Hoda Katebi

Last Tuesday, April 16, PAC welcomed Hoda Katebi to campus to present “From Tehran Streetstyle to the War on Terror: A Conversation on Gender, Feminism, Orientalism, White Supremacy, and Empire through Fashion.” Katebi, as described on JooJoo Azad, “is the Chicago-based angry daughter of Iranian immigrants. She is the voice behind JooJoo Azad, the political fashion platform hailed from BBC to the New York Times to the pages of VOGUE; author of the book Tehran Streetstyle, a celebration and documentation of illegal fashion in Iran; host of #BecauseWeveRead, a radical international book club with over 30 chapters internationally; and founder of Blue Tin Production, an all-women immigrant and refugee-run clothing manufacturing co-operative in Chicago.”

Early in the talk, Katebi emphasized the inherent political nature of fashion—as all art is political—noting that “apolitical” is synonymous with complacency. Every creative output has a purpose, an ability to challenge norms, and make change, to elect not to do so is an exercise of privilege.

Katebi continued to show images of Iranian art and fashion prior to imperialism. The historical paintings and photographs that Katebi projected and described depicted a fashion that was androgynous and unbidding to stereotypical gender roles. As she points out, the dress codes often associated with Iranian culture were introduced as a result of Western imperialism. Today, contemporary culture observes Iranian streetstyle changing and it has no part to do with Western influence. In fact, it is a reclamation of a culture that strived before imperialism in Iran. 

Katebi concluded with an observation on compromise and fights for justice. Oftentimes, neoliberal organizations are celebrated for their commodification of cultures and movements. This can be seen in the celebration of Nike’s athletic hijabs—even while Nike provides vile working conditions for the Muslim women who make the hijabs. It can be seen in their signing of Colin Kaepernick—while Nike themselves are leaders in the capitalistic system that blacklisted Kaepernick from the NFL in the first place. While making deals with Nike may on the surface look like a powerful statement and an important step in representation, implicating a business or organization with alternative monetary interests in a movement or culture has the capability of compromising the direction and motives of any movement.

Katebi’s talk delivered an amazing amount of insight in a short period of time and presented brilliant tools to perceive and consider fashion, and art, and any movement toward abolition and justice. PAC is grateful and proud to have welcomed Hoda Katebi.