Afghan models paraded down a candle-lined catwalk on Friday as men and women watched from the audience in a restaurant off a muddy street in Kabul.
The rare fashion show in the war-weary capital was a small production but a big idea — part of an Afghan group's efforts to empower women by breaking down barriers in the highly conservative Muslim society.
"We are here to move on and move forward, so I think if women step up and they show up in this field, I think they will do a good job," said Shahar Banoo Zeerak, the designer whose clothes were featured in the show.
The idea of women on display remains mostly taboo in Afghanistan more than a decade after the 2001 U.S. assault that ousted the Taliban from power after a five-year reign of terror by the fundamentalist movement.
Friday's fashion show was organized by Young Women for Change, an independent, nonprofit Afghan organization committed to empowering Afghan women and improving their lives.
Most of the 10 models were Afghan women who volunteered. The models, who also included three young men, showed off 33 designs, including colorful short-sleeved dresses, jeans, tunics and more traditional outfits.
One of them, Farkhonda Taheri, 17, had never even seen a fashion show before. She said her father and other family members were supportive, but her grandmother was not happy.
"The biggest challenge for us (is) that we cannot do these things in Afghanistan because people do not like it," she said afterward. "I was excited because I felt I am going to bring a change."