The last word in nineties utility chic, Maharishi made a comeback on the catwalk at London Collections: Men on Saturday morning. The autumn/winter 2015 collection featured all the trademarks that fans will remember: combat trousers, camo print, hoods and cross-body bags. Their inspiration is also familiar. These clothes were inspired by the Japanese ninja’s costume as a way to look stealth in a world of escalated government surveillance. Maharishi was always a label that combined the influence of eastern culture with the grit of city streets.
The label, founded by Hardy Blechman, has picked its moment to return to the mainstream fashion arena wisely. The urban warrior look that Blechman pioneered, and which dominated street wear a decade ago, threatens to do so again. Many of the key designers at London Collections: Men are showcasing variations on street wear including Christopher Shannon, Liam Hodges and Astrid Andersen. Christopher Raeburn, showing in the evening of Saturday, arguably follows Blechman’s tradition of utility wear, with both designers basing their aesthetic on army issued clothing.
The Maharishi models were diversely cast, and the collection was reliably heavy on the military influence: combat trousers, camo prints, sleeping bag-like quilted jackets, blankets, balaclavas and map co-ordinates on sweatshirts. The Japanese influence could be found on the knits, which featured pagoda imagery, and the assortment of reworked obi belts. Any Maharishi aficionado would have recognised the show as distinctly on-brand. The return to the fashion spotlight was marked by a confident ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ approach.
Blechman founded Maharishi – named after the Hindu word for guru – in 1994, after time spent working in the army surplus trade. He became a cult name in the streetwear scene in London, a man known for a mystical outlook influenced by eastern culture – and the fact that he drank his own urine. His combat trousers – wide, worn low on the waist, and with a signature Chinese dragon on the back of the calf – became an ‘it item’ and celebrity favourite for almost a decade. Called snopants by the brand, in the US they were worn by Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston and in the UK, by girl band All Saints and Victoria Beckham. Largely responsible for bringing combats into fashion, Arena Homme Plus named them ‘the most copied pants of the decade.’ Blechman was named Streetwear Designer of the Year at the British Fashion Awards in 2000.
Backstage after Saturday’s show, the designer played down the idea that his aesthetic is back on trend – after more than a decade off the radar of the mainstream. “I have never seen that there has been a non-moment for functionality,” he said. “I don’t understand how you would want to consume anything else.” He did, however, concede that the brand has had a harder time in recent years. “I would say from 2009 things have been tougher,” he said. “I’ve had to re-look at how to put our brand out there. This [the show] is us putting our head up over the wall again, a necessary shout hello.” With a collection of clothes that will appeal to a new generation of men discovering a utility aesthetic – as well an established following – fashion will no doubt be waving back.