Fash­ion is bank­ing on the mind­ful­ness move­ment.

ELLE (Canada) - - Contents - ByAnyaGe­orgi­je­vic

Why many in the fash­ion world are em­brac­ing mind­ful­ness.

LAST YEAR, when de­signer Demna Gvasalia an­nounced that he was mov­ing his Vete­ments stu­dio from Paris to Zurich, the fash­ion world was taken aback. Why would the in­dus­try’s reigning en­fant ter­ri­ble leave the cen­tre of the uni­verse for a much smaller city in north­ern Switzer­land? It turns out that Gvasalia was ready to bid adieu to the bustling me­trop­o­lis to pur­sue a qui­eter life­style. He even be­gan prac­tis­ing mind­ful­ness by medi­tat­ing for an hour ev­ery morn­ing. It’s well de­served. The de­signer, who also helms Ba­len­ci­aga, typ­i­cally puts out 10 col­lec­tions a year to fill the de­mand­ing fash­ion cal­en­dar. For Vete­ments spring/sum­mer 2018, how­ever, he skipped the run­way al­to­gether. In­stead, Gvasalia ca­su­ally pho­tographed his de­signs on seem­ingly ran­dom Zurich res­i­dents, from small chil­dren to se­niors. The gar­ments were re­worked de­signs from pre­vi­ous sea­sons, a de­lib­er­ate slow­down of the fast-paced in­dus­try where the phrase “burnout” is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly com­mon.

Then there’s Ni­co­las Gh­esquière, who, af­ter abruptly leav­ing his post as cre­ative di­rec­tor at Ba­len­ci­aga in 2012, spoke openly about his frus­tra­tions of bal­anc­ing the iconic brand’s cre­ative and com­mer­cial direc­tions. The fol­low­ing year, Ann De­meule­meester re­tired from fash­ion al­to­gether. The Bel­gian de­signer later told The New York Times that she fi­nally felt like she “didn’t have a rope around her neck.” And when Raf Si­mons left his dream job at Dior in 2015, he did so out of a de­sire to fo­cus more on his per­sonal life and later ad­mit­ted how churn­ing out col­lec­tion af­ter col­lec­tion each sea­son af­fected his de­sign process. (He has been chief cre­ative of­fi­cer for Calvin Klein since Au­gust 2016.) It seems that keep­ing up with the fash­ion cal­en­dar is pretty drain­ing. “De­sign­ers and peo­ple

in fash­ion are con­stantly anx­ious about what’s next and about all the new ideas you need to gen­er­ate,” says New Zealand-based de­signer Karen Walker, who showed at New York Fash­ion Week for over a decade be­fore pulling out in 2016. “You’re 100 per­cent liv­ing in the fu­ture in this busi­ness.”

Like Gvasalia, Walker prac­tises daily med­i­ta­tion. She says it has helped her ap­proach de­sign from a “neu­tral, calm, un­re­ac­tive place,” ad­ding, “It’s ba­si­cally about fo­cus­ing the mind and re­set­ting it so that it can then go about its tasks in an ef­fec­tive way.” In­deed, stud­ies have linked prac­tis­ing mind­ful­ness (the state of be­ing in the present, not fix­at­ing on the past or the fu­ture, and avoid­ing self-judg­ment) to in­creased pro­duc­tiv­ity and hap­pi­ness at work. It can also im­prove our re­ac­tions to stress­ful sit­u­a­tions—Fash­ion Week, any­one?

Be­ing present can even lead to cre­ative break­throughs. Jew­ellery de­signer Amanda As­sad Mounser has in­cor­po­rated mind­ful­ness into her work­ing process by start­ing brain­storm­ing with stream-of-con­scious­ness writ­ing. “Of­ten, a writ­ing ses­sion can morph from words into sketches,” says the New York-based de­signer. “It is a way to get my brain work­ing.” That sen­ti­ment comes across in her work: Her sculp­tural pieces are ab­stract in­ter­pre­ta­tions of na­ture, of­ten with ki­netic el­e­ments re­spond­ing to move­ment and bal­ance. There is a calm, dreamy qual­ity to them.

