Can ayurvedic clothes heal you?

‘Medicinal herb-dyed’, ‘immunity boosting’, ‘no toxic irritants’. These terms are commonly found on clothing tags of Ayurvedic apparel. Marketed with attention to healing properties and doshas, these textiles are rooted in the philosophy of the ancient medicinal system.

If you run a quick check on Google, searches for #ayurveda and #sustainablefashion (1.7 and 4.5 million posts respectively and counting) have quintupled over the last three years (according to French tech start-up, Heuritech). Interestingly, Ayurveda headed the lineup at the Global Wellness Summit (GWS) in Singapore this October — with ‘wellness’ apparel as one of the major talking points at the three-day event, along with trends like biomeasuring wearables that track your stress levels, and clothing from crop waste.

Can ayurvedic clothes heal you?

Brand central

Today, the global Ayurvedic service market, which includes garments, is expected to reach $2,850 million by 2025, up from $1,170 million in 2017 ( And, like many trends, it appears that we are taking our cues from the international market. Over the years, we’ve had global brands — Kateson (baby clothes hand-dyed in Ayurvedic botanicals from a handloom co-operative in Kerala), Kit Willows’ Australian label Kitx (Ayurvedic dyes) — working with the principle of clothes that ‘heal’. Closer home, Kolkata-based Rwitvastra’s ‘herbal-dyed’ saris and Udaipur-based Aavaran’s Ayurvastra line are some of the brands in line with this. The Sanskrit word, ayurvastra, is a portmanteau of ayur (pertaining to life), veda (science or wisdom), and vastra (fabric or garment). The discipline goes back thousands of years, when weavers crafted fabrics with herbs like kurunthotti and neelayamari, and spices such as turmeric and cloves. Unusual substances like gaumutra and ‘prosperity’ herbs like cinnamon or durva grass are also used, says Gauri Kuchhal of Jaipur-based AyurSatwa.

But leading the pack is Parisian fashion label Lecoanet Hemant, known for its decade-old homegrown collection, Ayurganic. The designer duo, Frenchman Didier Lecoanet and Indo-German Hemant Sagar, claim that their kaftans, kurtas, pants, shawls and bathrobes, made out of fabrics that have been dip-dyed in special herbs and oils, “restore body balance and improve the immune system”. However, do these claims hold water?

Healing vs wellness

While healing clothing exists, and demand is on the rise thanks to awareness about chemical-related pollution in the textile business, it is important to understand the technicalities that differentiate clothing that heals and ‘wellness’ apparel. Thiruvananthapuram-based Kumar, the Ayurvedic dyeing specialist of Kairali Exports, says the former supplements the treatment of skin disorders and other medical issues by using prescribed kashayams (herbal concoctions) and oils. This dyeing process is achieved in a controlled temperature. Other Vedic methods, like chanting, are also used to energise the garment. “But the medicinal effect has a cap of 20 washes,” he says, adding, “We offer to recharge the textile [but not the garment] by re-dyeing it in a herbal solution.”

Can ayurvedic clothes heal you?

Kumar calls this method “more complex” than the one used for wellness textiles. Also marketed as ‘ayur-dyed’ clothing, these use natural and Ayurvedic ingredients, but might not necessarily have healing properties. Matthew Joseph, founder of Kochi-based hospitality brand Niraamaya that also retails ayur-dyed apparel, is of the opinion that “such clothing does not have therapeutic properties, but supports the ‘cure’”. For example, a fabric dyed yellow (derived from four types of turmeric and neem) will have antibacterial properties, but may not alleviate all skin problems. Even Auroville-based designer Uma Prajapati, who founded Upasana in 1997, doesn’t claim her four-year-old Healing Textiles line (₹2,000-₹8,000) is 100% therapeutic. “The words [healing, detoxifying, immunity boosting and medicinal] are just differentiators. These clothes are about well-being and comfort, as we use natural dyes,” says the designer, known for her cocoon dresses and tunics, custom-dyed by Kairali Exports.

Style-wise, the garments are often simple and clutter-free, as seen in Lecoanet Hemant’s collections. “This is because trends are limiting. It is about accountability and not about fashion vanity,” explains Upasana’s Prajapati, who exports her clothes to the US and Europe. Designer Shobha Viswanathan, of Kerala-based Weavers’ Village, is thrilled with the latest collection (in association with designer Gaurav Singh) for her ayur brand, Bodha Wellness. The clothes are crafted out of 100-count, ayur-dyed cotton woven by Chendamangalam weavers. “The simpler the shapes, the more comfortable the clothing,” she says.

So if you’re motivated to try ayur-dyed apparel, ensure you choose fabrics based on your dosha. Kumar also suggests that you study the health benefits provided by each herb, plant or flower used and look into the brand’s dyeing process.

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Printable version | Sep 27, 2020 4:12:22 AM |

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