Nogol Zahabi, ALANGOO.com
“Tehran Fashion Week is a series of fashion shows displaying the work of top Iranian designers in Iran. One of the main goals of this event is to bring together people in the fashion industry and related fields to network and create new opportunities for future collaborations. The first Tehran Fashion Week was held in 2014 and showcased the collections of seven Iranian fashion designers, as well as jewelry and accessory designers. The event was very well received by designers and the public alike. The idea behind Tehran Fashion Week was originally conceived and organized by Line, Expert Event Planners, who design and hold exclusive fashion events under the QSM Institute. ”
This is a chat with Amin Davaie, founder of Tehran Fashion Week at his trendy place in Tehran over some Italian coffee and footage of the latest fashion shows in Tehran.
How did you come up with the idea of Tehran Fashion Week? What’s the story behind it?
My relationship with the fashion industry has been lifelong, I grew up in it. My mother has been a fashion designer for more than 20 years and has one of the most famous “maisons” in Tehran. But I was never involved directly with the Fashion industry, instead I became a director for cultural and artistic projects. I have directed projects such as a digital arts festival (that has been taking place for four, going on five years now) and some international art projects. My father, the founder of QSM (Qoohaye Sepid Mahtab, one of the first groups to get permission for Fashion events in Tehran) recommended me to work in this industry. While I was away in Brazil for a project, he started a fashion show with four designers. After I got back to Tehran, I thought it was very interesting that this event not only took place with permission from the Ershad ministry, but was also supported by them too. I knew that the only way that this could continue was with the support of young energy and talent who have a passion for fashion and who want to see fashion in Iran grow. So I put together a new group of talented and driven individuals to organize a “Tehran Fashion Week”. Our group “Line” is now under QSM.
Do you have a related academic background?
I was originally accepted to college to study Architecture, but I quit. Then I started working in the digital art, cultural, and artistic projects. I had exhibitions and projects in Brazil, Milan, Ankara, Istanbul, Madrid, Berlin, Frankfurt, London and Dubai. I was also the manager for the bands, Pallett and Kingraam.
How long has Tehran Fashion Week been going on? Are you having the event twice a year?
The first season of THRFW was held in 2014. It was the first time that a fashion show took place in Iran, therefore a lot of things got localized. There are a lot of things that still need to settle down, like the time of the event which is not international at all yet, and so on. It is every 6 months. But with international fashion weeks, the events take place six months earlier and the buyers come, see and buy, but because there is no buyers here in Iran yet and we sell the collections privately, we have different dates from international events. Thus, our guests buy for their needs of that season and not the future season. Until we bring buyers (people who have shops and boutiques), gather them and show them the way to invest, the events will not be on an international time line.
Then are you planning to invite buyers?
Yes, we never sell tickets for our shows, we invite our guests through our contact list or relationships we have with people. We try to invite people that the designers could sell to. Even if there is a small chance that someone may buy a designer’s collection, we invite them. It is very valuable for us that we invite people who can be effective. The word buyer is not very common in Iran because nobody has ever done this here before. They have to think of our designer’s collection, and how it could give credit to them and their shop.
Do you think you are bringing a culture of showcasing fashion to Iran?
Yes, but it is a difficult path.
I heard that you had a partner in the beginning, what was the reason behind your separation and why did you choose to continue?
Yes, Sam Zandi was my partner in the beginning. He was our event director for Tehran Fashion Week. Because of differing opinions about the set of groups I created and the conditions they had, it became difficult for him and he decided to move on from THRFW. But I had responsibility, passion and drive to continue our project.
Is there a possibility that you could work together again in the future?
Yes, there always is.
What obstacles did you have on your way to making this event happen?
Well our target is very specific, it is not public. But there are people who have a passion for this industry and want to invest in it. One of the problems was that our audience mostly saw international fashion shows before and they knew their quality. Thus, an Iranian audience has high expectations and compares everything with the rest of the world. Therefore, our aim is to have everything of the highest quality to be able to compete internationally. And when you try to bring such an event into Iran, there are a lot of hurdles in the way of logistics. Although, this new government tries to take a lot of obstacles away and make such an event happen, with respect of the rules of the country. Ershad in particular, they really helped us with this event.
