Kabul Catwalk

Defying Taboos and Braving Death Threats

by Fairouzeh Ramadanzadeh

In recent years, the world of fashion has attracted the attention of many young men and women in Afghanistan. The sustainability of this industry appears to be facing many challenges in Afghanistan's traditional society, but many young men and women want to experiment and assess their potential for success.

Idris Salehi, the artistic director and founder of Kabul Model Management, received a master's degree in film at a university in Iran. He is the owner of Vision Media Production and its subsidiaries Insight Studio and Neovision.

"In 2015, I and a number of my friends managed to attract 200 young women and 380 young men from Afghanistan to enrol in the first training phase at this agency," Salehi told Majalla.

"Since the inauguration of Kabul Model Management our goal has been to transform it into a place that brings together all the emerging and professional talent in the fashion sector. We wanted it to become an integrated group of all those who want to be involved in fashion and acting."

“What is remarkable is the broad welcome we have received since the inception of the agency from those who have been interested in fashion and modelling,” Saleh added.

"Most of the trainees did not take the issue of professionalism in the fashion industry seriously and they considered it fun. Many of them like the fashion show because of their elegance and outer beauty, but there is another category of trainees who always ask us, where can we continue this profession abroad? Do you know a person or institution that can help us develop our fashion skills?” Saleh explained.

Idris Salehi pointed out that since the first year of the establishment of the agency, 80 per cent of the trainees were introduced to the media in order to promote their work to fashion magazines and television commercials.

Kabul Model Management’s events were expected to continue on an annual basis and the agency's organizers sought to recruit more young talent for the second training course, but the agency's activities have reduced since the first course, although that was almost 3 years ago.

"Values ​​and ideas in Afghan society are still traditional," said the head of Kabul Model Management. “Many issues are misunderstood by many individuals. When the idea of ​​ a fashion show is put forward, there is a prevailing perception that the fashion show is equivalent to stripping and contradicts religion. So we face many challenges because of society's view and the abuse and insults directed at us by people on social media. We have been threatened with death. Some said that such individuals should not live in the country. They have cursed me and all the members of the agency thousands of times and said that we should be killed because we are infidels that have infiltrated the country”.

Salehi said that these explicit threats were caused by the Taliban's prevailing ideology in Afghanistan which opposes development and change in the culture in the country.

Kabul Model Management was unable to expand their activities in the second training phase due to these severe social barriers and were forced to relocate the agency to another area in Kabul in order to preserve their lives and preserve the safety of the rest of the members.

"We are unable to continue our work socially and freely because of the prevailing conditions and therefore we have remained silent and you are the first media we have spoken with to reveal what is going on," the agency's founder said.

It seems that the agency's managers are determined to continue their work professionally, despite the pressures and obstacles.

"Our activities have not turned into a source of income for us because we have always been providing services, but the models earn between $ 100 and $ 300 for every fashion show depending on where it is held. This amount is quite reasonable for individuals who are do modelling as a second career," Salehi explained.

"There are good fashion shows in the country but most of the fashion shows are conducted randomly and without planning," Salehi said. “There are sometimes one or two fashion shows in Kabul, but there is never a plan to continue them.”

"Programs related to fashion shows such as “catwalk” and a number of other programs have been established in Kabul, but all these programs need consistent management and coordination for continuity. An institution must manage these programs professionally, but this is impossible in Kabul because of the current circumstances, Salehi added.

"The 2011 and 2012 fashion shows were held under the title “catwalk” or other titles, but all were unfortunately intended for commercial gain so the sponsors did not create an institution or agency to provide professional training in fashion design and modelling. What is going on is that young talent in fashion design and modelling will grab the attention of the fashion designer who wants them to sell their products and then these young talents are promoted through commercials. But these designers lack knowledge in the fashion and modelling industries and do not have an emerging talent training program.” Salehi explained.

"The prospects for fashion modelling in Afghanistan are unknown because of the circumstances and traditional society," he said. "About 50 percent of trainees from the first training phase of Kabul Model Management left the country for various reasons.”

"The prospects for Afghanistan's fashion industry do not bode well because the authorities have not formally recognized the profession and because of the outlook of the closed society in Afghanistan," Salehi said.

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