I first met Haithem Elkaadiki outside the Telus Convention Centre on Calgary's Stephen Ave, back in April 2019. As a street photographer, especially one who loves to approach total strangers and ask for their portraits, it was a no brainer when I first saw him. Walking towards me in his bright fluorescent Orange coat, it was a breathe of fresh air from the normal bland winter attire more commonly seen around town.
What immediately struck me about Haithem when I first spoke to him, was his huge smile and friendly nature. I shot his portrait, and quickly learned that he was an international fashion designer who ran his own label called KaaDiki.
Since that first meeting, I've seen him around Calgary several times and now have the privilege of calling him a friend. It was this friendship that lead to my invite to his atelier to capture him at work and to learn more about the man behind the fashion icon.
Images in the slideshows below will auto play.
Sadly these days, traditional craftsman are a rarity. In this day and age we demand faster delivery, cheaper prices and seem to gloss over the fact that most things we buy on the high street are poor quality and churned out by the millions every day. So it's refreshing to spend time with a master of his craft.
Libyan born, Haitham Elkadiki made Calgary his home in 1998 following a number of years as a resident of Toronto. He took his career more seriously, starting his fashion business in 2001. As a child, Haithem always had an interest in the arts, drawing and sketching and when he first saw fashion drawings in magazines, knew this was a career path he wanted to follow.
Before creating and starting his own fashion label, KaaDiki, he worked and gained experience apprenticing at a number of Toronto fashion houses and went on to create a number of collections that established him as one of Canada's leading designers. His icons and style influences include "Gianni Versace, Christian Lacroix for his use of strong colours as well as Karl Lagerfeld for his personality". Other influences come from his love of music, (the Pet Shop Boys was blaring from the music system when I visited and is a particular favourite) travel, films and even the food he enjoys. All these influences are clear to see in the unique, colourful pieces he creates by hand.
During my visit, every part of the dress shirt he was creating for a client was meticulously measured, precisely cut and ironed to ensure the the final product would be the best he could produce. As I watched Haithem working, it was very evident that quality is key to his success.
Having now spent more time with Haithem and seen him at work, it comes as no surprise that after showing his Fall 2004 collection, “The boys of Café Odeon,” celebrity stylist Phillip Bloch hailed Elkadiki as the Canadian menswear designer to watch! Haithems' continuous ingenuity has earned him the prestigious nomination for the Fashion Expert Awards/Prix Mode X 2005 in men’s wear and Haithem went on to say that being recognized as one of Canada’s top three men’s wear designers in Canada was a great honour, “this recognition inspired me to work harder and create stronger collections each season since.”
As my visit drew to a close, I asked Haithem how people could find out more about his collections and designs. "You can follow me on twitter or instagram" he said, "or you can contact the KaaDiki studio by email or phone to make a an appointment to view the latest collections, samples or to choose a style".
Finally, to sum up my visit and getting to know Haithem Elkadiki a bit more, words I'd use to describe this fashion designer extraordinaire are, modest, fun, kind-hearted but above all extremely talented. The Calgary fashion and creative art scene would be a poorer place without people like him.
KaaDiki, 1701 - 11th Street SE, Calgary, Canada Tel: 403 615 9999 - Website: www.kaadiki.com