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Iranian Iconoclasts Bring Glitz to D.C.'s Persian New Year Scene

Iranians both at home and abroad have been reveling since mid-March in the weekslong Persian New Year celebrations, which wrap up Tuesday in outdoor festivities known as sizdah bedar, or 13 days after New Year.

Though the majority Shia Muslim population demonstrates an affinity for black clothing and its mourning connotations, the New Year celebrations tend to be colorful, literally and figuratively. While thats true in Iran as well as elsewhere, celebrations in the nations capital this year didnt just push the envelope; they flew in a West Coast Persian diva who stars in Bravos reality-television show Shahs of Sunset to squeeze that envelope into a skimpy little two-piece.

In fact, just about the only thing not affronting conservative Iranian traditions at the recent Persian New Year bikini fashion show in downtown D.C. was the color of most of the swimsuits on display: black, that is.

Somewhere around seven bikini models graced the catwalk on the ground floor at the Park at Fourteenth, a downtown club, on March 23, the Saturday following the new year. The same number of objects forms the traditional haft sin, a table spread whose symbolic relevance dates back to Zoroastrian times, well before black was in.

The models, spindly, tenuous-looking things from their stilettos to their acrylics, showed off a line of luxury swimwear known as swimgerie, a combination of swimwear and lingerie.

Its all designed by Neelufar Seyed Ghalichi, better known as Lilly, a recent addition to the cast of Los Angeles Persians profiled in Shahs of Sunset.

Gauging by the cheers, the Park at Fourteenth crowds favorite was a skimpy, halter-style one-piece black, of course that is currently sold out on Ghalichis and her business partners retail website.

In addition to the aesthetics, the designers are guided toward the swimwear-lingerie hybrid by another consideration.

Youre basically naked, you know, out there by the pool, so we want you to feel sexy because when you feel sexy you feel confident and you can rule the world, Ghalichi told CQ Roll Call.

Ghalichi grew up in a strict conservative Persian household and never models the bikinis, she said, out of consideration for her father.

My father doesnt think his children should be in the spotlight, especially his girls, she said. So to have me designing sexy bikinis was really hard for him.

And in fact, event organizer Iman Huschmand said none of the models at the March 23 fashion show were Persian.

Thats because of the conservatism, he said, employing disdainful quotes around the word.

Huschmand is the owner of Exclusively Entertainment, an entertainment company that serves the Iranian community in the Washington area. After Shahs personalities Mercedes MJ Javid and Mike Shouhed, Ghalichi is the third Persian reality star Huschmand has brought to the Park.

While at least one partygoer had also been to the club for Javids and Shouheds appearances and went to the fashion show to round out his Shahs sightings, many others were Iranian immigrants out to celebrate the New Year.

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