Iran’s fashion industry has undergone a massive change in past couple of years, thanks to a religious edict that allows modeling and fashion in the conservative country.
Fashion shows and catwalks are not only moving out of the shadows and above the ground, they are being organized openly all across the Islamic republic, introducing local fashion designers to international audience and making a significant room for more models – both male and female – to enter the evolving industry.
“In the past two years, the atmosphere has changed positively,” said Darab Fashion Week’s chief executive Mahan Farokhmehr. “The ministry has set up a body called the working group for bringing order to fashion and clothing which regulates fashion in Iran and grants permission for holding events. What took place underground a few years ago is now happening in public.”
The modeling agencies that once operated underground can now hold their events in public after they acquire a permit.
“If I say that fashion in Iran has gone through a revolution in the past year, I haven’t exaggerated,” Sharif Razavi, director of a prestigious modeling agency called Behpooshi, told the Guardian. “In around 30 years since the revolution, we saw around 10 to 15 catwalks in the country, but in the last year alone, we’ve seen more than a hundred.”
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Razavi began Behpooshi seven years ago, however, things took a turn in 2012 when he wrote to the office of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, inquiring for a religious edict to find if fashion and modeling were forbidden in Islam.
As it turns out, they aren’t. The news led him to pursue the matter with the authorities at the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, and his efforts opened doors for others involved in Iran’s fashion industry.
“Before this if I were to mention to the authorities that I wanted to found a modeling agency, nobody would listen to me but things changed,” Razavi explained.
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Last year, Behpooshi became one of the first modeling agencies to obtain official permit to operate. They now have 50 male and 30 female models in their contract, each of whom has been a part of huge fashion events, such as Darab Fashion Week, in recent times.
The agency hires most of its models from Oxygen Royal – a health and fitness center in Tehran – which is actually considered a popular venue for male models to practice their catwalk under the supervision of a professional trainer.
“Modeling is now my job and I’m taking it very seriously,” said model Rayan Baghdadi, who recently performed at Tehran fashion week held at Sam Centre complex on the capital’s most expensive street Fereshteh. “The authorities now issue licenses to each model and those who want to participate in public events and catwalks should apply for a license and it’s ID card. The underground fashion is fading.”
However, there’s still an issue that persists. While women can go and watch the men’s catwalk shows, men are not allowed to attend the women’s shows. Even though the events are held in public, attendance is by invitation only.
In addition to that, some Iranian models like Dana Mashalahpoor, have not applied for a government license. Despite his successful career working with foreign brands and companies, the 28-year-old has never been invited to a walk at any fashion show at home.
“There has been progress but big challenges remain,” he said. “Some people still have negative views about fashion in Iran. But Iran has a huge potential in fashion, and models are very ambitious and want to work across the globe.”
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