Are you fashionably spiritual?

The spiritual look has been around since the 1990s, but Indian designers continue to be inspired by it and interpret the concept of spirituality through their creations

Fashion designers seek inspiration for their work from many sources. More often than not, their designs are influenced by heritage, social events, tradition and their own frame of mind. Thus, you have creations influenced by punk, rock, tradition, the Goth subculture, the hippie culture, ethnicities, and even spirituality.

Designer Payal Khandwala’s creations at  LFW 2012
Designer Payal Khandwala’s creations at LFW 2012

Holy clothing
In the 1990s, the spiritual look was popularised by Japanese designers such as Issey Miyake, Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto. Fashion purists such as Hussein Chalayan, Ann Demeulemeester, Mandeleine Vionnet and Mariano Fortuny created a fashion religion of their own by sticking to drapes.


So, what makes a piece of spiritual clothing stand out? They are loose-fitting and lightly hued and usually stick to ethereal pastels. They have shades of colours universally associated with spirituality, such as saffron, white, black and ecru.

Here, comfort is key. The fabrics are pure, natural, eco-friendly and often made out of biodegradable linen, cotton, Tencel, Modal, Ahimsa or Eri silk.

A Wendell Rodricks’ creation at  Lakme Fashion Week 2012
A Wendell Rodricks’ creation at Lakme Fashion Week 2012

The garments, which often include religious symbols, emblems and images of gods and saints, are also funky, casual wear for many.

Fashionably spiritual
After his move to Goa in 1993, fashion designer Wendell Rodricks designed clothes inspired by nature and concepts like minimalism. The designer explains that the weave, fibre, style or even a philosophy can influence a designer’s creations. “I have not wavered from my minimalist, resort, eco-friendly philosophy. While designing a collection, I go into a spiritual space to keep my mind clear and focused. For 25 years, I have battled against the market, which dictates that clothes should stand out. But I want my wearer’s personality and persona to stand out,” he explains.

Vaishali Shadangule
One of designer Vaishali Shadangule’s creations from her Autumn/Winter 2012 collection Khawja, inspired by spirituality

His Clothing the Soul collection at IGEDO Dusseldorf in 1995, Goa Spa collection at fashion show Prét-a-porter, Paris in 2008 and Eco Goa collection at Nuremberg in 2012 were heavily influenced by the colour white. “In fact, for my Wills India Fashion Week October collection this year, called Yoga Calm, I have returned to that yogic space of mind. The whole energy is
transmitted from the fabric to the designer’s mind to tailors’ hands and eventually to the wearer. Most people don’t believe this. But I do feel there is a cosmic connection,” the designer stresses.

Anavila Misra’s creation at LFW 2014
Anavila Misra's creation at LFW 2014

Designer Vaishali Shadangule’s first collection inspired by spirituality was Khawja A/W 2012, influenced by concept of truth. Her Anhad S/S 2013 collection explored the many layers of a human mind and how while on a quest for spirituality, one removes the layers and comes in contact with the inner self. “Colours such as black and white justify a spiritual garment. Fabrics should be hand-woven, which keep the purity alive. Silhouettes are either sleek, straight cuts or in drapes and layers,” explains Shadangule, adding that simple, yet detailed, texturing will help the garment stand out.

Well-known artist and fashion designer Payal Khandwala’s collections always revolved around themes like serenity and Zen, ever since her first S/S 2012 line, PLAY. “Two years ago, I created a collection inspired by the sadhu and the samurai for LFW Winter Festive 2012, which drew a parallel between the two. I felt that besides the obvious differences, there were also similarities between the two. For instance, both are disciplined, spiritual, and strong,” explains Khandwala. “I find collections that are too literal, gimmicky,” she continues. “So for me, the collection should evoke a mood that transcends the physicality of the clothes, without having to stick a picture of Gautam Buddha on the garment. The outfit should be dramatic, but in a subtle way. And it should rely on restraint rather than excess,” she elaborates.

A hit with the masses
So how popular are these clothes among customers? According to the fashion police, reactions waver between hate and love. However, such designers are not worried about money, points out Rodricks. “I am sure Sonam Dubal does not care about his price tag. He brings the Himalayas to us via his beautiful clothes,” he adds.

Sangita Sing Kathiwada, founder of Melangé, an eco-friendly fashion store which retails conscious clothing, agrees. “Our customers love such clothes as they are weather friendly,” she points out. “We have designers such as Eka, Savio Jon, 11.11 CellDesign and Anavila Misra (who is well-known for creating lovely linen and natural fibre saris) who design for this category. The clothes are made from organic cotton, khadi and linen. These easy-to-wear garments come in white, off-white and earthy shades,” she adds.

It certainly looks like spirituality is the in thing.

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