In In northern Tehrans Oxygen Royal health and fitness centre, a group of 20 young men have gathered, each wearing identical black T-shirts inscribed with a big white DFW, the abbreviation for Darab fashion week.
The center is located in the affluent and historical district of Gheytarieh in the foothills of the Alborz mountains, which tower over Irans capital. With its VIP members and advanced exercise machinery, you may as well be in Beverly Hills. Instead, the centre is the venue for Irans male models to practice strutting the catwalk under the aegis of a professional trainer, who will also prepare them for the castings that will follow.
After a day of hard work, the results are promising. All the men have been offered contracts for Darabs forthcoming event in September, planned to take place at the Esteghlal hotel.
After more than three decades of resistance and struggling underground, fashion is finally gaining a foothold in the Islamic Republic. As fashion weeks mushroom across Iran, the need for more models has significantly increased.
Most models at Oxygen Royal are hired by Behpooshi, a modelling agency that last year became one of the first to obtain official permission to operate. The agency has 50 male and 30 female models, linking them with event managers such as Darab.
If I say that fashion in Iran has gone through a revolution in the past year, I havent exaggerated, Sharif Razavi, Behpooshis director, told the Guardian. In around 30 years since the revolution, we saw around 10 to 15 catwalks in the country, he said, but in the last year alone, weve seen more than a hundred.
Behpooshi began seven years ago but like many others involved in the fashion industry in Iran, the agency operated underground.Then two and half years ago, Razavi wrote to the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and asked for a religious edict to find if Islam forbade fashion and modelling. To his delight, it didnt.