In Iran, women seeking a place to relax, shop and socialize are turning to a practice familiar to direct sellers: home parties. What the Iranians term maisons—French meaning “house”—are in fact underground boutiques frequented by middle- and upper-class women who prefer the informal, open atmosphere of the maison to public boutiques.
The Guardian reports that these maisons provide fashion-savvy women a means of generating income, without the added startup cost of renting a storefront. The private gatherings also provide a venue for new designers to showcase their talent and establish a clientele, which can in turn rapidly generate word-of-mouth business.
With scarce economic opportunity for women and—more significantly, according to the women interviewed—restrictive laws governing public behavior, the boutiques offer relief to both the proprietors and their clients.
“The house has no problems,” says Narciss Akbary, who has sold her popular Ferdows Collection both in northern Tehran’s Alborz Mall and her own maison. “In Iran, people really like to socialize. When you go to a store, you have to buy something and leave, and you can’t socialize. When you go to a home, you can drink tea, eat your pastry and talk to your friend. It’s cooler in temperature. They can take off their headscarf, look at the clothes, buy some clothes, and it’s very fun.”