Sunday, March 27, 2011

Paris Mis-Match

PARIS -- This weekend in the Marais, I came across an Iranian expat and three of his friends, all of whom work in the fashion industry. During a quick chat, we tried to characterize the fashion sense of the inhabitants of a few of our favorite fashion capitals. Here's what we got. Parisians: homogeneous. Londoners: individualistic (within a certain realm). New Yorkers: a tendency to wear their money. On Tehranis, we defer to you. Help us nail it in a word or two. Creative?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Lebas Eidi

TEHRAN, PARIS -- Iranians greet the new solar year decked out in new clothes. They wear the new outfit when they go eid didani, or when visiting family and relatives during the Nowruz holidays. In the old days, many people could not afford to buy new clothes throughout the year, so they would only make this special purchase for Nowruz, thus it became known as eid clothing (lebas eid), which is important for many Iranians.

editor at large: Did you get a new dress for Nowruz?

tehran editor: No, I didn't shop for Nowruz at all. I mean I didn't even think about it. But I gave my family clothes as their eid gift. I think clothes are more meaningful given as a present.

Did you get eid clothes?

editor at large: No, not at all. No time. Lacking the spirit. And it's expensive, especially here in Paris. What would you like to be wearing this season? Any favorite lines?

tehran editor: Well, I love bright colors particularly red and hopefully after the Nowruz celebrations when I find the time I'm gonna try and buy a few new colorful things. I'm a big fan of H&M and Express when it comes to jeans but I don't go for a specific line. I mainly choose dresses and wear them according to my own fashion sense.

editor at large: Has anything caught your eye online? I love this outfit from Celine's summer collection (pictured above).

tehran editor: I like your taste -- so chic ! I would buy the following (1, 2, 3, 4, ) because I'm a dress person, but then again I like to go find outfits and throw stuff together. There are many little shops that I like to visit and get stuff from.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Flea Market Chic

PARIS -- The "Salon du Vintage" opened in the Marais today and runs through the weekend. But "flea market chic" is a concept that has yet to catch on in Iran.

tehran editor: Here we have something called the Friday Bazaar. It's open only on Fridays and you can find anything and everything there from record players to traditional Turkmen outfits and jewelry, to Indian saris, wooden furniture and antiques...a lot of stuff. All prices are negotiable and the sales people will cave if you walk away and pretend you lost interest in their stuff.

editor at large: Secondhand clothes?

tehran editor: Clothing is not something people buy secondhand; appliances and furniture though, yes.

I used to have an American boyfriend, a former rocker. There was a time when he wanted to be nice to me so he sent me a care package full of clothes. While they were nice clothing items, they were all secondhand and I donated every single one becuase I don't understand the concept of wearing secondhand items. I understand that it's a difference in culture, but I didn't like it one bit and said thank you to be polite. He realized his mistake and never ever gave me anything secondhand again.

Another issue is secondhand furniture. While I didn't have an issue buying a secondhand fridge, my mom was very unhappy with my decision and in the first chance she got, she gave me a fridge and made me get rid of the used one.

I guess for many Iranian women certain secondhand items like wooden furniture are ok to buy, but others like shoes, fridges, washing machines, etc. are an absolute no-no...

There is also an annual charity event in which they give away clothes and school stuff for kids and everything given away is new. It has been drummed into people here that if you want to give away something to the less fortunate, make sure to ask yourself whether you'd wear it yourself if someone gave it to you. Basically this translates into get new stuff even if you're going to give it away.

Friday, March 11, 2011

...32 Years Later

TEHRAN -- For Iranian women, forced to live under the inflexible laws of the Islamic Republic, fashion and beauty are serious concerns whose pursuit has consequences that can range from the comical to the dangerous.

Plastic surgery is a fashion statement in Iran much like wearing a designer dress or carrying a Birkin bag. While Barbie dolls are considered a Western influence and the Islamic government invested heavily in designing and marketing domestic replacements for Barbie and Ken known as Dara and Sara, many Iranian women have the Barbie complex. Middle class and “new money” alike, devote much time and effort to getting painful surgeries so they can imitate Barbie’s high cheekbones, upturned nose, and ample bust. Oblivious to Western blonde jokes, many finish off the Barbie appearance by going blonde -- a look that is more often a miss than a hit. Bleach blondes, platinum blondes, and plain tasteless blondes are a common sight.

Perms might have gone out of fashion in most parts of the world but they are still in high demand in Iran. Hairpieces are also popular among a portion of the women here. They are used for different purposes: in the front to create the long-bangs-covering-one-eye look or in the back to create a mound of hair under a headscarf, which serves to stop the veil from falling off and to convey that the woman in question has a desirable mane of irresistible tresses concealed from view. One government official declared on state television that the tall hairdo is a sign of the end times and the coming of the Messiah. It has been foretold, he explained, that when the return of the Hidden Imam draws near, women will be seen walking around with hairdos that resemble a camel’s hump.

The police have similarly declared jihad on knee-high boots on the basis that they accentuate a woman’s calves, an example of tabaroj (religious terminology for “lady bumps”), which endangers the health of the family. Iranian women have not been deterred from walking around in such ungodly footwear. One young lady, however, who was arrested for wearing boots and given a $1,200 fine, said she has no choice but to retire her footwear for good as the judge told her she would serve six months in jail term if she was arrested a second time on a boot charge.

Iranian women are also fans of tight-fitting attire. However, in a country where a simple hairstyle can bring about judgment day and boots hugging a woman’s calves are a forbidden means of seduction, one trend at their disposal is the anorexic model look. Without feminine curves, they can get away with wearing a figure-hugging manteau and put on a show strutting around in uncomfortable stilettos.

The growing number of anorexics and bulimics in Iran may also be due to the fact that clothes are not made to fit the bodies of Iranian women. Most businesses import their women’s clothing from China and Southeast Asia, where the typical female dimensions differs from those of the curvy Persians. Hence a size 36 (U.S. size 2) Iranian girl will not fit in what is imported from the Far East and sold as a size 36 in the country. Poor body image is the consequence, which often leads to women starving themselves in order to fit in the size 36 Chinese import.

What is considered fashionable in Iran and particularly what becomes the color of the year has almost nothing to do with the rest of the world. A member of the clothing guild tells Vitrine that when he sees there is more of a certain color in the goods he has imported he floods the market and peddles it the color of the year.

A radical Islamist country such as Pakistan has models and supermodels who are even seen walking the catwalk at Milan Fashion Week. The same extremist country has Islamabad fashion week and yet in a country like Iran designers are given no platform to publicly present their creations and very few have the courage to hold underground fashion

Despite much propaganda and hours of IRIB round tables about decadent Western fashion and cultural inroads, the Islamic Republic has been unsuccessful in offering a successful Islamic alternative for women's clothing.

The recently inaugurated Islamic fashion exhibition left much to be desired. The lines presented were nothing more than unimaginative knock-offs of traditional, ethnic Iranian outfits, which in the words of one young woman, were better suited for the museum of anthropology.