Photo Essay: Best Dressed Iranians 2010
09 Jan 2011 12:41
Iranians like to look good. And they'll endure a lot -- battles over hejab, the ubiquitous Basij, and nose jobs, which they wear like a badge of honor -- to put a good face forward. Given our national obsession -- at home and abroad -- it would be impossible to whittle this down to a "10 Best" list. Instead, we seek to highlight some of those who have stood out for us for their individualistic look and style. As our diaspora continues to grow, and as we incorporate the fashions of our new environment in our own style, we look forward to suggestions from you for the next fashion spotlight. Please email your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you.
The Vahhabaghai Sisters
Years before opening their architecture/design firm in D.C., Bita and Rouzita Vahhabaghai grew up designing their own clothes and having them made during summer trips to Iran. Now, the sister-partners are developing a handbag line named after the ending of their names. The ita collection mixes architectural and graphic design influences with details hinting at Bita and Rouzita's Persian heritage, such as embossed calligraphy reproduced from vintage handbags popular in 1970s Iran. The sisters, visible in D.C.'s social scene as chapter organizers of the hip creative events Captiol PechaKucha Night, call their personal style "experimental" in a city not generally known for fashion forwardness. Though they've graduated to Dior and Diane von Furstenberg, Rouzita recalls that this experimentalist streak survives from junior high outfits which then included, "elastic wide belts with ruffles, kimono-sleeve tops, boots with wrap-up leather straps, crimped hair and washed-out lip gloss." Bita adds that "Washington is not as conservative as it may seem. The fashion and art scene here is growing and there are a lot of exciting things happening." -- Tara Mahtafar
Among her peers Hafez Nazeri, Bahman Kiarostami, Hana Makhmalbaf, and other stylish scion of iconic artists, Tara Aghdashloo shines for her unapologetic love affair with fashion. Though plugged into the Toronto designer community, Tara's style philosophy centers on inventiveness rather than brands and price tags: clothes can be "cheap but classy or expensive and tacky." Her favorite boutiques include Ewanika in Toronto, Pas de Deux in New York, and Dover Street Market in London, but her favorite pieces come from her "private vintage shop" -- her mother. The strongest influence her parents' artistic backgrounds had on the evolution of her style? "The freedom they gave me to dress how I wanted," she says, citing tomboy and punk rock phases during her "rebellious" teenage years in Tehran. "They let me explore all the different sides of myself, which is why I don't have one set style I religiously replicate day after day." For her, good style is daily protocol for well-being. "Even if I'm at home, I wear my nicest kimono," the recent journalism graduate says. "Looking good makes you feel good." -- Eds.
It's hard to ignore how well put together author Hooman Majd always is. He can outdress the best of them in New York, London, or Paris. But perhaps most charmingly, his sense of aesthetics remains razor-sharp across the social and political divide. He counts Thom Browne ("the most interesting and innovative menswear designer around") and John Pearce of London ("a genius") among his favorite designers. He first became interested in fashion in high school, "when we had to wear a uniform, which I hated. I always liked my dad's sense of style, and then was influenced by the great men of style, such as Fred Astaire, Cary Grant, Bogart, and some others."
"I don't really shop," he says, "at least not very often. For jeans, I wear only Levis 501s, the vintage 1955 cut, so I get them unwashed and shrink to fit occasionally from websites that sell that line. Shoes are mostly Alden and Edward Green, and they last forever, so I don't need to shop for those too much. I like Brooks Brothers for classic staples, like button-down shirts, especially the Black Fleece line, especially on sale."
How does he maintain his high-end look? "I used to have my suits and jackets made, so I had two or three good tailors, one on Saville Row. (And I used to have my shirts made at Charvet, and I still have a few left.) As a writer, I can't really afford tailors anymore, so I'm fortunate I had a number of suits made when I was in the entertainment business and could. Most of what I wear is between ten and twenty years old. I love bespoke clothing because you can pick the fabric, the lining, and the cut unique to you -- and if you pick right, nothing you own ever goes out of style." -- Eds.
