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Beauty Brands Eye up Iran as Market Opens up to International Brands

Beauty Brands Eye up Iran as Market Opens up to International Brands
Cosmetics sales in Iran are among the highest in the Middle East, despite -- or perhaps partly because of -- strict Islamic dress codes.
Many women express their individuality with lipstick, mascara and nail polish in styles that would seem elaborate by Western standards even as they are required to wear modest clothes and headscarves, but their faces and hands are not covered.
Fattahi-Dasmal, who runs a salons chain in Dubai, thinks it is time to bring in a high-end international brand with most international economic sanctions now lifted after a nuclear agreement with world powers that took effect this year, reports the Reuters.
Thousands of well-off young Iranians who holiday in nearby Dubai, where they can sunbathe, shop and dress with relative freedom, the chain of nail salons, N.Bar of Fattahi-Dasmal already has them in its customer base.
"For Iranian women it's a sought-after brand. There have been a lot of counterfeit products in Iran. They are extremely hungry for anything that is real, genuine and imported from the West," Fattahi-Dasmal, an Iranian-born Emirati, said in an interview to the Reuters.  
While the branches in Dubai of the Salon offer dozens of standardized treatments and stringent hygiene procedures, she said some customers were skeptical that the new Tehran branch could replicate the quality and consistency customers are used to in Dubai.
Skirting diplomatic isolation and domestic repression, Iran's fashion-forward twenty-somethings have kept up with global trends on social media and travels abroad. Fattahi-Dansal says they are discerning consumers.
The latest seasonal collections of top global brands such as Dolce & Gabbana, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Roberto Cavalli were able to find their way into independent shops in the affluent northern districts of Tehran even under sanctions.
Opportunities for beauty and cosmetics -- a market estimated by Iran's parliament's research center to be worth more than $4 billion a year, have a similar opportunity as those luxury fashion brands which are now entering Iran directly.
But which enforce Islamic dress codes and are wary of allowing any perceived Western cultural influence into the country, they could face resistance from conservative factions in the establishment.
"The way women dress and look is still one of the red lines in the Islamic Republic. The brands going to Iran should be ready to face resistance from conservatives or even get shut down and expelled from Iran," said Afshin Sadeghizadeh, a brand management consultant in Tehran and former editor of Iran's Style magazine.
Foreign luxury brands are still seen by some conservatives as part of a war against the Islamic Republic. The CIA could spy on Iranians through fake eyelashes or skin care lotions. The Tasnim news agency, close to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards, last week reported.
Many may be led to opt for a franchise arrangement due to complex business and banking regulations which are another potential obstacle.
"Because of the legalities and complications, Iran is not an easy place to do business but it is also very lucrative. That was the reason we franchised," Fattahi-Dasmal said.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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