Does the word Fashion register in Iran, as it is not a Persian word?
We say mode. Tehran mode week. *laughs*
Your location in the Sam Centre mall is on one of the poshest streets of Tehran, Fereshte Street. How did you choose this location and will you use different venues in the future?
I had an event in Sam Centre before and it is such a beautiful location and the venue is accessible from three different sides, making it ideal for an event of our size. Also, Sam Centre has a lot of space to utilize, but if we find a venue with higher ceilings and better facilities, then we will definitely change it up!
How do you call for designers to apply for the event and how do you choose which ones to showcase? Are you choosing them or are they choosing you?
Unfortunately, nowadays a lot of people with no taste, just some connection in the industry, start sewing, call themselves a designer and want to be featured, but we tried to ignore that level and group. We tried to encourage designers with real concept and a story behind their collection. Maybe in the future we will show collections of “mantous”, but in Tehran Fashion Week, designers with collections of dresses are acceptable. First, we contact the designers through our contact list. After that if we still had open spaces, we send out an open call on our social media sites.
What press have you had so far and how do you go about sending out the press release for this big event?
Since this is a new event in Iran, we had two Iranian fashion focused magazines attend. But since this event is a new thing in Iran, they talk about it mainly in the margins and you never see a real criticism about the collection of a designer or the concept behind it. They are more interested about the costs and how we got permission and so on. Basically, they neglect those real artistic topics. But internationally, we have had The New York Times and a Colombian newspaper write about the events.
I heard they collect mobiles and cameras before the shows. As a result there are no or very little pictures of the shows. How bad will this affect your future shows?
The women’s fashion show is only for women and all the staff and audience are women, so if an image is released from this part of the show, then we won’t be able to have this event again, as you know. We risk our luck to be able to do these events again. In a way, it is like a new born that needs a lot of care and we, especially me, would love to see the women’s show.
Oh you didn’t get to see the women’s fashion show?
No, I was working the scene, design, and visuals…. but I never saw the show itself. We have a different woman manager for the women’s show.
How strong do you see Tehran Fashion week? (Compared to well-known international Fashion Weeks)
I can’t compare. Our goal is to get to the point where we will be able to compete. I think we have gone 20% of the way thus far. We still have a long path to arrive at the place where we can compete with other fashion weeks.
Who takes care of the costs of the event? Do you have sponsors or do the designers pay? How affordable is it for designer to participate? Could talented young designers with a small budgets afford to be part of the show?
The first event was from our own company investment mostly. But we have sponsors. Our main sponsors are L’Oreal and SONY, as well as HANA Spa resort, Mondrian Gallery, Sadaf Clinic, Vanilla Patisserie, and a few more are our other sponsors There are also designers who pay for the service we give them like everywhere else. Services like invitations, catering and so on. Unfortunately, the designers paid a lot of costs but we are going to try to get the costs from our sponsors from now on.
What is your reaction to the new Fashion Week events that are going to take place in Tehran?
I am very happy! I am doing this by myself now, so I hope we can do it with high quality. I am finding and putting together the little bits and pieces now. So, I prefer if other groups also work and we create a competition. I will be happy if they create groups with standard high quality.
How do you see Tehran Fashion Week in the future?
In the future, with what is happening, I hope to see THRFW an international event. It might stay internal for the next one or two years but I think we will be strong in the Middle East. Especially, with the creativity that we have inside Iran. The path is bright!
Who is your favorite Iranian designer so far and what plans do you have for her/him or designers like her/him?
In Iran there are a few designers in men’s fashion that I love. My favourites are Reza Nadimi and also Salar Bil, who did not participate this season. He works with Persian tales and legends, which make his work very interesting. In women’s fashion, my favourite is Mernoosh Shahhosseini who designed Leila Hatami’s dress for the Cannes Film Festival last year. I think she is a real artist and I have a lot of respect for her. We don’t have a plan for them yet but if some people invest in them, the results would be great.
How do you feel about platforms like ALANGOO.com?
I saw ALANGOO.com and I see that they are serious a bout what they do. I have a lot of respect for people who are seriously active. Inside Iran people are normally mostly critical of things, but it is unfortunately almost never constructive criticism. As I said, I have a lot of respect for people who work seriously and create positive opportunities.