Why Fashion Is Going New Age

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Brutalist Jewellery Los Angeles Vintage Lawrence & Schmidt
Lawrence & Schmidt CollectionCourtesy of Lawrence & Schmidt

In an age where the world is spinning out of control, fashion and jewellery designers are looking to New Age practices for much-needed healing

Once seen as obscure spiritualism, at best, or ‘hippie nonsense’, at worst, the past decade has seen New Age practices – think healing crystals, astrology, et al – permeate pop culture. Astrology memes and ominous Co-Star notifications are shared across social media with the same frequency as mirror selfies or brunch snaps. Remember goop’s infamous yonic eggs, touted to “increase chi, orgasms, and feminine energy”? And who could forget the image of The Hills’ Spencer Pratt, decked in a tie-dye T-shirt and power-bead necklaces, pressing a rose quartz against his forehead chakra?

These forms of new mysticism haven’t been lost on the fashion industry, either. For The Row’s Autumn/Winter 2018 presentation, the Olsen twins handed out white quartzes and black tourmalines – for balancing “physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual planes” or “repelling negative energies” – as thank-you gifts to their guests. The same season, even luxury house Givenchy tapped into the trend, launching a series of solid-bronze zodiac-themed earrings (which can double as amulets with the addition of a luxe grosgrain ribbon). Victoria Beckham is said to keep crystals backstage at her seasonal runway shows, while Naomi Campbell claims, “I couldn’t even start to tell you how many crystals I have,” revealing that she travels with at least two of the stones in her purse at all times.

While these practices have only become de rigueur within fashion circles in the past few years, the convergence of luxury fashion and mysticism dates back to the 1980s. Along with excessive wealth and debauchery, the 80s marked the birth of New Age culture as we now know it. A counterpoint to the decade’s hyper-consumerism, New Age practices – such as using crystals and gemstones for their healing properties – were touted a means to reclaim a more grounded, meaningful, and balanced lifestyle. By the mid-80s, a new generation of jewellers (most famously Tina Chow) catapulted these fringe practices into mainstream fashion. Chow referred to her jewels – bamboo-wrapped crystal necklaces that functioned as portable self-renewal systems, quartz pendants held against the heart chakra by heavy silk cords – as “personal amulets and power pieces”, harnessing the dual talismanic power of healing stones and of jewellery, itself.

For Spring/Summer 2020, an even newer generation of designers are summoning the healing crystal energy of Tina Chow and her contemporaries, with a 21st-century twist – crafting totemic pieces frequently from recycled materials and artisan-crafted baubles in place of semi-precious stones.

LA-based jewellery collectors India Lawrence and Kayten Schmidt, of Lawrence & Schmidt, speak to these modern sensibilities the best. The duo explain that each Lawrence & Schmidt piece is chosen for its particular character or energy, and they are meant to be worn as personal talismans. Instead of quartzes or tourmalines, many of the label’s most striking amulets are crafted from silver or coral. Lawrence and Schmidt’s favourite piece, a simple river pebble wrapped in silver wire, calls to mind both the look and the quiet power of Chow’s wrapped quartz pendants. “When you take away the precious materials and you’re left with raw or unusual materials and forms, the jewellery can tell a deeply personal narrative, a secret, or a desire,” explains Lawrence. For this new breed of designer, the jewellery itself becomes the source of energy – visual reference to the designs of Chow and company are a means of sending this message.

Over the last few seasons, New York-based designer Maryam Nassir Zadeh has been crafting her own amuletic pendant necklaces. Pieces like the designer’s ‘Omen’ and ‘Requiem’ necklaces or her shell-filled heart pendants are hand-blown from glass or rock. When fastened around the neck with a silk chord, these artisanal pieces take on the arcane energy of a rose quartz or citrine.

Through her jewellery, Florence Tétier, of Tétier Bijoux, imbues found objects and recycled plastic with talismanic properties. Her most recent designs transmute melted plastic into crystal-esque substances, to be worn in groupings around the neck, harnessing the good juju of sustainable consumption. The designer describes her Autumn/Winter 2020 collaboration with Charlotte Knowles – jewels assembled from random finds like beads and wires – as “of end-of-the-world warrior meets 80s businesswoman”. And the pieces embody exactly the sort of New Age-y spirit this combination would engender: large stone-like beads, hung pendant-like, from twisted metal necklaces, earrings, and bracelets – ready to zap you with positive vibes or dispel bad ones.

Can ready-to-wear embody the same healing crystal energy as a pendant necklace? Erika Maish seems to think so. For her Central Saint Martins MA collection American Psychic – which was picked up for Spring/Summer 2020 by Opening Ceremony – the LA-based designer crafted minidresses, bikinis, and polo bodysuits from beads coloured to resemble healing crystals or from evil eye paillettes. “One of the principle starting points for American Psychic was learning that Ronald Reagan had the astrologer Joan Quigley advising him while he was in the White House,” Maish explains, “Even some of the biggest firms on Wall Street have psychics on their boards. The juxtaposition of the conservative with the esoteric shows how closely spirituality and capitalism are intertwined.”

Of the collection itself, Maish says, “I had an image in my head of a businesswoman stranded in the desert reconstructing her clothing out of old can tabs. She’s looking at the sky and hammering constellations in her dress, wearing the massage beads of her car seats, and crystals that will heal her. The collection explores this archetype of people living in the city trying to find themselves in nature and New Age living.” While most of her beaded pieces are crafted from glass and bamboo, Maish incorporated some tangerine quartz – which symbolises perseverance and strength, promotes creativity and acceptance of change – into her collection. Previously, the designer has experimented with agate slices, which cleans and stabilise one’s aura. She hopes to work more with these types of spiritual stones in the future: “I like the idea that someone would want a fully beaded shirt but done in the stone of their choice.”

So why are designers so fascinated, now more than ever, with these mystic jewels? In an age where the fashion cycle – or the world in general – is spinning wildly out of control, these New Age practices offer balance, a less frenetic pace, and a way to make sense of our surroundings. By taking the spiritual power of these healing rocks into their own hands – creating talismans from glass beads, recycled materials, everyday objects – these designers are bringing the fashion industry (and the world at large) a much-needed dose of good energy.