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U of C engineering graduates meld calligraphy, technology with fashion company

By Nikayla Goddard, September 15 2017 —

Five months after graduating, two University of Calgary Schulich School of Engineering alumni started a business atypical of their field. Odai Almoqadam and Raied Aburashed run Harf Design, a fashion company that explores the intersection of technology, art and design.

Almoqadam, a mechanical engineer with an entrepreneurship and enterprise development minor, and Aburashed, a biomedical engineer and with an interest in material science, started the company following Almoqadam’s idea to incorporate his love of calligraphy into clothing.

It’s a way to literally bridge cultures and embrace the diversity that we have in Canada. Calligraphy, fashion, technology, whatever you want to call it, it’s all just a medium for us to express this diversity,” said Almoqadam.

Aburashed was instantly hooked on the idea after a phone call from Almoqadam. Together, they formed Harf Design. Harf, which means ‘letter’ in Arabic, is a reflection of the business’s calligraphic inspiration.

While their business began as a Kickstarter campaign that faltered before meeting its goal, Almoqadam and Aburashed have since grown as entrepreneurs and designers. Now, they are running a successful — and growing — company.

One challenge the team is facing has been receiving feedback.

Harf Design will be participating in the West Canada Fashion Week. // Photo courtesy of Harf Design.

“Friends and family will always be the first to support you. But at the end of the day, you need people who are very critical — people who are going to challenge your thoughts,” Almoqadam said.

Harf Design’s future plans include ideas like wearable technology, according to Almoqadam. For example, he sees the fashion industry utilizing concepts like wearable pajamas prescribed for people who need their heart rate or temperature tracked overnight. Information could be collected and sent to the doctor, allowing the patient having to stay at home rather than a hospital for monitoring.

Almoqadam said he thinks there aren’t enough entrepreneurs in Calgary willing to experiment and take risks in starting their own business. He sees the economic downturn in Calgary as a blessing in disguise, as more people turn towards creating their own businesses.

“The University is probably the biggest place that could help in producing more people that are into entrepreneurship,” he said. “Why can’t [Calgary] be the next Silicon Valley? Why can’t we be the next hub for new businesses that could transform and disrupt different industries?”

Exploring wearable technology and continuing their calligraphy-based clothing line are long-term goals for Almoqadam and Aburashed. In the meantime, Harf Design is participating in West Canada Fashion Week in Edmonton this month. Their latest clothing line can be found on their website.

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