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Muslim-Inspired Fashion on Chechen Catwalk

Models waiting to display creations by the Arzhiyeva sisters during a fashion show in Grozny this week. The sisters?€™ design house is a pet project of Medni Kadyrova, wife of Chechnya?€™s president. S.Dal

GROZNY — Models in floor-length gowns of crimson and gold, their heads downturned and framed by hijabs, showed off Eastern-inspired designs this week to Chechnya's elite.

Heavily embroidered silk and satin frocks make up the second collection by the Arzhiyeva sisters, who have been charged by the local government to create traditional Chechen dress in the Muslim republic.

"We tried to incorporate Islamic dress standards into our collection, suited for the women of the Caucasus and the East," said Laura Arzhiyeva, half of the sibling designer duo.

Launched in October, their design house is the pet project of Medni Kadyrova, wife of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov.

Perched on the front row, Kadyrov and his wife enthusiastically clapped Tuesday as 25 dark-haired Chechen models paraded the flowing dresses, which completely cover the arms and are pinched at the waist with shimmering cords. They sell for $3,000 a piece in Grozny's most luxurious boutique.

"To find something modest amongst European clothes shops is so difficult, this is refreshing," said Mizana Aliyeva, 28, one of 700 guests at the show, titled "You Are in Heaven."

While both Kadyrov and the Chechen insurgency claim Islam as their flag of legitimacy, each reviles the other as blasphemous. But in today's Chechnya, alcohol is all but banned, single-sex schools and gyms are becoming the norm and women must cover their heads in government buildings.

"It is great that in our republic … trends correspond to our unique culture," said Iman Isayeva, 35, as she gazed at a group of girls priming their headscarves and lip gloss in front of mirrors decorated with Chechen flags.

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