A healthy dose of dream­ing also in­spired Walker’s spring/sum­mer 2018 col­lec­tion. Ti­tled “Es­capism,” it sees its hero­ine on a whim­si­cal jour­ney dressed in lush botan­i­cal prints. She is un­likely to spend count­less hours at her desk star­ing at a com­puter screen. Walker’s client is not the only one hop­ing to un­plug from the world this sea­son. Lon­don-based Jonathan An­der­son worked with the idea of sanc­tu­ary in a hec­tic re­al­ity at his spring/sum­mer show. “Me­dia makes us hys­ter­i­cal,” he noted back­stage dur­ing Lon­don Fash­ion Week. “We have to go back to what we know to be hu­manly grounded.” That sen­ti­ment man­i­fested it­self in care­free linens and nubby knits, and the de­signer’s sig­na­ture knit corsets were paired with ca­sual wrap skirts that had a home­made qual­ity. Mod­els’ feet were firmly planted on earth in linen and suede es­padrilles.

It’s easy to see the ap­peal of these phys­i­cal in­ter­pre­ta­tions of mind­ful­ness, what with our foggy men­tal state thanks to a laun­dry list of so­cial ills—be it sex­ism, so­cial me­dia, Trump or im­pend­ing Ar­maged­don. “In an era of near-con­stant un­cer­tainty, the move­ments of mind­ful­ness and spir­i­tu­al­ity are more in­flu­en­tial than ever,” says Han­nah Craggs, trend fore­caster and colour edi­tor at World Global Style Net­work.

And, of course, there’s big busi­ness in sell­ing Zen. Over­stim­u­lat­ing shop­ping in­te­ri­ors are be­ing es­chewed in favour of spa­like en­vi­ron­ments with fewer prod­ucts and more ex­pe­ri­ences. Marks & Spencer re­cently launched the Fraz­zled Cafe, a men­tal­health drop-in cen­tre, in 11 stores as part of an ini­tia­tive de­signed to al­le­vi­ate stress, while Saks Fifth Av­enue’s flag­ship lo­ca­tion re­cently tested The Wellery, an en­tire sec­tion of the store ded­i­cated to well­ness ser­vices such as classes, guided med­i­ta­tion and salt-ther­apy rooms. Hel­mut Lang’s new Los An­ge­les flag­ship by Stan­dard Ar­chi­tec­ture fea­tures an in­door green gar­den, while a new Ae­sop shop in Mon­treal by Alain Carle Ar­chi­tecte uses nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als and ab­stract video to mimic the look and feel of wa­ter. Make no mis­take: A life­style choice is be­ing sold here.

Then again, of all the mes­sages brands inun­date us with ev­ery day (Be skin­nier! Be hot­ter! Drink chic vodka and guys will love you!), mind­ful­ness isn’t the worst. What would make it more palat­able is if this ethos spread across com­pa­nies—from the stores to the run­ways to the CEOs to the head of­fices. (Wouldn’t the world be a nicer place if, like at the Eileen Fisher head of­fice, ev­ery meet­ing be­gan with a brief med­i­ta­tion thanks to the cen­tred de­signer?) Or maybe we should all just take a page from Gvasalia’s book. He re­turned to the run­ways in Jan­uary, al­beit off the of­fi­cial Paris Fash­ion Week Men’s sched­ule. And among his ex­pected reper­toire of de­con­structed gar­ments was a T-shirt that read sim­ply “Hi, I Don’t Care. Thanks.” It’s con­ceiv­able that he doesn’t, or at least that he’s be­gin­ning to form his own nar­ra­tive and sched­ule in the never-end­ing grind that is the fash­ion busi­ness. And all it took was a lit­tle mind­ful­ness. n

From left: Gh­esquière, Si­mons and De­meule­meester

Hel­mut Lang’s new Los An­ge­les flag­ship; Techno Gym at Saks’ The Wellery (be­low)

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