News about the lifting sanctions on Iran in the near future — in view of a nuclear agreement — seems to have affected almost all industrial sectors and textiles and garments are no exception
Iran has recently announced it will resume import of fabrics from countries producing the best quality material such as Italy, which had earlier expressed readiness to export cloth to Iran once the sanctions were removed.
Although, this is unpleasant for those involved in the domestic textile industry due to fears of losing their market share, experts have welcomed the move.
Experts contend that growing interest among foreign textile producers to export to Iran will benefit the domestic textile industry by creating a competitive market.
Although, Iran has a long history of producing fabrics, the quality has declined in the absence of foreign rivals.
They say competition is vital to encourage textile producers to improve the quality of their products to attract more customers and increase their market share.
Experts also believe that boosting trade ties with foreign textile producers is vital to enhance the quality of domestic products.
Iranians have been involved in producing uniquely-designed fabrics for the last 8,000 years. Iranian hand-woven textiles were exported throughout history.
Certain modern textile manufacturers are reportedly producing fabrics created by artists inspired by traditional Iranian designs.
The products have drawn global attention, prompting Iranian officials to take urgent actions to revive the industry.
In a roundtable, Iran Daily’s reporters asked two experts — Behnoud Javaherpour, an Italian-based fashion and cloth designer, and Majid Mozaffari, a producer of traditional embroidery cloth from Yazd — about the potentials and capabilities of Iran’s textile industry.
Javaherpour holds academic degrees in textile design from Instituto Marangoni Milano in Italy.
He has earned more fame and popularity in the world than in at home. He has recently come to Iran to contribute to the revival of Iran’s textile industry.
Majid Mozaffari graduated from universities of Yazd and Tehran Fine Arts in the fields of carpet weaving and handicrafts.
He invented a modern textile machine for ‘Daraei Bafi’— a type of Iranian traditional textile.
Excerpts of the discussions follow:
IRAN DAILY: How long is the history of textile in Iran? Are such products still attractive for people around the globe?
MOZAFFARI: While some archeologists believe the history of fabrics dates back to 8,000 years, the result of archeological excavations conducted in Behshahr in Mazandaran province revealed that Iranians have been producing fabrics for the last 6,500 years.
Numerous archeological findings at the world’s most prestigious museums such as Louver (in Paris) are also point to the long history of textiles in Iran.
A variety of cloths are produced in Iran including ‘termeh’, ‘daraei' and ‘embroidery’.
Yazd is the birthplace of textile weaving in Iran. Master Qiaseddin Naqshbandi Yazdi, was an outstanding fabric producer during the reign of Shah Abbas. Some of his 'embroidery' and 'atlas' products are maintained at some top museums in the world.
Many experts assume traditional textile weaving has gone into oblivion in Iran. However, I believe that the use of new designs will help revive the industry and introduce Iranian textiles to the world.
JAVAHERPOUR: Iran has been acknowledged as a hub of producing authentic fabrics since ancient times. Once, genuine fabrics — particularly 'embroidery' products — were exported to other regions, bringing substantial earnings to the country. According to historians, Shah Abbas I managed to meet the cost of his wars by using the money earned from embroidery exports.
Iran's textile industry has witnessed great changes over centuries.
Following the Mongol invasion, the production of light-colored cloths were no longer in mode and dark colors became more popular.
Iran's textile industry thrived during the Safavid era but it declined again during the Qajar rule.
The country's authentic fabrics have remained unknown to the world. However, it is not true that people around the world lack interest in Iran's textile products.
I know a French lady, who produces exquisite fabrics inspired by Persian architectural designs. Her products are so attractive that she recently achieved a sales record.
Why are Iranian textiles going into oblivion and are less known to the world?
Javaherpour: Although Iranian textiles are of high quality but the use of machines to produce them has made them less popular.
Turkey has gained huge profit from garment exports to Iran in recent years. A majority of Turkish garments are direct imitation of Italian designs, which are made by using German and Italian textile machines.
Iran is home to fine hand-woven textiles with diverse designs. Hence, imitation is not acceptable.
Fortunately, more youths are showing interest in textile weaving in recent years. However, majority of them copy patterns of foreign textiles since they lack academic degree.
The use of repetitive designs will drive Iranian textiles into oblivion, paving the way for greater popularity for foreign textiles.
Lack of an organization to supervise the process of textile weaving is another shortcoming facing Iran's textile industry.
Mozaffari: The biggest challenge facing Iran's textile industry is lack of knowledge about traditional methods of producing textiles.
Yazd was once the hub of fabrics in Iran. However, the traditional methods of weaving textile were abandoned following the emergence of machines and establishment of factories for mass production.
Can modern machines and equipment help save Iran's traditional textile industry or they are considered to be more destructive for the industry?
Javaherpour: We live in a competitive world and need competitive markets with high-quality products. Emergence of new technologies does not damage Iran's traditional textile industry. Rather, it can help revive it and make it more popular.
Mozaffari: State-of-the-art technology in textile industry is unavoidable. Iran's textile industry has been at risk for centuries. Maybe, the reason for designating this year as 'Textile Year' by Iran's Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHHTO) is that textile weaving face grave risk of sliding into oblivion.
In an unprecedented move to save traditional art of textile weaving, ICHHTO has called on inventors to make machines to improve the qualitative and quantitative aspects of domestic textiles.
I have invented and registered a machine which makes a considerable difference in the process of producing 'daraie' — a type of traditional fabric.
Formerly, machines used to produce ‘daraei’ fabrics with a width of six meters and a length of two meters. I have reduced the width of fabrics to 1.5 meters. Although, the new machine is smaller and portable, it is capable of producing 320 meters much more fabrics than its older counterparts.
As Javaherpour has said, modern machines and foreign producers will not hinder the development of Iran's textile industry as long as domestic manufacturers use their creativity and do not imitate foreign designs.
How could Iran have a say in the world in the fashion industry?
Javaherpour: The Netherlands, Italy and France are important players in the global textile market. Italy is also the world's leading country in fashion industry. Such countries have achieved a lot in the textile and fashion industries due to years of planning and striving.
Iran has great potentials to become a fashion center in the world, as its textile manufacturers are capable of producing unique apparels with traditional and attractive designs.
Certain nationalities, including Italians, are fascinated by Iranian culture such that university professors praise and promote Iran's culture and traditions in their classes.
We must take it as a strong case and try to benefit more from it.
Only two companies hold fashion festivals in Iran. This is while, seasonal and annual festivals are organized in other countries bringing in huge earnings for the host nations by attracting more tourists.
Iranian designers must learn sewing techniques, painting, and fashion designing simultaneously, if they wish to have a leading position in the global market. They are also expected to produce fine garments by using Iranian-Islamic designs in line with the goals of 'Resistance Economy' and limiting the popularity of western clothes.
Mozaffari: Iran's textile industry has not stopped working completely. There are still factories across the country, which produce much expensive fabrics that are only suitable for export.
Each gram of 'embroidery fabric', for example, is sold at $13. They have exclusive customers, as only few people can afford them. Fortunately, the sale of such fabrics have been on the rise in view of Iran's tranquil and secure environment that is motivating more foreign tourists to select this country as their destination.
Iran should take part in international festivals and exhibitions and hold training courses to update the knowledge of weavers.
We need to improve related fields including printing, fashion designing and textile weaving to have a say in the world.
Academic degree is very important, as those attending university courses are more informed of the latest in the field of textile weaving.