How Nasir and Malaka Qaderi stitched together a prosperous life in Canada.
On any given day at Kabul Tailoring, owners Nasir and Malaka Qaderi are busy at their workstations replacing zippers on pants, sewing new linings into jackets, repairing tears in blouses or adjusting the length of dresses and gowns. The couple has been at it for more than 20 years, painstakingly restoring clothing to put food on the table for themselves and their four children.
Nasir is quick to point out that their business differs from what people expect a clothing operation like theirs might offer.
“We do tailoring operations; it means we’re not selling suits or dresses or anything,” he said. “We fix them instead. People buy a suit, dress or pants and if they’re too big, too small, or if there are other problems with them, we’ll fix them.”
When they started the company in 2001, Nasir said the bulk of their clientele were elderly, but has noticed a wider variety of customers of late, especially younger people wanting their apparel altered for events from graduations to weddings. Kabul Tailoring also has some heavy-duty contracts with the Edmonton Remand Centre and the local RCMP to fix their work clothes. For a while, they also worked on the formal uniforms of the Canadian Armed Forces based in Sturgeon County just when soldiers were about to commence their tours of duty in Afghanistan, where the Qaderis originated.
Of the two, Malaka has a much greater tailoring background, having worked in the family trade in Kabul, the city after which the couple named their business.
“Her father had a tailoring business and was selling woolen Afghan jackets,” added Nasir. “He got lots of tourist from worldwide, and most of the people were from Russia. And Russia was very cold in the winter, and people came and buy this jacket from my father-in-law.”
Back then, tailoring was one of Afghanistan’s biggest industries, a sector that employed the most women in the country. It helped that Afghanistan was among the world leaders in the textile industry, including cotton, which at one point the country produced nearly 60,000 tonnes annually. At its height, Afghanistan also was the world’s third-highest producer of cashmere and was envied for its unique quality of silk.
While still living in Afghanistan, Nasir was a mechanical engineer working for the Afghan National Army. But when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan late in 1979, Nasir feared the worst. “I didn’t like the communists,” he recalled, adding that the Soviets offered safety on condition he switch to the Marxist ideology. “I didn’t join the communists and then they tried to kill me, so I escaped.”
After the couple found refuge in Canada in 1989, Nasir discovered his mechanical engineering qualifications weren’t in line with what the Canadian Armed Forces were asking for, so he did odd jobs for a while, including tenure in a fast food restaurant at West Edmonton Mall. Meanwhile, Malaka was working for a woman who specialized in clothing repair in St. Albert’s Grandin Mall. In 2001, her employer announced she was ready to retire, but offered Malaka an opportunity to continue with the business.
After the Qaderis took over the operation, they also decided to move to St. Albert to eliminate the inconvenience of commuting daily from their home in Edmonton’s northeast part of town. In the meantime, the couple was starting to get a regular clientele come through their doors seeking solutions to their own wardrobe woes. But while the Qaderis knew they had quite a few satisfied customers, they had no idea how dedicated that base was, until circumstances affecting their shop forced them to move in 2014.
That was when Glendon Mall was undergoing renovations, which meant the rent at Kabul Tailoring was about to skyrocket. According to the St Albert Gazette, patrons let others in the city become aware that the mall’s increasing charges could put the small company out of business. One lead resulted in a meeting between the couple and then-mayor Nolan Crouse, who connected them with the NABI Business Centre where the operation relocated.
The city also supported the Qaderis back in November, 2021 when the Arts and Heritage St. Albert museum dedicated part of its Canada and Afghanistan exhibit to the family’s history in Afghanistan. That part of the event chronicled their struggles to reach Canada before finally getting his mother and sister’s families out of the war-torn country. It also documents Nasir’s subsequent visits with the Canadian Armed Forces to help rebuild the nation.
Kabul Tailoring remains a two-person operation as Nasir and Malaka continue to alter the clothes their clients bring in, while paying the bills. But while Nasir admits tailoring was never his first career choice, he’s not complaining. “We are doing well so far,” he said. “I’m happy for that.” t8n
NABI Business Centre
109-200 Carnegie Dr.