For 21 years, Googoosh, the stage name of Iranian singer Faegheh Ahtashin, was silenced. An iconic pop star and actor who pinnacled to fame in the 1970s in Iran, and inspired women in the Middle Eastern nation with her short haircut and sophisticated fashion sense, Googoosh’s career ended nearly overnight with the Iranian Revolution in 1979. As public performances by women were banned by the conservative government, Googoosh receded into the shadows, before making a magnetic comeback in 2000 and embarking on a world tour that encompassed cities like Dubai, Toronto, and Los Angeles.
Today, a powder blue gown Googoosh wore while performing in front of 12,000 people in Toronto during her comeback tour is displayed for auction by Bonhams. The gown is one of several fashion items from the singer’s closet on sale to the highest bidder, accompanied by dresses, blazers, hats, skirts and blouses. The clothing in the auction includes both Googoosh’s personal attire and the iconic ensembles she has sported in concerts and music videos.
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“In the absence of concerts due to coronavirus, I decided that these clothes should be put to good use as I don’t use them anymore,” Googoosh told Vogue Arabia. “There were a number of gowns that I had worn back from the years 2000 to 2019, which was when my last concert happened, and I hadn’t worn them again. I decided that these gowns should be added to this auction line.”
While the sales for the auction are digital on account of the pandemic, the outreach and operations for the event are happening in Los Angeles, home to a generational community of Iranian-Americans, which settled in the area after fleeing dictatorship and unrest in their country in the 1970s and 80s. Catherine Williams, the director of Fine Books and Manuscripts and Entertainment Memorabilia at Bonhams’ Los Angeles office, said that the auction is targeted towards music enthusiasts passionate about Googoosh, and the Persian community in Southern California in general.
The articles of clothing in the auction are drawn primarily from Googoosh’s wardrobe after she returned to the stage in 2000. The singer shares that the clothes which defined the first part of her career, and established her early reputation as a trendsetting force, were lost after she left Iran to tour in Canada, anticipating a return that never happened.
“[The clothes in the auction] are very special to Googoosh because they represent the time she was back and able to sing again, how she got her voice back, and when she became Googoosh again,” Neda Saeedi, Googoosh’s personal assistant, told Vogue Arabia. “And through her fashion, she tried to show another side [of herself] if there had been no revolution from 2000 till present.”
The range of designs in the collection is eclectic, capturing Googoosh’s regal fashion style and the larger-than-life diva she has embodied onstage. Outfits include embroidered velvet blue pant-and-shirt coordinates by Tory Burch, a gray lace gown by Iranian designer Rahmanian, a royal blue Marchesa dress clasped with a golden rhinestone belt, and an assortment of flowing kaftans. However, Googoosh isn’t invested in brand names, but instead prioritizes comfort, elegance, beauty, and modesty in curating her wardrobe, and she has purchased most of the clothing herself on a personal budget when venturing out on shopping sprees.
“If something catches my eye, I suddenly go for it,” Googoosh said. “I don’t look at designers’ labels when I’m purchasing an outfit. There have been times when I coincidentally noticed that I’m wearing the same designer, maybe because I like their design, but I don’t go for Escada and pick out their gowns because it’s Escada. For me, wearing something that I feel comfortable in is the key aspect.”
Even so, the clothing in the auction deftly blends an Eastern silhouette with a more Western and modern style of fashion. Iranian designers like Rahmanian and Bahareh Memarian, and Indian designer Naeem Khan recur throughout the collection, and kaftans the singer has donned in music videos and concerts are also up for auction.
“For kaftans, they go back from before the revolution, when I used to travel to Tunis and other Arabic[-speaking] countries,” Googoosh explained. “Kaftans enable me to perform on stage freely without any kind of tangles. I feel I can let go and perform [in them] without thinking about how I look. Because I know I look good in them.”
A selection of the proceeds from the auction will go to the Iranian-American Women’s Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports the education of Iranian women in the US, particularly immigrants looking for better opportunities abroad. “Most of these students come from Iran to study. And because it’s so hard for their parents to support them, they have to go back to Iran and not pursue the career that they have chosen,” Googoosh said.
Googoosh possesses experience as a working woman herself, who struggled to forge a career as a singer coming from an impoverished background and then endeavored to sing again under the watchful eye of a conservative government. And even as Googoosh’s clothing from pre-revolutionary Iran remains physically inaccessible, the more recent fashion in the auction line provides a snapshot of femininity and elegance, still inspiring Middle Eastern women to look beautiful regardless of cultural or political norms restricting their dress codes.
“Googoosh is saying, you are women, you are beautiful, and you should be dressing amazingly,” Neda Saeedi said. “If you want to be glamorous, then be glamorous. And if you can’t be glamorous outside of your home, then you can do that in your small gatherings, with your family and friends, and however else you are allowed to be.”