Seven Years in Tibet: The Fashion Trend
Faster than an avalanche, Hollywood’s films about Tibet took a slide at the box office. But that hasn’t prevented Tibetan-inspired clothing and accessories from catching on with celebs and designers. Buddhists Courtney Love and Richard Gere have been spotted wearing prayer beads called Mala. Brad Pitt wore a Katak scarf to the opening of Seven Years in Tibet. And Martin Scorsese wore similar neckwear to Kundun‘s debut.
This spring, however, the trend could really find fashion nirvana. That’s when Vivienne Tam’s ferocious Tibetan tiger-print dresses hit stores. And Anna Sui found the inspiration for her entire spring collection at last summer’s Tibetan Freedom Concert in New York City. “Everyone had something ethnic in their look, whether it was mixed with army fatigues, skateboard clothes, or jeans. So I went back and put up these pictures of outdoor concerts on my inspiration board,” says Sui, known for her willy-nilly mixes of cultural references. “There’s one group [of designs] that’s my take on what the Beatles would wear if they visited the Dalai Lama.”
What do Free Tibet advocates think of the cause becoming a style option? “I think for the most part the Tibetans are really honored to see elements of their culture appearing in these ways,” says Erin Potts, director of programs for the Milarepa Fund, a nonprofit organization that works for human rights in Tibet. “But it’s important it not just be on fashion runways and at rock concerts. The reality of the situation has to be a part of that.” Point taken: Sui refuses to manufacture her clothing in China, and — along with Marc Jacobs and Todd Oldham — is selling T-shirts (for $20) to benefit Milarepa. “I’ve never been political,” says Sui, “but this is something I believe in. I thought, if I don’t take a stand on it now, when am I going to?”