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Photo Essay: Best Dressed Iranians 2010

09 Jan 2011 12:4124 Comments

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 info@tehranbureau.com. We look forward to hearing from you.

The Vahhabaghai Sisters

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

Tara Aghdashloo

Tara Aghdashloo

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.

Hooman Majd

Hooman Majd

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.

Farah Diba

Farah Diba

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

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 Keshavarz

Mahdis Keshavarz

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.


Mahdis Keshavarz

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

Mohammad Khatami

Mohammad Khatami

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

Nima Taherzadeh

Nima Taherzadeh

"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.

Farbod Dowlatshahi

Farbod Dowlatshahi

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.

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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Hooman Majd rules! I love his hair in the pic.

Amin / January 9, 2011 9:37 AM

I can't believe you left out our own Bijan.

Mitra / January 9, 2011 9:48 AM

In all the years Shahbanou has kept up the image of an Iranian woman.She is a wonderful person.

Taraneh / January 9, 2011 5:51 PM

Only one mullah?

Anonymous / January 9, 2011 6:10 PM

Is this a joke? Asefi & Khatami? Maghare kardin?

Babak / January 9, 2011 7:22 PM

it looks like you just collected a bunch of random, but sufficiently well known people and put them together and called it a day-- this is equivelant of "People Magazines Most Beautiful People"

The architect sisters look terrible, a short pink tie with huge hip belt? really?

and Khatami?

and Asefi? well groomed?

try harder next time.

Anonymous / January 9, 2011 9:08 PM

porochista khakpour should be on this list! sunny shokrae. shirin neshat! abbas kiarostami!

tina / January 9, 2011 9:53 PM

what a joke !!! It seems like if you were just wearing something you qualified.. this is so random one doesn't know where to begin...oh by the way who was the jury here?...if this is their pick would love to see what they look like!

ali / January 9, 2011 9:54 PM

This is really bizarre. As someone has already mentioned it is more like a look at the various styles of a random selection of people. The piece about Asefi is particularly wierd. If there ever was a "tradition of elegance in the diplomatic corps" it ended with the start of the Islamic Republic and so Asefi certainly does not exemplify it. You can't work for a regime that enforces a strict dress code on half of the population and look "elegant" and "fashionable" at the same time!

Cy / January 9, 2011 11:14 PM

"Indeed, Hojatoleslam Khatami wears shoes, not the slippers known as nalein traditionally worn by Shia clerics."

Wow! Very impressive. Lucky us!

Ghadresho nadoonestim!

Cy / January 9, 2011 11:21 PM

Although I agree that this list seems random, I'm glad Khatami and Asefi were included.

CY, Iranian diplomats may not wear Armani suits or Valentino ties (and that's a good thing). But people like Kharazi and Khatami always look polished, despite the grungy look of most Iranian politicians. A lot of us Iranians appreciate that, even though you're too busy @ Sake Fifth Avenue to probably notice. Khatami especially always looks impeccable, even though he goes by the traditional clerical dress code. That kind of elegance is much harder to pull off.

Houshang / January 10, 2011 12:33 AM

I dont get it.... why are these people in here? does one submit their own profiles? Cause i feel the only person on here that should be on here is the queen farah and mr majd thats all!!

If you need a real list of people who have made a difference and contribution to the actual country of iran than gimme a shout!


amirali / January 10, 2011 1:07 AM

Tina and Mitra,

Thank you for the great suggestions.


By all means. We look forward to hearing yours, too.

moderator / January 10, 2011 1:38 AM

My vote goes to Majd and his snappy "duds." Honorable mention goes to his relative Khatami.

Pirouz / January 10, 2011 5:36 AM

Interesting list! From Hooman Majd to Mahdis Keshavarz, I think some of these people are not only the most stylish but most intellectual and thought provoking Iranians in the world today!

Mr. Kzadeh / January 10, 2011 8:20 AM

I love Iran, the Iranian people and its culture. And I believe that the Iranian women will change Iran - not only by their dress, but by their intelligence.

Markus Meyer / January 10, 2011 11:54 AM

I love the diversity of this list. I agree with many of the choices made. I especially love the Architect sisters. I have seen many articles about them and have followed alot of their work. For once I see a duo with both brains and beauty.

Ali Soltani / January 10, 2011 3:11 PM

Houshang, I think far less Iranians than you might think care about Khatami's "polished" look and whether he can pull off his ammameh with style or not. The very fact that Iran has to be ruled by men who where ammamehs is my problem. I'm sorry I don't get as excited as you when I see one mullah who doesn't look like he's crawled out of a sewer.

Not that it is any of your business, but I have never in my life set foot anywhere near Sake's Fifth Avenue.

Cy / January 10, 2011 3:19 PM

The ita sisters are great!! I cant wait to see their handbag collection. I am from DC and I can tell you that these two have really made there mark in this city.

Roya Habibian / January 10, 2011 3:25 PM

Houshang: How wonderful that men like Khatami and Asef are polished and clean.. That takes away all the resentment me and probably millions of Iranians have against them for being high representatives of a murderous government...

Dude... Do you even understand what you are saying???
Your comments are a slap in the face of every victim of the islamic republic... "Sure, they may be murderers, but at least they are clean and dress nice"... Boro baba hal nadari...

Babak / January 10, 2011 8:02 PM

its a cool list.
I think there is nothing to say about the impress.she is just amazing.i live in dubai and have seen this dowlatshahi guy.he looks to be cool and really well dressed and classy .
i have to say that i am a bit disturbed by the Khatami and the politician presence.

kami / January 10, 2011 9:40 PM

Babak, last I checked, this was a "best dressed" list, nothing more.
Many best dressed lists this year included Obama - who is leading drone attacks and the killing of thousands of civilians in illegal wars ... but he made the list anyways because it's regarding his attire and not his morals.

Do everyone a favor and read the title.

Houshang / January 10, 2011 10:09 PM

who needs this kind of seen-and-be-seen list? the struggle to get this kind of noterity, kills people and enslaves children, plain and simple . . .poof

slaves to ego / January 12, 2011 10:16 PM

How could you guys miss Alexis Latifi? Shes beutiful and smart. I think she was on the list of the 50 most beautiful people working in government for 2010.

Bratislava / January 22, 2011 3:56 AM