Passion, Drive Pay Off for Iranian Bikini Designer
Tala Raassi has come a long way since the days she used to cut up her mom’s leather jackets to make clothing for her dolls. “I never thought that you could have a career in fashion, because all Iranian parents say you have to either be a doctor, engineer or lawyer. I always thought I wanted to be a lawyer, because I talk a lot and somehow I always find my way,” Raassi said.
Raassi left Iran in 2000, after receiving 40 lashes for wearing a mini-skirt. But the past 10 years have not been that much easier - the young designer has had to hustle for every bit of success. She earned a degree in business management, but she also had to file for bankruptcy twice. Then - she got the break of a lifetime. Last year, she got a call from the Miss Universe pageant.
“My line is about freedom. I believe fashion showcases a woman’s freedom. And Miss Universe thought that was a good slogan for them. So they asked me to sponsor it, but it was very expensive, we had to find investors to cover the costs. I had to make 400 bikinis in only two months,” she explained. “But it was a great experience for me.”Still, Raassi says she is not ready to expand. She runs her small business with two interns and an assistant. “I am my own army. I do all of my own marketing, all designs, all patterns, I go to Colombia myself to pick my own fabric. I do it all on my own,” she adds.
While Raassi has only been back to Iran once since she left, she says she is still proud to be an Iranian Muslim. “But just like all women around the world can wear whatever they want, so should an Iranian woman. Clothes are something that empowers women,” she states. “When I wear dressy clothes I feel confident. I think women are beautiful and should be celebrated.”
And while her work reflects that celebration of women’s beauty, she says it also reflects her belief in women’s strength. It’s a strength she sees in herself - and in her business.
“My goal is to become an icon, a role-model for all women that want to do something,” she said. “Whether it’s in fashion, becoming a doctor or even becoming a mother, they shouldn’t let anything stop them.”
Raassi calls her company “DarBeDar” - Farsi for “door to door”. And she says if she has to go door to door to make it a success … then that is what she will do.