After three beautiful months exploring, researching, loving, learning, experiencing, laughing, and eating saffron ice cream, I'm finally back in Chicago. I've always encouraged solo travel (especially for women) because it is such a powerful way to learn, grow, and develop as an independent individual. 
After some mad reflection in the airports + 17 trillion hours in flights, I put together a quick little list of reminders and lessons that I have learned through my travels and that have made my life so much sweeter. 
I hope they can for you, too~

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1. How to let go of Stress | Culturally, Iranians consume poetry and nature to clear their minds and refresh their souls--a practice I wasn't too used to, as the only jungle I lived close to in the USA was made of concrete. But when you're nearing deadlines, struggling with communication, all of the interviews you scheduled for the upcoming week were just cancelled, and your traditional methods of stress release are not working (Netflix doesn't work in Iran due to sanctions), you turn to whatever seems to be working for the people around you. Whereas before I was able to look at, and appreciate, the outdoors, my Iranian friends and family taught me how to internally and wholly consume nature, and the poetry that is saturated with such imagery. While I couldn't fit Iran's outdoors in my suitcase (it was against USA Federal custom laws), I did fill the corners of my suitcase with Persian poetry.

A line I recently memorized: "سخت می گیرد جهان بر مردمان سخت کوش " (Hafiz) which roughly translates to something along the lines of the world is difficult for those who take difficulty with everything. Except obviously more poetic and beautifully written. Because common, it's Persian poetry.

2. Live a Little | Without getting into too many details (hi, mom!) sometimes rules are meant to be broken, nights are for staying up (& out), and risks are for taking (...most of the time). Definitely not encouraging making stupid decisions, but a little adrenaline now and then gives life a bit of flavor.

3. Find Reasons to Enjoy any/every Moment | When you've missed the last bus from Berlin back to Hamburg and it's too dangerous to leave the sketchy train station you're trapped in for the night with your cousin (aka just another day in my life), the world seems to get a little darker. (Or maybe it was because the sun had just set). But the all-nighter that we pulled in the train station turned out to be one of my favorite memories from Germany. I learned that life is so much more beautiful when you find reasons to appreciate the little moments that might not always initially appear pleasant.

4. Don't Underestimate Yourself | You are talented and have the ability to get major sh*t done. Don't waste you're time procrastinating or distracted. Set goals and don't sleep until they're actualized. Get out there and do something. Something different and new. I learned how to spend less time indoors.

5. Family is the Best | I have the privilege of having a wonderful, caring, and supportive family, and sometimes it just takes several months of traveling alone to really realize what the most valuable thing is that you have.

6. Iranians Have Mad Style | So stay tuned for my upcoming Tehran Streetstyle Photo Collection book! Here is a sneak peek. Here is another! Pre-sale is beginning in a few weeks, and I couldn't be more excited! (You can also sign up for my email list to be one of the first to grab the first-ever Tehran Streetstyle photo book!)


Photo taken in front of the "Freedom Tower" in Tehran, Iran.

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Iranian fashion, moral police, iran dress code, manteau iran, iran streetstyle, hijab fashion, hijab streetstyle

Breaking quite a few fashion (& legal) rules with this look, mindlessly wandering the streets and alleyways of the capital of Iran.

While I could have broken out my tripod and broken a few more social rules while I'm at it, I thought it would be fun/more appealing to the sloth inside me to collaborate with a couple of Iranian photographers to produce a some shots. This one is in collaboration with Ali Mohagheghi, an architect-in-training and Instagram photographer who really works well with lighting and angles (he's mostly a landscape photographer). I highly recommend checking out his work on Instagram! Iranian photographers have a distinct style that is really beautiful and I think so different from what I'm used to in the USA. Or I could just be being a nationalistic Iranian. Anyway.

Back to rule breaking.
Harem pants are actually (to the best of my knowledge) an ancient Persian invention (you're welcome 21st century) designed for the women in, well, the royal harem. Since then these style pants (with the elastic on the bottom) have mostly been in use only by various ethnic minorities and serve as traditional clothes for some villages in Iran.
So wearing these pants and walking around the streets of Tehran is, well, ill-advised. As some boys  *graciously* took the time to remind me. From across the street.
It's obviously not illegal, but just a big fashion no-no. 
(unless you're into strangers asking what you're doing and a lot of stares at your legs)

Oh yeah I also found out no one *really* wears boots in the summer (someone asked if Zorro gave them to me) but I guess that's sort of fair. We don't do that much in the USA either. Actually yeah I think that's really just me... (someone back me up)

I'm also wearing what would be labeled an open-front manteau, which is actually currently very much on-trend in Iran. Legally though, not so much. 
While the government appreciates that this cardigan is long and loose, they are not a huge fan of the fact that it opens in the front. They like dat shit closed. 
In fact they don't like it so much that I could potentially get stopped by the Gasht-e Arshad (essentially the moral police) and asked to change. According to my friends who have gotten stopped, this is actually a lot less terrifying than it may seem. Also they're not as accessible as one might think, as my 2 months in Iran was spent solely desperately searching for the Gasht. With no avail. (I did other less-important things too in these 2 months like research and stuff but yeah). 
Especially paring this open-front manteau with a crop top was like screaming for the Gasht to come find you, because if you're going to be a punk and wear an open-front manteau your shirt will at least need to cover your crotch. 
Let's say mine was a tad bit short. 

