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Spotlight Article

Kelaghayi Meets Korrs

Azerbaijan America Alliance
December 22, 2014

In November the ninth session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage considered 41 nominations for inclusion on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The Azerbaijani kelaghayi, a traditional women’s headscarf, is one of the intangible nominations to make the list. Kelaghayis are traditionally four cornered scarves made from fine soft silk and can vary in size and coloring. Younger unmarried women wear brightly colored scarves while married women where darker colors. Certain regions and dynasties in Azerbaijan are known for their kelaghayi production namely, Ganja, Shamakhi, Sheki, and Nakhchivan, and Basqal settlement of the Ismayilli region.

This recognition of traditional Azerbaijani clothing comes at a time when Azerbaijani’s are increasingly adopting western high fashion. Azerbaijan is a young and wealthy county. The population of Azerbaijan is approximately 50 percent youth and the number of affluent people in Azerbaijan has more than doubled in the last five years according to Euromoniter International.  It is these two facets of Azerbaijan that have made it an emerging market for high fashion consumption.

Azerbaijanis are becoming increasingly fashion conscious and demanding higher quality and greater variety of brands and the fashion business has responded. Vugar Aliyev, an Azerbaijani businessman, founded Emporium a three-floor 250 brand fashion landmark in Baku. International players are also beginning to recognize Baku’s potential as a market. Harvey Nichols is constructing the Globus Plaza in Baku to join his collection of operations outside the UK alongside Riyadh, Hong Kong, Dubai, Istanbul and Kuwait. Major fashion media outlets like L’Officiel  and Cosmopolitan, which now have local editions, have followed the fashion industrialists to Baku, further proving the industry’s confidence in Baku.

Model wearing Tilmann Grawe in front of Crystal Hall, Baku  

Photo: Jacques Beneich  Source:

Although recognition from abroad is encouraging and helping the industry develop. The fashion industry in Baku is not solely being imported. Local fashion icons remain large players as in local fashion media. Baku International, a fashion and art quarterly published by contract with Condé Nast, is run by Leyla, daughter to the First Lady of Azerbaijan Mehriban Aliyeva. Additionally, Mehriban Aliyeva is a style icon in her own right. The first lady sets trends in Azerbaijan that are noticed globally. In 2011 the Huffington Post arranged a photographic tribute to the stylish first lady, comparing her Michele Obama.

 As Baku takes on the challenge of the Fashion Industry, it will be interesting to see how Azerbaijan fuses western brands with styles unique to Azerbaijan. Soon the Kelaghayi may be a must have accessory. 

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