Fashion bug spreading among Iraqi women
BAGHDAD - They have established their own cosmetics brands and fashion styles, are paid to endorse products and their blogs are followed by thousands of people on social media. Iraq’s fashion bloggers — or “fashionistas” — are gaining ground in a country that is mainly associated with the horrors of war.
Noor Alazawi, a 27-year-old blogger, is one of Iraq’s most sought-after beauty social media personalities. After graduating from Baghdad University with a degree in political science, she decided she wanted to take a different path. Her Facebook page “Makeup is My Passion” has more than 650,000 followers and a large audience visits her Instagram account.
“My passion for cosmetics and anything related to beauty care started at a very young age,” Alazawi said. “I was clearly influenced by my mother who has always been keen on taking care of her skin and looking elegant without extravagance.”
Becoming a beauty and fashion aficionada entails hard work and persistence. “It is not merely wearing make-up and following fashion trends but it takes a lot of research to stay up to date with the latest creations in the world where every day there is something new,” Alazawi said.
“I make sure to follow international bloggers such as Huda Kattan, who achieved international fame through hard work and determination until she established her own cosmetics company — Huda Beauty — and created her own brand of false eyelashes and many other famous Arab and foreign bloggers.”
Alazawi refused to describe herself as a mere fashionista. “It is true that my appearances are always well prepared, my cloths well-matched and my make-up nicely designed,” she said, “but I am mainly interested in teaching Iraqi women how to highlight their beauty and take care of their skin without much cost and pretence.”
Iraq’s fashionistas are among this new breed of style stars that have been rising in the last few years across the Arab region. They can make a name for themselves thanks to portals such as Facebook and Instagram while setting up highly successful blogs and websites.
These digital celebrities are amassing large audiences and using their influence to secure major deals by promoting brands and products including fashion, cosmetics, cars, electronics and mobile phones as well as trendy places and restaurants.
“Iraqi diva” — or “Hanin” — is one of the most famous Iraqi fashion bloggers. She uses different names when blogging and prefers not to reveal her real name. Her good looks and slim figure helped her become popular in fashion brands and cosmetics lines.
A graduate of mechatronics engineering from the University of Baghdad, Hanin’s passion for fashion also began when she was young. “I used to wear pieces designed and tailored by my mother who played a big role in developing this aspect of my personality. Through her I could keep up with fashion at a negligible cost,” Hanin says.
The 24-year-old fashion blogger and her mother participated in “Iraq Fashion Show 2016” with two pieces they designed and tailored and the event became crucial in bolstering Hanin’s image as a fashionista. Soon after, mother and daughter started a business of importing Turkish clothes that Hanin displayed and marketed through her blog.
“I actually try to mix and match clothes from local brands available in the market and the items available in a cloth shop owned by my husband. Elegance does not require big money. It is all about simplicity and coordination of colours and items. This is what I hope to transmit to Iraqi girls through my social media accounts,” she said.
With more than 450,000 followers on Instagram, Hanin is the marketing figure for international cosmetics brand Stage Cosmetics and French medical beauty care company Pharmaceris. Brand promotion and publicity results in a steady income for her and her family.
The growing phenomenon in conservative Iraqi society has stirred criticism with some blasting fashion blogging as a “humiliation for women” who are treated as a “commodity” by publicity companies.
“The Iraqi society is very educated and cultured. There is a relative acceptance of the tendency of having Iraqi girls promoting products through their private social media accounts, though a certain percentage of people are against because of their upbringing and false perceptions,” Hanin said.
Despite some negative perceptions, Alazawi’s beauty blog gained popularity at a fast pace. With encouragement from followers, she recently introduced six types of false eyelashes with names inspired by Iraqi history, including Gilgamesh and Ishtar.
“Social media were crucial in disseminating my products and ideas among my followers who were also an inspiration in the creation of some of my products,” Alazawi said. “Things were not easy as I was not spared from harsh criticism but my determination and the support of my family and friends helped me make it.”