In any regard, while this look is ill-advised as it breaks various unspoken fashion and written legal codes, I still felt comfortable enough to prance around in front of a camera in an alley at sunset. 
So pretty damn comfortable. 

Iranian fashion, moral police, iran dress code, manteau iran, iran streetstyle, hijab fashion, hijab streetstyle
Iranian fashion, moral police, iran dress code, manteau iran, iran streetstyle, hijab fashion, hijab streetstyle
Iranian fashion, moral police, iran dress code, manteau iran, iran streetstyle, hijab fashion, hijab streetstyle

Photography: Ali Mohagheghi | Location: University of Tehran, Iran | Scarf: Iran | Boots: c/o Zappos | Purse: c/o Macys | Top, Pants: Zara | Cardigan: Bershka

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While simultaneously working on researching the politics of fashion in Iran for my B.A. thesis this past month or so, I’ve been able to take my camera with me while absent-mindedly wandering the streets of Iran (apparently this is called something along the lines of being frightfully lost, but, details…). I’ve dropped a few hints here and there on my social media and a few interviews I’ve done these past few weeks, but I guess it’s time to officially announce on JooJoo Azad that I’m working on publishing (the first of its kind!) Tehran Streetstyle photo collection book! I’m rather thrilled and I really can’t wait to share it with you all!

The book will begin pre-sale in a few weeks (!!!!), so be sure to subscribe to my email list (you like rarely get emails from me so it’s definitely worth it!) and follow along on Instagram (@hodakatebi) to be one of the first in line to grab your book/get more behind-the-scenes/outtake shots! 

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These are just some outtakes + detailed shots, but I really can’t wait to share the final product with you! xx Stay tuned!

P.S. If you're as excited as I am and would love to share this book with your friends and family, I have a few affiliate opportunities--please shoot me an email asap! 



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1. DISCOUNT STORES AREN’T REAL | Sorry to break it to you like this (usually I would at least bring tea and stuff), but outlet malls claiming to sell you designer products are really just selling you lower-quality products—which were most likely not even produced at the same factories as the originals. Jezebel writes:

 “The jig is up: Big brands like J. Crew, Gap, and Saks’ Off 5th aren’t selling you discounted or out of season merchandise at their outlet locations. You’re just buying lower quality cardigans and patterned pants” (they just have the logos to make you think you're getting a "deal").

Why is this relevant? Now you really can’t justify all those extra trips to the outlet mall/TJMaxx/etc to buy “bargains.” You’re buying low-quality products and exploited labor. (How else could the prices be so cheap?) (Oh and P.S. I’m also not letting you justify shopping at the original J.Crew or GAP store, either—they are on our Boycott List! I’m letting you justify limiting your spending in general ;) )
2. FAST FASHION ISN’T MADE TO LAST LONG | Alright this one might come as a huge shocker to you, (are you ready for this?) but fast-fashion brands really like this thing called profits. Like, a lot. So much so that they purposely use the cheapest production method (read: exploitation + unfair wages, poor quality materials, etc) in order to a) be able to convince you to buy lots of things (omg! so cheap!! *grabs 10*) and b) need to continually buy lots of things. The faster your clothes fall apart, the faster you’re going to want a replacement. Or 10. The solution? Think quality over quantity. Adopt a minimalist wardrobe.

3. WHAT YOU’RE WEARING IS FILLED WITH LEAD | Okay a bit dramatic (blame the Persian in me). I should add a “probably” in there. In any regard, the facts still stand: the Center for Environmental Health declares that many popular house-hold fast-fashion brands such as Forever21 and Charlotte Russe continue to produce products in mass that fail to meet their safety standards for lead p.p.m. (which is already generously high). This is particularly important for women who are planning on giving birth, as lead likes to store itself in our bones and, during pregnancy, come out to play with our fetus, which could be potentially harmful. Lead concentration also seems to be higher in bright, shiny products. (Sort of explains Dory’s forgetfulness in Finding Nemo, doesn’t it?) 

4. HUMANS (& THE ENVIRONMENT) WERE HARMED IN THE MAKING | There are still millions of slaves working behind the scenes throughout the world—in fact, according to Slaveryfootprint.org, today we have more slaves than we’ve ever had at any other point in time in history! So that’s, like insane. We can thank the fashion industry for playing its part in keeping slavery alive and well. And to be frank, we can thank ourselves too. We are so disconnected with the production process, it’s hard to fathom that hundreds of humans are behind every piece of clothing that we see. Most of which are living in unbearable living conditions—and many others are living but not alive. But we need to continually strive to remind ourselves and our friends and family of this. Boycotting brands and limiting our consumption is incredibly important. Now more than ever.

