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The subtle sophistication of Iran

Carefully scrutinized by Beauty brands, the Iranian market and the aspirations it has represented since the embargos were lifted still raise questions, given the sensitivity of the issue. Hélène Capgras, Director of Brain for Beauty and expert in the sociological study of cosmetics markets, has focused on this complex country with a strong identity through an overview study to better understand what Iran is today and how it relates to Beauty.

Hélène Capgras

Hélène Capgras

In her introduction, the study’s author reiterates the fact that its geographic situation and history shaped Iran very differently from its Oriental neighbours. As the cultural crossroads between Russia in the North and Africa in the South, the country has always been the meeting point of the Eastern routes. “This is one of the reasons why a great variety of endemic ingredients can be found there, like saffron or the rose,” Hélène Capgras explains. Its history, the richness of the Persian culture, the fact that it was at the forefront of modernization in the 70s, the shock of the Islamic revolution, or the Iran/Iraq war, all these factors have built the profile of a contemporary society between modernity and constraints. The 21 cultural, historical, sociological, or lifestyle topics chosen for the Brain for Beauty study give an accurate vision of the pillars of this society.

Beauty highlighted

Women or femininity is one of these topics, and it is recurring, in particular in the chapter about fire: this key element symbolizes Iran, born from the pre-Islamic religion known as Zoroastrianism, “this very egalitarian religion that built the role of women within society and made it possible for them to have access to the status of Queen or Head of the armed forces,” Hélène Capgras explains.

Women also appear in the evocation of the “7 princesses” that embody the diversity of Iranian beauties, from the Kurdish influences in the North to the high cheekbones at the gates of Russia, the golden hair allegedly responsible for the victories over the Roman armies, or the matter complexions in the South, often with bright eyes… femininity is always reflected in the body’s grace. Less lascivious than Oriental women, Iranian women look slim and thin.

Today, this femininity faces restrictions and bans, but Iranian women deal with it with compromises: Hélène Capgras talks about a “constant body fight”. “In 1990, makeup was completely banned. Today, it has become a way for them to assert themselves through beauty. It is a positive mask that helps cope with the public space outside, such a contrast with private lives indoors, where people are freer,” she describes.

Men share the same approach of beauty, as depicted in the chapter about Heroes. This myth conveyed the notion of masculine beauty for centuries, and it is still visible today in the attention Iranian men pay to their image.

Love perfumes

The importance of well-known floral perfumes actually outdoes the powerful trails of the Middle East, in particular with the rose, the olfactory expression of femininity,” Hélène Capgras emphasizes. Whether they be classics, memories of the 70s, or niche fragrances, perfumes are essential for both men and women. French and Italian brands dominate a market where counterfeiting is still common. And cosmetics and makeup encounter the same difficulties: “there is an incredible variety of import brands, but the offering is still complex to decipher depending on the distribution modes,” Hélène Capgras observes. And yet, new perfume stores and pharmacies are present, with a very rich offering in hair care: a whole chapter is dedicated to it in the study.

A hopeful youth

Iran’s young, educated population makes it a real demographic pot: if young people are confronted with restrictions and bans, they still manage to cleverly circumvent them to claim their own identity. Indeed, in conclusion to her study, Hélène Capgras highlights the extraordinary personality of this country in search for a modern Persian expression of luxury. “This country radiates a subtle sophistication that can mostly be found in Beauty codes.

Kristel Milet

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