taqi for Khaleejesque.