Leila Astarabadi is a fashion fanatic—she shops at Barneys New York and has a closet rife with Prada, Rick Owens and Jil Sander. “I love Lanvin,” says the willowy redhead, her tresses spilling down in perfectly coiffed curls. “For me, lately, it’s just brilliant.” That Astarabadi has started a fashion line of her own this year falls seamlessly into that chic, clotheshorse persona. Hearing her talk about it does not.
The conversation begins simply enough, as the designer describes her new line. “Everything’s really comfortable and light,” she says. “It’s minimalist and clean too.” Then she cuts to the chase: “The line is simple because the truth is simple,” she adds. “And simplicity allows your divineness to show.” Lest one miss the point, the collection is dubbed Conscious Cloth. “The clothes are embroidered with mantras inside,” Astarabadi continues. “When you have words, sacred words, each and every one holds the power of creation. And when you chant mantras repetitively, you’re repatterning and bringing healing to experiences and karmic influences.”
“I infuse the line with the vibration of chanting,” she explains. “Most of the chants I put behind the heart so that the energy is felt.” By that she means she embroiders each chant on the inside of a garment, at heart level, like a sort of spiritual nicotine patch phasing out the negative with bursts of holistic hoo-hoo. Perhaps not surprisingly, Astarabadi doesn’t structure her work around anything as pedestrian as the fashion calendar. She offers no distinct spring or fall collections, never mind resort. “I start things during the new moon,” she says. “When you work with the waxing moon, it’s much more powerful because all the energy is accumulating. You’re planting the seed in the right soil, so you get the tree with the right fruit.” Said fruit doesn’t come cheap. Prices start at $750 for cashmere boy shorts and climb to $6,200 for gowns. “I chose these fabrics because they have the highest vibration,” the designer explains of her pricey textiles. Something must be vibing right; Conscious Cloth is pulling in celebrity clients including Uma Thurman. It’s merch meets metaphysics, and it doesn’t take a yogi to figure out the commercial appeal.
But Astarabadi is not alone in this merging of worlds. Consider Donna Karan. Way back in 1996, as she was taking her company public, Karan let all her New Age dalliances slip in interviews, bantering about hypnosis and her seven past lives. An anomaly at the time, the stories had industry insiders buzzing about the possibility of scaring off potential investors. Nowadays, no one flinches when the designer announces she’s branching out into the alternative healing arena, as she did with her Urban Zen Initiative last year.