The Islamic dress code in Iran largely limits what people, especially women, are free to wear, and for many years, the designs emerging from Iran were uncreative and drab, with people turning to Western brands for stylish alternatives. Today, however, the tide is turning. The Culture Trip examines the fashion designers who are making a name for themselves in Iran and throughout the rest of the world.
Anar, which translates to ‘pomegranate’ in Persian, is the fashion brand started by Anousheh Assefi in 2006, and focuses on updating traditional Iranian fashion for a young and contemporary market. The brand specializes in lines of scarves and manteaus—a type of fashionable overcoat that is widely worn by women throughout Iran. Assefi successfully competes with foreign and international brands by showing a deep understanding of women’s fashion needs and requirements in Iran: while some manteaus can be heavy, shapeless, or limited to drab colors, Assefi uses a variety of vibrant and patterned fabrics, and pays great attention to the line and fit of all of her products, making them hugely attractive to her young and chic audience. Although women’s clothing can be greatly monitored and restricted under the policies of the Iranian government, Assefi does not allow this to prevent her emphasis on style, modernity and beauty. Anar Design is currently an unregistered brand, and primarily uses social media promote its new lines and products.
Arefeh Mansouri was born in Iran, and immigrated to Canada at the age of 16, where she pursued Fashion Studies at Montreal’s LaSalle College. Mansouri’s work is mainly representative of high couture fashion, and she is best known for her range of unique, avant-garde wedding gowns and evening wear, which have been featured on the runways at New York Fashion Week. Mansouri does not limit herself to a signature style, however her designs include a range of sophisticated prêt-à-porter pieces, featuring elegant lines, muted colors and soft draping, vastly different yet as equally striking as her couture line. In recent years, Mansouri has expanded her oeuvre into costume design, heading wardrobe design for a number of films and TV movies. She is also a member of The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and of the Costume Designers Guild.
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Naghmeh Kiumarsi is considered one of the leaders of modern fashion in Iran today, and began designing and creating from a young age. Kiumarsi’s aesthetic beautifully blends Iranian tradition with contemporary design, seeking to reflect Iran’s heritage and culture through clothes that appeal to modern, fashionable women. Intricate embroidery, which recalls Iranian calligraphy and poetry, and patterns reflecting traditional geometric design all feature in her numerous pieces. Kiumarsi’s work mainly targets an Iranian audience; however, her work is gaining recognition worldwide, and she has recently launched her brand in the UAE, and selected as a designer for the fashion show at the Edinburgh Iranian Festival.
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Nima Behnoud‘s interest in fashion began in his teenage years, when he and his friends would customize their clothes with slogans, spray paint, and accessories and crash underground parties in Tehran to show off their work. Behnoud left Iran in 1994 for the United States, where he continued his interest in fashion, attending the prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology and setting about to perfect the style of his youth. Behnoud began to source secondhand and vintage items, altering and restitching them to create new and contemporary styles, on which he silkscreened Persian typography and poetry. This has led to Behnoud’s signature style; he uses Persian calligraphy, playing with its proportions and layering quotes on top of each other, in order to create unique, graphic patterns. Behnoud’s bold approach to Persian culture and fashion has made him a hugely popular designer, and his works have been featured in Vogue and The Washington Times.
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Poosh, or Pooshema, is the wildly popular clothing brand launched by designer Farnaz Abdoli. A student of graphic design, Abdoli was frustrated by the limited options when it came to women’s street wear in Iran. She decided to address the problem herself, with the intention to design a line of women’s fashion that would have all the elements of contemporary fashion, and still adhere to the Islamic dress code. The result is Poosh, a brand that makes global fashion trends accessible to Iranian women. Unlike many other brands, Poosh is a registered brand, meaning its products are approved by the authorities and the Ministry of Culture.
Launched by Maryam Vahidzadeh in 2012, Radaa‘s fashion aesthetic appeals to the quirky youth of Iran, with a mixture of playful prints, colorblock tights and dramatic accessories. Vahidzadeh prides herself on making wearable fashion, steering clear of fussy garments and uncomfortable cuts. Her brand has become registered in recent months, but Vahidzadeh continues to run a great deal of her business through her Facebook page, promoting new lines and communicating with clients. Through her work, Vahidzadeh – like many other designers – is encouraging creativity and expression through fashion in Iran itself, and encouraging Iranians to seek out their own form of fashion, rather than automatically turning to Western brands.