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Jun 21

Kal – Fashion Czar

Category: azerbaijan

My visit to Azerbaijan has been an intriguing whirlwind of meetings, gatherings and car rides (with requisite traffic jams). Among the many surprises on this visit was my invitation to the Baku Institute of Fine arts. This is one of the preeminent art colleges in the region with over 1000 students from Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Turkey, and other central Asian nations studying undergraduate and post graduate degrees in graphic art, architecture, sculpture and fashion (among other subjects).

When I arrived at the Institute, I received the welcome of a diplomat. I was immediately whisked into a special oversized classroom. There I was escorted to the center of a long table at the front of the room occupied by an elite cadre faculty members and famous Azerbaijani artists. I was instructed to join them and sit in the center of the table. I was then informed that I was now an honorary member of the Institute’s jury for the graduating artists in Fashion design.

 

Spot the American above.

 

The event was an amazing spectacle. First, I had the best seat in the house. Impossibly tall and languid (as well as self conscience) models trapsed down the side aisle of the packed room to booming techno music.

The models would then walk the length of the judges table like it was a catwalk. On their return trip they would stop in front of me, swivel (with an attitude) and make eye contact with me. They were posing for me under the assumption I was the head of the jury. They then continued their stroll. It seemed at times like their show was being put on for my benefit!

What was most fascinating was the fashion statements by the students. The themes chosen were interesting fusions of old and new, east and west. They drew upon ancient images like the castle wall surrounding Baku’s old city and new progressive themes like “Emancipation of Woman”.

More importantly, The show gave a interesting insight to the emerging nation of Azerbaijan. This is a progressive liberal muslim country that feels comfortable with women exploring the extremes of fashion. It takes pride from its past yet embraces the present, is rooted in the culture of the east yet embraces the west. It was a privilege to witness such progress up close.

 

Fortunately, I was not asked to help grade the students work. I did get a tour of the school and had an opportunity to meet and talk with some students and faculty. I only wished I had dressed better.

My next entry will discuss the opening of an exhibition of my cartoons in Baku and teaching Azerbajainis how to draw George Bush.

 

 

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