Fashion in Iran: Censorship, Activism and the Revival

The fashion industry in Iran has very much seen its downfall in the past year. Lets rewind back to 2015, where there was an insurgence of fashion shows with agencies such as Behpooshi and Darab who were government approved to run fashion shows. Things were starting to look positive for the future of fashion in Iran. Designers, models, stylists and photographers were slowly emerging from the underground fashion scene to make an impact on this monumental shift in industry. 


(Models at Behpooshi preparing for a show)

But within the last year, the Iranian government rained on everyone’s joyous fashion parade, and shackled the industry with the iron bars of censorship. Shackling, in the literal sense for some. Earlier this year and towards the end of 2015, there was an Instagram controversy storm, whereby over 100 industry people (including models, photographers and make up artists) were arrested in a covert crackdown nicknamed ‘Operation Spider 2’. Javad Babayi, Head of cybercrimes court has been quoted in an Iranian local news agency suggesting that the covert operation is being used as a means to, “monitor (the) use of social media by western imperialism powers to change Iranian – Islamic lifestyle 

As a writer, I am currently sitting and writing in the comforts of my western privilege whereby I have the freedom of speech and expression. Notoriously, Iran is not so well known to advocate for these rights. A concept many Iranian industry experts were well aware of. Behpooshi and Darab in particular famously confined under the regulations of the Iranian government in that they ran their agencies in accordance with Islamic values and also used their platforms to promote Iranian fashion rather than the western imperialist dominance Mr Babayi was so concerned about. Behpooshi site has actually (within the last couple of weeks in fact) been shut down.  

13552643_10206532283727472_176808050_n(From the Behpooshi website)

So why then, were prominent Iranian figureheads such as Elham Arab arrested for “promoting western promiscuity”? Whilst male models and fashion influencers were also arrested, the majority of the arrests fell amongst female models that dared to post photos without the required hijab. Are these arrests concerning the clamping down on western influence, reinforcing Islamic values or is it simply the classic dominance of the patriarchy?


(Elham Arab in court)

The Iranian fashion industry is a huge market, with so much potential and talent. If the industry acts within the confines of Iranian- Islamic values as previously proposed, there is no reason why the Iranian government should not champion the production and influence of fashion within the country. Islamic fashion is certainly gaining momentum, with Dolce and Gabbana releasing a line of headscarf’s and Islamic clothing. With the likes of the popular Iranian fashion brand Pooshema, who are pushing boundaries by creating colourful, modern, shorter styles of the traditional manteaux, there is still hope for a revival in the Iranian fashion industry.  


(Dolce and Gabbana)


(Spring Summer 2015, Pooshema)

I managed to get into contact with Mahan Farokhmehr, the mastermind behind Darab. Darab describes itself as:

“A designer of special events and conferences in the fashion field. It expands the innovative designs and fashions and follows international professional designers in the way of creating novel and diverse ideas in the fashion industry.”


Darab has recently been dismantled. As a beacon of hope in changing and innovating the fashion industry in Iran, the disintegration of the brand will be a shock to many. Mr Farokhmehr has said that his decision on this matter is due to the “industry, as it became the biggest risk for those who want to spend their time and energy on this field”. On discussing the decline of the fashion industry in Iran, Mr Farokhmehr expressed his disappointment: “we were hopeful when we started, because we thought we could do something in this industry.”


This certainly is not the end of Mahan Farokhmehr career. He is already looking to expand and culminate young Iranian talent from the underground fashion scene. Below are designs by Nastaran Hashemi, which Mr Farokhmehr helped procure and shoot.  


We did Modern But With Traditional Textile and Touch Which Made It look Fashionable and at the same time traditional cause I had this concept in mind that we have to do something that involve our culture and traditions” Mahan Farokhmehr

The fashion industry is a new phenomenon in Iran, and my goal is to display a new point of view by presenting designs inspired by different cultures and beliefs, and merging them together, so I can introduce Iran to the global world of fashion –Nastaran Hashemi

With the likes of Mahan Farokhmehr, Nastaran Hashemi and the mighty underground fashion scene, there is hope that there will be a revival of creativity and fashion in Iran.

Author: Nasim Salad

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s