Iranian-born fashion photographer sees bright future for industry
Iranian fashion photographer Sohrab Vahdat, based most of the year in New York, talks about how the industry in his native country has developed in the past few years. He replies via email from the countryside of northern Iran:
How are people approaching fashion differently in Iran?
During my last few trips to Iran, especially my current one, I've seen a very big change. However, the people of Iran, especially in Tehran, have actually always been into high-end fashion. They follow global trends and wear all the top designers on certain occasions. Even though we have to bring back these brands when we go on holiday or buy from independent boutiques which import them, people like to dress well and impress one another with what they wear.
As a fashion professional based in New York, could you ever envisage working back in Iran?
I went to school in London, and am now based in both New York and Europe. My next plan is to hopefully be able to bring the true identities of international fashion to my country - mostly for our Iranian creatives to gain inspiration and a more open eye to design. I would love to educate fashion lovers here with the knowledge and experience I've gained in the few years working abroad. I also envisage a bright future for fashion in Iran; there's so much space for growth. Other than having many beautiful boys and girls who would make good models, we also have talented fashion designers, set designers and creators. I am actually in search of unique new faces in Iran.
Have official attitudes toward fashion improved recently?
I do believe there are some positive changes, and official attitudes have become more positive. Every change takes time.
What cultural impact, if any, could a growing fashion industry have?
Fashion here needs to start having a slight Western twist, yet keep the traditions alive for a brighter future. Regarding limitations, Iran is an Islamic country, which has certain rules for men's and women's dress in public. I think there is nothing wrong with that. For example, these days a "manto", which is similar to a trench coat, and a "roosari", which is a scarf worn in various shapes, colours and designs, are the typical outwear for women in Iran. These items can be designed by very talented designers here. Yet let's not forget that Iranian culture has been used by various international labels. Hermès used Persian rug designs for garments a few years ago. Most of these designs date back thousands of years.
What about the continuing limitations of fashion there?
Of course, there will be some limitations with regards to showing nudity or some skin; however, as an international fashion photographer, I believe you don't always have to show so much skin to attract attention and sell clothes. Yes, sex sells, but many times not seeing a woman's flesh can be even more sexy and desirable. Fashion can still be very interesting even if it follows Iran's hijab regulations.