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The Home Shopping Network, Iranian style!

Ahlya Fateh

Published: Updated:

I like to shop. There, I’ve said it. I am also pathologically wary of crowds and have a very short attention span outside of work. This means I don’t like fussing about in fancy shops and trying to find a sales person, only to be told that they don’t have it in my size or in the colour I want. This is why God created the internet. At any time of the day or night, women like me may have the overwhelming urge to spend money and we have been provided with an outlet for our compulsions! Before the internet we all felt that we had to dress up before braving the terrifyingly groomed sales assistant in the trendy boutique. Of course after Pretty Woman we all secretly wanted her to be mean to us just so we could utter the words “Big mistake...Huge!” while flaunting our shiny carrier bags.

Now in Iran, home shopping is an altogether different concept. According to a piece in The Guardian newspaper this week, private shopping; ie boutiques in private houses called Maisons, are all the rage, where Iranian women can de-hijab, chill out, drink tea and eat pastries while browsing through racks of clothes specially designed for the Iranian market by enterprising and fashionable entrepreneurs. These women are enjoying an easier freedom to earn and develop a business from their own homes, especially appealing in a country where the religious conservatism means that shopping is less of a pleasure and more of a functional experience. Now this type of shopping is not really so ground breaking and actually has a successful sister model in the West. Women have always liked to combine the social with the consumerist activities in our lives; whether you are buying Tupperware or Avon cosmetics, these formats of selling to women from their peers’ private homes has always been extremely popular. I recently attended a Pampered Chef party and left several hundred pounds poorer than I arrived, thanks to my unquenchable desire for kitchen gadgetry.

It says a lot for the determination and desire for independence of Iranian women that even with sanctions affecting the import of fabrics and materials they are still persevering to bring their designs to their market

Ahlya Fateh

In London not a day goes past that my in box does not receive an email invitation to a “Private Sale” of designer clothing or accessories – usually hosted by a friend of the designer. In Pakistan these sales or exhibitions as they are called are a credible way for any women, who are starting a business with a small outlay, to sell directly to her customer base and develop her enterprise at a rate that suits her. Now, in general attendance is not mandatory but most of these exhibitions enjoy a healthy turn out and excellent sales. Sure there is tea or refreshments on offer too but I think the main reason we all turn up is that there is the allure of being offered something special or exclusive in a comfortable atmosphere. There is rarely pressure to buy and over the years I have discovered beautiful childrenswear, gorgeous candles to rival Dyptique, jewellery and bags that one simply can’t find on the high street or the internet. Many of these designers have also gone on to be successful brands in their own right which says much about their quality and workmanship.

Enterprising Iranian women

It says a lot for the determination and desire for independence of Iranian women that even with sanctions affecting the import of fabrics and materials they are still persevering to bring their designs to their market. That is something that is admirable.

These entrepreneurs also show that they are taking pains to understand their home market and that by creating an environment that is warm and welcoming, sales will follow. As the article in The Guardian acknowledges, this is not some sort of Private Shopping Lounge in a fancy department store; but a way for women who are single or widowed to support themselves in a difficult economic climate. For those who can afford to shop perhaps visiting a Maison and not a designer boutique is a way to support new fashion designers and women in general which is no bad thing. However, I like to think that this proves my very own theories about women and their very real need to purchase, acquire and possess. This, I have to say I believe, is bred into our DNA leading me to the very heart of what defines us, no matter what our background, religious persuasion, sexual orientation or economic status....

I shop therefore I am.

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Ahlya Fateh knows all about fashion and publishing. As the former managing editor of Tatler magazine, and the managing director of fashion brand, Tata Naka, she has combined a strong creative vision with an understanding of strategy and management. Ahlya lives in London and is a mother of two.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.