Bandana Tewari, Editor-at-Large of Vogue India, on why the teachings of the great statesman are more relevant than ever before
As conference delegates contemplate “Mindful Luxury”, the theme of this year’s Condé Nast International Luxury Conference, Bandana Tewari, Editor-at-Large of Vogue India, struck a humbling note as she took to the lectern, fascinating the room with the mesmerising tale of Mahatma Gandhi and the examples he set through the medium of clothes.
“Gandhi’s relationship with clothes was profound,” Tewari said. “There is no other example I could find in the history of politics that raises such an analogy between politics and clothing.”
From his early days in the UK as a student, imitating a young English dandy, to finding himself racially profiled and abused in South Africa (where his quest for truth in the face of ignorance and interest in self-sufficiency – “Swadeshi” – began), to returning to India to lead the Khadi (handmade cotton) movement, when “he asked the country to burn all factory-made clothes and make their own clothes, bringing the entire country together in protest”, clothing was integral to Gandhi’s philosophy, Tewari explained.
“Clothing was a central part of his inner quest for truth,” continued Tewari. “In robing and disrobing he developed practices and principles – but how should they be applied to luxury fashion companies with mindfulness?”
The answer lies in crediting the craftsman, according to Tewari, and no longer basking in the glory of a “handmade” price tag without asking where it comes from.
“We have approximately 11 million people who make beautiful things by hand every day – and more along the silk route. If you don’t empower them and give them the chance to create, we will lose these trades and skills. We have forgotten to give credit to the craftspeople of the world, who create the most beautiful products for the brands that you own,” Tewari told the delegates, which comprised many a luxury CEO. “You can bring humanity into what could become a beautiful harmony between the creator, the designer and the producer – that would be a Gandhian approach to luxury.”
“Mindful Luxury” is also about standing up for the impact that the luxury industry has on the environment, Tewari said, quoting Ghandi: “Non-violence is not a garment to be put on and off at will, its seat lies in our heart and must be an inseparable part of our being.”
“I would like to call on designers to be slow thinkers, it’s not about the speed of doing things, it’s about authenticity and time,” she continued. “Connecting to a philosophy is critical, to hold ourselves to a responsibility, to adopt an ethical policy. There are 20 new garments [each] for you, and me, and the planet every year, so maybe we should revisit what Gandhi said three quarters of a century ago: ‘The world has enough for everyone’s needs but not for everyone’s greed.’”
Few were left in doubt of how pertinent his teachings are to the luxury landscape as Tewari took her bow.