Three years ago, Shiva and Shirin Vaqar decided to follow their passion and pursue a career in a field they both loved. Despite all of the challenges and difficulties confronting them, they entered the world of fashion and clothing design, and started creating their own brand of women’s wear for the Iranian market.

Fast-forward to 2016, and the Vaqar sisters were being invited to compete in the third edition of the LVMH Prize for Young Fashion Designers. Better yet: Shiva and Shirin ended up on the shortlist of 23, becoming the first Iranian fashion designers to be semi-finalists in the competition.

Further fashion accolades were to come. During their stay in Paris, the Vaqar sisters received visits from such fashion luminaries as Karl Lagerfeld, Sidney Toledano (CEO of Christian Dior), and Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of American Vogue.

Delphine Arnault, Louis Vuitton’s Executive Vice President, came up with the idea for the competition in 2013 as a way of supporting young and emerging talents aged between 18 and 40. There were eight finalists. The overall winner received 300,000 euros, as well as mentoring and support for their label over a 12-month period.

At 27, Shirin Vaqar is the younger of the two sisters, and originally studied visual arts. At her sister Shiva’s suggestion, the pair joined forces and began working together. They created their designs far from the bustle and commotion of commerce and advertising, and with an outsider’s perspective on the Iranian fashion world. They rapidly made a name for themselves among their private clientele, and today, after three years of considerable effort and perseverance, are one of Tehran’s most popular fashion labels. They present a very contemporary style, with outfits that are a modern take on the traditional Iranian or Western look. Their clothes have a universal appeal, and don’t adhere specifically to Iran’s Islamic dress code. Their label, Vaqar, is derived from their family name.

In a brief conversation with Kayhan London, Shiva and Shirin said that they were Louis Vuitton’s guests for four days in Paris. Their designs were showcased at Paris Fashion Week, and attracted the attention of the world’s top designers and fashion critics, all of whom were aware of the Iranian fashion industry’s lack of support and the difficulties facing designers there as compared to elsewhere.

Ron Wilson, Director of European Operations at PMC – owners of the Women’s Wear Daily magazine – said after a visit to the Vaqar stand that, despite the many challenges faced by Shiva and Shirin Vaqar, the sisters had reason to be proud. Their efforts had borne fruit, he said, as demonstrated by their presence in the competition and by their unique designs.

Although Shiva and Shirin were not among the eight finalists, they said they had subsequently received orders from a number of countries around the world. They described the experience as the beginning of a new and promising chapter in their professional life.

(By Katayoon Halajan)