January 23, 2014

I first met YashkaThor at the Ada & Nik after show party during London Collections: Men. Among a sea of black-clad fashion goths and suited fashion editors, they stood out in matching sumptuous blue tunics and white hats that at first looked deceptively simple but up close whispered confident, quiet luxury. 

We exchanged contacts, and shortly after YashkaThor very kindly granted me an audience and invited to me to their studio to talk more about their hats, their collaborations, and for a spot of meditation.

The loft-style windows of their sun-drenched Bermondsey studio overlooked a gorgeous garden dotted with palms and a pond. The verdant view, the bright airiness of the studio, and the occasional chirp of Jimmi the rabbit certainly added to the serene and calm ambience of YashkaThor.

From the YashkaThor website.

Intrigued by the enigmatic duo and their work, this inquisitive girl had a few questions for YashkaThor that they very kindly indulged.

What is radical luxury? 
Radical luxury is something political. To wear a hat you must believe in it. 
Hats are often considered superfluous, not practical like for example a serious white shirt. In this way, hats are less like fashion and more like an interactive art, representing luxurious living.
Hats aren't practical in the fashion sense but like art, they represent luxury. A hat is the last thing you add when all the basics have been established. 
Hats represent culture and choosing to belong to a belief system. Wearing a hat gives one the luxury to behave within social groups. By consciously wearing a carefully made object you give yourself a way to live beautifully. 
Hats are a philosophical tool, they invite discussion and bring up questions of existence which is a luxury in its own right.

Do you believe that luxury should be democratic and accessible to every budget big or small, or is luxury something you pay for?

Luxury has less to do with price, rather it is about a particular priority and quality. The time, thought, and knowledge that goes behind a conscious choice.  
Luxury doesn't have to be expensive. For example, buying good food at a farmer's market, engaging with the farmers and finding out where your food comes from makes it taste differently because of the knowledge.  
Luxury is about priority. You could spend a certain amount of money on ten things or choose to spend the same on one item. It's about deciding which of these is most important to you.  
Luxury is irrelevant to how many people wear it. Exclusivity does not dictate what it luxurious, conscious consuming, conscious living does.

Speaking of the democracy and accessibility of luxury, would you consider doing a diffusion line in the vein of Margiela for H&M?
Absolutely.  For London Collections: Men, we did two collaborations; one with Ada + Nik, the other with Agi & Sam.  For each, the brief was completely different, and both were different to what is on offer in our permanent collection.  It’s great to be able to cross new worlds. We wouldn't assent to the notion of diffusion, but solid collaboration, certainly.

Tell me, what is the essence of YashkaThor?
YashkaThor comprises of the stories we tell and the hats made and worn. Everything we  are, we put into our hats. Each hat comes from it's story, and the stories come from somewhere entirely different. Sometimes the stories happen first, sometimes the hats make their own stories

I love the YashkaThor stories. Told from lands as distant and exotic as The Himalayas to more local North London, they evoke a mystical, magical quality, and transport one into a journey to a time when epics were passed from generation to generation by song and tales told to children around the fire.

My personal favourite story is The story of Baba Gee and the Pindari Glacier. I highly recommend taking the time to read each and every one.

YashkaThor meditate daily in hats and asked if I would like to give it a try? Of course I would. Donning gloves, a pair of gentle hands perched an exquisite hat on my head ever so daintily. Surprisingly for an accessory that I usually deem quite precarious to balance in, the white YashkaThor number on my head resolutely stayed out no matter which way I shook my head. Perhaps it was the different way I held myself, my improved posture? One holds themself differently when one wears a hat, they become aware of one's self, elevated almost, like the funnel of the pyramids. 

Likewise we meditated better in them. Outside in the courtyard, children laughed and giggled to what sounded like a PE teacher barking orders. Ordinarily I would try in vain to shut out the noise, but I soon realised that for me to meditate I had to co-exist with outside sounds, not try to block them out. 

I took very large, deep breaths, enlarging my body and consciousness into the shape of the hat. The same way that Bruce Lee describes water in A Warrior's Journey. "Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless — like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup; You put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle; You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot."

In the five minutes that followed I became very aware of everything, even a speck of dust floating in the air. I felt like I left my physical body and that my entire being was being pulled backwards very slowly from a giant catapult, but instead of being released to soar at great speeds I was pulled back and forth very deliberately. 

When the alarm went off, signalling the end of our five minute meditation, I had barely noticed that any time had passed at all. I felt like I had existed everywhere yet nowhere at all.

I highly recommend meditating in one of YashkaThor's hats, or even just wearing one to see what it does for one's awareness.

Yashka taking a literal hands on approach to YashkaThor business cards. I had a go at punching holes in a few of the cards, it was terribly satisfying.

Jimmi the rabbit reminds them of the respect they have for the rabbits whose fur they use for their hats.

As Jimmi hopped around and was cuddled, her fur would shed and float slowly in the air, glowing as it drifted downward. Perhaps if one chanted a magic spell, all of Jimmi's fur would form itself into a hat.

Before I bade goodbye to YashkaThor, I asked one last question---

What do you see in the future of YashkaThor?
We don't predict the future in interviews. But since you asked...to the desert!

Thank you, YashkaThor, for a wonderful afternoon! For the stories, the tea, the elevated awareness and understanding of luxury, a renewed state of mind, and the insight to your wonderful work.


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