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Iranian Women and Fashion Week: What the Power Play Means for the Future of Women

Staff writer Salma Durrans reflects on the ways in which Fashion Week offered another method by which women could voice their views and protest the curtailment of Womens’ rights in certain parts of the world.

This year’s fashion week, in New York and Paris took place at the same time as Mahsa Amini, 22, was beaten to death for not wearing her hijab ‘properly.’

Fashion week has always been a time where big fashion houses get together to demonstrate the power of women, but this year in particular it was more crucial than ever to show the strength women can have over anything; it really puts into perspective how certain fashion brands used their platform to make a statement using clothes.

For the artistic director at Dior, Maria Grazia Chiuri, this took form in the representation of powerful female figure Catherine de’ Medici, known for using fashion to express her wealth and power. The collection accentuated this through structured corsets over cotton shirts, with staple trousers, like a ‘pragmatic modern armour.’

The Saint Laurent show emphasised the strength of a woman. Creative director Anthony Vaccarello wanted to truly emphasise the impact of a woman, and her strength in the face of adversity, through regal-like clothes, mirroring the authoritative, dominant presence a woman can have, with some pieces even incorporating hoods, a reflection of the hijab laws in Iran and the consequences of them.

Not only did Saint Laurent successfully incorporate the classical timelessness of their brand, but it also represented a ‘vision of a woman at her most powerful and imposing’, which comes just at the time we need it the most.

We have to ask ourselves, how important is the representation of women in fashion to raising awareness in the Western population about the lack of freedom that exists in Middle Eastern countries. Since the death of Mahsa Amini, the protests which followed have had detrimental consequences on the little power Iranian women already had. Sarina Esmailzadeh, 16, was beaten to death by Iranian security forces for her protesting of women’s rights in the country. Nika Shakarami, 16, was killed after burning her headscarf in protest. Hadis Najafi, 23, was shot multiple times during demonstrations protesting against the death of Mahsa Amini. These are just 4 young women, out of over 100 people, who died fighting for their rights at a time when they should be able to exercise free speech without having to worry about the fatal consequences.

Even though the main takeaway in this is the fact that in some countries it appears women have no freedom and say over their own lives and are murdered when they try to do something about it, it should give us hope that this is the first counterrevolution led by women; fighting their supreme leader, challenging his power in one of the most significant protests in modern history. The Western world must finally realise the importance of increasing awareness about Women’s rights across the globe, through art, fashion, the media, etc. In this sense, fashion week acts as a form of female expression and empowerment through making a statement with garments, and thus raising awareness on important global issues. Maybe we can finally realise the crucial nature of female freedom and power all over the world, not just in the West.

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