5. CLOTHES DON’T DISAPPEAR WHEN YOU THROW THEM OUT | Okay you probably knew this one. But the way that we act makes it seem like we forget that clothes, when out of sight, aren’t out of existence. According to The Atlantic, on average, Americans throw away 10.5 million tons of clothing every. single year.  Can’t we just think about this for a minute? That is a ton. No, actually 10.5 million tons, to be precise. And guess what? Thanks to our current uber-capitalist society, we have become addicted to consuming and therefore this number is only rising. Clothes don’t disappear. Remember that next time you go shopping.

Frustrated? Do something about it. Boycott. Consume less. Educate yourself and others. Convert your closet to a minimal wardrobe. Limiting your spending in a capitalist society is a revolutionary act in itself. 

The fact that you’re reading this right now means that you at least sort of give a damn (or just like visiting my site and making me happy (thanks!)) in which case, change really starts with you. If you don’t take charge of your consumption then who will? Next time you are thinking about heading out for a shopping trip, keep these 5 things in mind~


P.S. If you are missing the more regular posting and say down with Slow Blogging (too bad because I love it) you can join me in my research of the Iranian fashion scene on my Instagram! (@hodakatebi)

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original image via Simon Freund


One of the most-asked questions I’ve received since opening up the blog for questions: What is this thing—Jihad—that are causing Muslims around the world to be violent in the name of holy war?

Heh, okay, let’s break it down, shall we? It’s really quite simple, and probably not what you’ve heard on your television screens. 

Jihad means “struggle.” Nothing more, nothing less.
A struggle with oneself internally, a struggle against injustice, a struggle against tyranny.

Jihad does NOT mean, on the other hand holy-war-against-so-called-infidels-that-all-Muslims-are-supposed-to-do-so-Christians-should-be-scared-of-their-Muslim-neighbors-and-kill-recent-college-graduates-over-a-supposed-parking-spot.
Yeah. How about not.

While my neighbors are still probably scared of me and my family regardless (gotta love the racism in the south!), I think it’s important to note that we Muslims are in fact quite friendly (and dare I say quite dashing). But let’s not get too off topic for once.

There are really two types of Jihad: internal and external.
The greatest/major Jihad mentioned in the Qur’an (the Muslim holy book) is the internal struggle with ones full self and soul in order to constantly self-improve: continually stand up for justice, become more truthful and sincere, and overcome vices and weaknesses. It involves a transformation of one’s character, overcoming an obstacle, and deep self-reflection. This is the Jihad that you don’t really hear about in mainstream news yet serves as the greatest Jihad for Muslims.    

What you do hear, on the other hand, and quite over-excessively, is the mention of the external “Jihad of the sword.” This jihad, or struggle, is not described with the same level of value or importance than jihad an-nifs (Jihad of the self) has within the Qur’an. This Jihad is in reference to using violence—if absolutely necessary—in order to overthrow injustice. Today in mainstream media this is taken out of context (surprise, surprise) and therefore is an incorrect understanding of what the term really means.
This external Jihad is used in the Qur’an in the context of the time when Muslim communities were being attacked on all sides (think: the crusades (these were of course much later but you get the point)) and needed to defend itself. But the key here is that this is not the same as an unprovoked aggression or holy war that western media makes it out to be.
External Jihad is mentioned in the Qur'an in a highly particular and specific context from which it should not be separated. 

Of course, as any part of any text, there are the select few nutcases that misinterpret what they read (or just hear), and, coupled with their own personal insanity and pressures, crack. Think: ISIS. Think: Israeli Zionsim. Think: France banning headscarves in schools aka taking away rights in the name of religious freedom.

But I think you’ll be glad to know that most Muslims (well I say all Muslims as ISIS or the Saudi Arabian government, for example, don’t count as real Muslims, technically speaking according to the Qur’an) understand the true meaning of Jihad. So much that some of us (Muslims cooler than me, clearly) made a hashtag (#MyJihad) about it.
And a neat-o website that I just discovered.
If you’re still confused/would like testimonials + examples please feel free to take full advantage of the above hyperlinks. ^_^

I know this was a large chunk of text to get through and mostly just a simple overview, so if you have any follow-up or clarification questions, please don't hesitate to ask! Or, if this sparked any other non-related-to-Jihad-which-you-now-know-is-actually-basically-a-peaceful-thing questions, feel free to ask in the comments below! 

This week I finally get to move to Tehran, start my research, shoot some streetstyle, and work on some really exciting projects! Can’t wait to share everything with you on this space! (And Instagram!)


Special thanks to Tahir, my university’s spiritual advisor and friend for helping me with the deets of this question. :) 

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