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Turkmen Join The Haute Couture Fun

Part of Gulyalek Annasahatova's collection on display during Moscow's Volvo Fashion Week

Part of Gulyalek Annasahatova's collection on display during Moscow's Volvo Fashion Week

There's nothing unusual or particularly shocking about your average designers displaying their collections in a fashion show.

But the current Volvo Fashion Week in Moscow is big news in Turkmenistan. For the first time, Turkmen designers are showcasing their creations at a prestigious international exhibition. (Here's a slide show!)

Two budding designers from Ashgabat, Vepa Soyun and Gulyalek Annasahatova, were invited to Moscow alongside their more experienced colleagues from France, Russia, and Scandinavian countries.

Soyun and Annasahatova have made a name in Turkmenistan for mixing European style with Turkmen elements.

For instance, their knee-length, sleeveless, figure-hugging dress is embroidered Turkmen-style with colorful thread, complete with traditional jewelry.

Their approach very much reflects a new fashion trend among young urbanites in Turkmenistan -- a move from wide and long national costumes toward greater European influence.

Fashion in Turkmenistan, like so many aspects of public life, has chafed under strict government control for decades, never more so than under the country's eccentric late president, Saparmurat Niyazov.

Niyazov encouraged Turkmen women to don national costumes -- an ankle-length dress decorated with embroidery. The takhya, the national hat, was all but compulsory for both women and men.

School uniforms, based almost entirely on the national costume, are still mandatory.

But Ashgabat has taken a more liberal approach to fashion (and more broadly, culture) since Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov succeeded Niyazov late in 2006.

Several new fashion houses have even opened in Ashgabat since then. Domestic fashion shows have become regular events in the capital.

Designer boutiques in Turkmenistan where people might find clothes made by big-name Western fashion houses are still few and far between.

But small private enterprises offering trendy and much more affordable European-style clothes have mushroomed, especially in urban areas.

The new fashion trend has ushered in a few fashionable habits, too, for Turkmen girls, such as reading fashion magazines -- including the Russian edition of "Vogue" -- and eating less to stay slim.

And the money saved on food is invested in purchasing a new dress.

-- Farangis Najibullah

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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