iran fashion show

Technically they’re called ‘morality police,’ but nonetheless, famous clothing design institute “Khaneh Mode” (Mode House) was shut down last week in Tehran for violating conservative Islamic rules. Javid Shirazi, the director of the fashion house, stirred up controversy after holding a fashion show in which models wore coats which seemed to be made of the Iranian flag, minus the religious symbols. Probably worse, the show allowed men to attend, which is a pretty big taboo.

The shutdown was enforced by a government workgroup whose purpose is to organize Iran’s emerging fashion industry and make it comply with Islamic standards. Headed by a deputy minister of Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, the group’s members are mostly government officials, with a few representatives from the fashion industry. Even though Kaneh Mode issued an apology on its website for its offense, the anger from conservative religious groups forced the workgroup to shut down the fashion house.

It’s not as though Shirazi set out to make a statement against any Islamic traditions, as he said in a statement to TIME in Tehran, “We are completely committed to working within Iran’s native and Islamic framework and we tried to observe these in our show. Inviting men to view shows is permitted since last year so long as the clothes completely cover the body of models and models do not catwalk but walk in a normal and modest manner.” And in fact, women’s attire has come a long way since the even harsher rules put in effect after the 1979 revolution, when a loose robe and no makeup were basically the only accepted practice. The recent election of the more moderate President Hassan Rouhani has also created hope that authorities will relax their crackdown on women.

Even though Iranian fashion is evolving in a more liberal direction, the morality police still do their darndest to try and stop them. Apparently women wearing trendy clothes will even take taxis from one side of squares to the other, just to avoiding being stopped these morality patrols. But these police seem to be involved in a losing battle, and despite his fashion house’s shutdown, Shirazi is optimistic about the future of Iranian fashion, saying, “Since last year there’s been a transformation in the framework of the permits we can get and what we can do. With the great potential this country has and the great desire young Iranians have, there is a bright future for the fashion industry in Iran, and this is just necessary experience we need to gain to go ahead.”

As a female who grew up in a fairly strict Muslim household, I’m of course thankful that this kind of fashion policing doesn’t happen in America. But yet…would it be so bad if someone could legally stop this from happening?

(Photo: Majid/Getty Images)