Inside the Fashion Industry's Recent Obsession with Meditation

The business known for moving fast is taking time to slow down.
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The business known for moving fast is taking time to slow down.

Remember when the intersection of fashion and meditation used to be the most hilarious joke? For instance, in 2003's "How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days," protagonist Andie's boss Lana referred to the Dalai Lama as the "fabulous" guy "Richard Gere's always cavorting with." But lately, it seems that this crossover has become less entertaining and more intentional; there's been a major uptick in fashion and beauty events held at mediation spaces and the subject is practically approaching food in terms of Instagram-worthy subject matter. Is it a reaction to what's going on in the world lately? Is it a natural extension of "wellness"? We talked to top meditation experts about the trend to get answers.

Russell Simmons — founder of The Tantris Center for Yogic Science, Chairman of Rush Communications and co-founder of Def Jam — recently opened West Hollywood-based yoga and wellness center Tantris, in addition to its corresponding performance fashion brand. The Meditation Made Simple meditation app founder's nickname is Rush, so the fact that he's a mediation enthusiast is an especially fascinating dichotomy. "You spend 20 minutes meditating and it changes your life," Simmons says. "We're all fighting for awareness and happiness."

Simmons thinks the recent surge in mediation is unrelated to the current political climate, however. "The world is always full of fluctuation," he explains. "People don't only seek meditation from hectic environments." Licensed acupuncturist and Traditional Chinese Medicine and co-founder of Floating Lotus Joel Granik sees more of a connection between the political unrest in our country and meditation's increased popularity. "The recent election left a lot of people feeling very uncertain, and one of the key benefits of meditation is that it can ground the mind and help deal with anxious thoughts as they arise," he says. "Meditation also promotes looking for answers and tapping into wisdom that's inside ourselves, which helps resolve the confusion we face on the outside." MNDFL's Lodro Rinzler notes that at MNDFL, they've have seen an increase in attendance at their MNDFL Emotions classes in particular since November. "I think science is just now proving what some spiritual traditions have been saying for thousands of years; that meditation will lower your stress levels, make you more productive and efficient, normalize your sleep, and boost your immune system," he says.

Reiki practitioner and Floating Lotus co-founder Jackie Itzkowitz believes social media is also a factor in the raise of meditation. "Being constantly connected via social media can be really amazing — but it can also be very taxing on our nervous system," she says. The Numinous founder Ruby Warrington agrees. "Our brains are not designed to be 'on' 24/7, yet social media and the Internet in general means we're now available to everybody all the time, and being constantly bombarded with a stream of information to process," she says. INSCAPE CEO and founder Khajak Keledian says "that formerly 'empty' time of running, commuting, showering, vacationing or even laying in bed is now infiltrated by screens, phones and audio." He says it's crucial we use technology mindfully so mobile devices don't only limit moments of quiet but instead encourage it in certain instances.

Is mediation a natural extension of wellness? Granik thinks so; he defines mediation as wellness as well as the path to wellness. "It is an activity — something that you do — as well as a state of being," he says. He says it's important to understand meditation as a state of being because people often think that they don't have the time or energy to sit down and meditate. He says to do it in the car. "You don't necessarily have to close your eyes to meditate; you can remain focused on driving while paying attention to your breath and your thoughts," he says. Warrington notes that thus far, the "wellness" trend has focused mainly on diet and exercise, addressing our physical and, to an extent, mental well-being. She sees it as "the missing piece in the wellness puzzle, as these tools and practices are designed to facilitate well-being on an emotional and spiritual level as well," she explains. "Feeling healthier thanks to better diet and exercise often leads to a desire to address deeper issues — and so yes, I see these practices as the natural next step of the wellness revolution."

Warrington notes that the fashion industry has sped up rapidly over the past five years or so, which could be at the crux of this mediation wave of popularity. "It used to be that designers produced two collections per year; now it's more like six, as the advent of e-commerce means stores constantly need new products to keep customers engaged." This acceleration has necessitated an internal "slowing down" to counterbalance the pace of life as a fashion professional. Simmons says people are looking for interpretations of the yogic lifestyle, not just yoga, and his new men's collection for Tantris reflects that. Rinzler notes that in the fashion industry, a moment wasted can cause a calamity, so he's not surprised more people from that world are finding out the benefits of meditation for themselves. 

To Keledian, who also founded Intermix, it's about self-care as the new dimension of luxury. "We're seeing the stats in consumer behavior and spending; favoring experience and discovery, over the acquisition of material goods, is trending," he says. "So, naturally, the fashion industry feels this stress — the retail environment is tougher than ever, globalization has brands competing more than before, and tech and e-commerce are opening up more channels." To counteract this, he believes people are turning inward, investing their time and energy on the internal now, as they've already focused on the external.

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Homepage image: MNDFL Greenwich Village/Stephen Wilson Photography