Like Jackie Kennedy and Audrey Hepburn, for Iranians young and old the name Farah Pahlavi breathes rarefied elegance even today. The Shahbanou of Iran is perhaps best loved for her patronage of the arts, from helping acquire a superb collection of works for Tehran's Museum of Contemporary Art, to her support of Iranian artists and the growth of artistic movements in the country. The design of her coronation dress in 1967 sparked a lifelong friendship with Yves St. Laurent. And while Farah looked the regal queen at home and abroad, the empress remained hip enough to be painted by Andy Warhol. -- Eds.
Hamid Reza Asefi
Hamid Reza Asefi exemplifies the long lost tradition of elegance in the diplomatic corps -- an attention to detail and grooming that is all the more impressive for a member of a cadre as much as trained to ignore whatever standards of high style exist in the West or East. ("Neither East nor West...", after all, goes the Foreign Ministry motto.) He and fellow diplomat Sadegh Kharrazi wear their well-cut suits with panache, mixing even plaids and linen into the standard diplomatic repertoire of drab grays. And Asefi's relaxed style shows that the foreign service prohibition against neckties and its dreadful official collarless shirt need not be obstacles to an elegant look. -- Hooman Majd
Mahdis is a maven of fresh style, pulled together from bits of mainstream fashion and eclectic boutiques. This Make Agency boss travels far and widely. Her style is its own culture -- urban lifestyle with hints of Middle East affinity and a shock of red lipstick. Know when you see a great funky outfit you just know you can't pull off? Mahdis can, and often does, with panache. -- Eds.
From military fatigues to camouflage sweaters and combat boots, Nazila and her sister Nooshin break every stereotype with their in-your-face, confrontational style. The duo captured the international limelight in the moving documentary The Glass House. Nazila draws from her own rough-and tumble-life in the underbelly of Tehran as inspiration for the acerbic, raging lyrics she writes for her rap songs. Proceeds from her songs go to support her work as a performing artist. -- Melissa Hibbard
Abolfazl Arabpour, the Giorgia Armani of clerical clothes, picked Mohammad Khatami, Iran's former president, as his most elegant customer in a 2005 interview. Indeed, Hojatoleslam Khatami wears shoes, not the slippers known as nalein traditionally worn by Shia clerics. He dons the stylish labadeh, a round-collared cloak with side slits, instead of the qaba that hangs down to the feet to hide the loose pants underneath. While most clerics opt for dark colors, Khatami surprised the country one summer when he appeared in a white cloak. "He meticulously picks the color and material for his clothes," said Arabpour. His sense of style has not diminished. -- Nazila Fathi
"I enjoy quiet luxury," says New York-based fashion designer Nima Taherzadeh, who appreciates the importance of a look that is effortless. "We live in a fast-paced society where we are always on the go! When I shop for myself, I always look for things that can easily travel with me and I want to offer the same things for my clients." For his own staple items, he heads to Saks and Bergdorf Goodman. "For special pieces I buy from my favorite dealer in Paris. She has been finding me one-of-a-kind pieces for years. You can start at the Marché Clignoncourt and work your way around. You will find her and many other amazing vintage dealers specializing in jewelry, bags, and clothing."
Taherzadeh gains inspiration from every imaginable angle. He makes special mention of several Iranian friends whose work he treasures and in which he finds encouragement to keep exploring new aesthetic ideas. Among the diverse creative examples he cites are "Amir Khamneipur's clean and tailored interiors, Farah Amin's fresh take on homeware, Halle Amiralai's organic jewelry, and Aydin Arjomand's beautiful photographs." -- Eds.
Though meticulously coiffed and impossibly polished, Farbod Dowlatshahi's impeccable fashion sense shows just enough Parisian restraint to pull it all together perfectly. Paris -- and the flagship Hermès store on the Faubourg Saint-Honoré -- may be the driving inspiration behind his style, but the gorgeous art work hanging in his Delwood offices in Dubai underscore his passion for the motherland. The former oil-refinery builder owns some 1,900 works of Middle Eastern art, many by Iranian artists. "Because of the current political situation, the only positive message coming out of Iran is the young people," the collector recently told Barron's. -- Eds.
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