If we have one thing here in Montreal, it’s pride for our city. Montreal rocks, we know it, and we’re not afraid to tell anyone who will listen. In comes a brand that celebrates our city and all the neighbourhoods within: Kalooba. If you haven’t heard of them, now’s your chance to check them out. Their products are based on the designs of local artist (and partner) Loogart, known to his friends as Christopher Soueidan. His other two partners are Baz Dajani (sales marketing) and Karim Samne (operations). According to Baz, “We all have specific assets – if you asked me to draw a bird, it would look like a dog!” (Chris: “But that’s skill!”)
Long time friends (and you can easily tell by observing the back and forth banter between the three of them), these guys partnered up to give Montrealers the opportunity to wear their pride. They offer tshirts, tanks, hoodies, phone cases, and pillows. And don’t think their CityLines © are limited to Montreal. They have Griffintown, St-Henri, Little Italy, St. Laurent (their hometown), and other neighbourhoods available. We sat down with the guys to get some insight on how they started the business and their plans for the future.
Your brand logo is a baby blue pug. What does the pug have to do with your brand?
Chris: I have a pet pug, so it’s my favourite animal. And my favourite colour is baby blue. It just worked.
What was your inspiration for the CityLines © of Montreal and its neighbourhoods?
Chris: One of my best friends asked for a big piece of my artwork in his apartment. He lives in the Plateau (pretty bad-ass). He wanted something that represented Montreal.
Baz: I called him a week later asking if he wanted to collaborate on a project for Montreal. And he said “Well, I made this piece already,” and my head exploded.
Kalooba is a pretty unique name. What’s the story behind it?
Baz: It’s a combination of all our names. Ka-Loo-Ba. Ka- Karim; Loo- Loogart (Chris); Ba- Baz.
Tell us about the Montreal CityLine ©.
Chris: There are 21 landmarks in the Montreal CityLine ©. They’re simple concepts that as a Montrealer you’ll recognize: potholes, the orange cones, UdeM, etc. As Montrealers, we have the DNA to recognize these iconic spots.
Karim: Loogart is fairly recognized in Montreal. He he has his own sort of unique style and now we’re putting his work on all sorts of items, like one of our best sellers, the pillow cases. The black design on a couch looks really nice.
Chris: It’s sexy!
Baz: He’s (Chris) super humble and he had no idea his designs were so nice.
You’ve touched on every neighbourhood in Montreal. Do you have any plans for other cities around the world? What would be the process?
Baz: I have a lot of family in Zurich, and I’ve been there many times, so that’s coming soon. During my last trip, I made a list and started asking locals what was important about their city. I narrowed it down and took pictures of all the landmarks.
Karim: Collecting the information is a fun process. Going door to door and getting to talk to locals is always interesting.
Chris: It’s a really big process for just a few simple lines. Do you know how big of a process it was to make this (pointing to his Kalooba Montreal tshirt)?
Karim: We’d love to have all the other major Canadians cities eventually.
Chris: So basically, they’re going to handcuff me to my computer and lock me up in the basement until I deliver art. That’s cool.
Which neighbourhood is a best seller?
Chris: For prints, definitely Saint-Henri and Montreal.
Baz: For apparel, Montreal does really well.
Your tshirts are in Simons now! What’s your plan for the next year in terms of expanding?
Karim: We’d like to hit local stores and big distributors simultaneously. The local stores in touristic areas love the product.
Baz: We went door to door a month back and the reception was amazing! Every store was super interested (it wasn’t a hard sell). I tried to look pretty and talk well and that’s all I needed!
Chris: We have a few stores coming up. Excited about that! At the same time we’re working with bigger players.
What’s your favourite city in the world, other than Montreal, of course?
Karim: That’s a tough question, but I’d have to say New York City. It’s the city of the 20th and 21st century. If we do a CityLine © for NYC we’d have so many neighbourhoods to work with.
Baz: It would have to be between Rome and Zurich. Although Positano, the Amalfi Coast, and Bologna are also top choices.
Chris: For me, Nassau in the Bahamas.
This should be a tough one. What’s your favourite place in Montreal – whether it be a neighbourhood, a building, a street, anything!
Karim: We all grew up in St Lo (St Laurent). For that question, I just think of St Lo. I’ve lived everywhere in Montreal. From a tourist’s point of view it’s hard. They don’t see what I see. People have their own memories and that’s how they relate to a city. When people look at the CityLines ©, different elements pop out. But if I had to choose something else, the Jacques Quartier bridge is at the top of my list. An important aspect of Montrel is the river, and these bridges are the arteries of Montreal – every time I’m on it (on my bike or for the fireworks), I get the feeling that North America is a pristine land with a beautiful landscape. We’re the only ones with this unique culture (both French and English) and when you stand on that bridge you feel it more than anywhere else.
Baz: My favourite is just walking in the Plateau. Saint-Henri and Griffintown are one of the coolest places to chill. St Laurent street is amazing too. But Ville Saint Laurent is home.
Chris: For me, Montreal is a treat. I live in Ottawa now, so when I visit home, I tell my girlfriend (sorry ladies, he’s taken!) let’s go downtown! I just want to walk on St Catherine. I want to put my headphones on and walk around and think I’m a hipster.
You can buy Kalooba products at Simons or on their website. If you order online, their products come in sleek packaging that was carefully selected and thought out to perfectly complement the brand. You’ll have as much fun wearing their products as we did talking to them!
Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to stay up to date with their products. Follow Loogart on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for a sneak peak at new designs. Check out the guys at the Montreal Folk Festival with their very own kiosk starting today, June 19th to June 21st.