In Iran lipstick is more than just lipstick. It’s a political message, a weapon in the opposition against the mullahs.
Swedish cosmetics company Oriflame has been stopped in Iran, and the company’s Swedish-Iranian sales manager Amir Montazavi and four others have been arrested. Oriflame has been accused of fraud. Last week, Iran's commerce and culture ministries called the Swedish company illegal and blocked its local internet site. Meanwhile, Oriflame said the move could be because it employs women as sales consultants. Remember last year’s so-called lipstick revolution, when thousands of women in Iran took to the streets to oppose the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? Women who use make-up, women who think for themselves and dare to protest – that’s a serious threat to the mullahs. That could be one reason Oriflame was stopped in Iran.
Oriflame, MLM idea similar to Tupperware
Oriflame’s business idea is similar to that of Tupperware, with direct sales through home parties, which means the make up is sold when one of the 40 000 consultants that the company has in Iran is invited to a party for women, showing the products. Sometimes called MultiLevelMarketing the sales process engages large volumes of women in direct contact with the user of the company's products, women that are also consumers themselves.
“The mullahs want us to look like scarecrows, we fight against that as much as we can,” says Sanaz, a 24-year old student in Teheran. Another student, 18-year old Fatimah, has been arrested three times for “indecency”. The first time she had a red silk blouse, sent to her by relatives in Canada. The second time she was arrested, she was with three other women on a bus. The third time she was arrested it was because she was wearing lipstick, a crime that could mean anything from 18-80 whippings in a public park. In court a pair of red lips could also cost up to $1300. Oriflame’s financial manager Gabriel Bennet denies any fraud: “Our business idea is to sell cosmetics and give 40 000 Iranians, mostly women, an opportunity to make money. We work in the same way in Iran as in the 60 other countries where we are operating.”
Oriflame is a cosmetics group, founded in 1967 by brothers Jonas and Robert af Jochnick, and their then partner, Bengt Hellsten in Stockholm, Sweden. The company sells skin care, cosmetic products and other related products through an independent sales force of over 3 million people. More info, see www.oriflame.com