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Homeopathic clothing: Fad or fab?

By Katharina Bishop

We all know that wearing stylish clothes can make us feel more confident and attractive. But what if our clothes could actually make us physically better?

Fashion designer Diana Irani has plans to turn this idea from science fiction into retail reality. In 1999, Irani launched Blank, a women’s wear and accessories label, while studying for a degree at London’s Royal College of Art. Today, the label is a bestseller in America, Japan and Europe.

But it’s her new diffusion line, funded by NESTA's Creative Pioneer Programme, which is set to really shake up the world of fashion. Re Midi will be unlike any other fashion label. Not only will it make you look fantastic on the outside, it will help you feel even better on the inside. Made from specially developed fabrics, the clothes release a controlled dose of a homeopathic remedy into your bloodstream through your skin while you wear it.

Health by absorption
Irani explains that the system she is designing is similar in function to a nicotine patch, a widely used and effective means of administering an active ingredient by absorption. “Rather than popping a pill which has to pass through the digestive system,” she explains, “this is a more direct and more integrated way of taking medicine for chronic problems. I’m looking at conditions like eczema, insomnia and stress, where the whole activity of taking the medicine reminds you that you’re unwell.”

Irani holds a degree in textile manufacture from the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, India. “For part of my degree, I documented traditional crafts, living and working with the craftsmen,” she says. “It makes you understand where they’re coming from and to realize that you work with them, they don’t work for you. It was very humbling.”

She is now busy developing the scientific properties of the fabric. The delivery system has not yet been patented, and details are still under wraps.

Complementary medicine + clothing = healthy style
Born and raised in India, Irani moved to the United Kingdom to study at the Royal College of Art in London. Her interest in complementary medicine stems from her personal experience with pharmaceutical drugs. “I had serious health problems when I was growing up,” she says. “I was given conventional drugs, and they have caused so many after-affects. I think that you can’t argue with doctors, but for smaller complaints taking complementary medicine makes you feel in control of your own well-being — understanding yourself is important.”

Inspired by Indian ceremonies that involve fabric garments infused with turmeric, which is absorbed by the participants’ skin, she started researching the idea and found that coating fabric with active substances were popular in other cultures, too. In Africa, for example, ox blood is used.

Medical, manufacturing and anthropological considerations aside, there is the question of style. Irani hopes to build on the runaway success of her Blank label. Her clothes are sold at the Liberty store in London, and she sees Re Medi hanging alongside clothes in Selfridges or similar high-fashion shops. “I don’t want Re Medi to be only about the medicine,” she insists. “With Lycra now, you don’t think ‘I’ll wear elastic in my clothes today’ — it’s just there. I want my line to be on that level as a lifestyle product. Put it this way: they won’t be selling my clothes in high-street pharmacies!”

© Katharina Bishop

NFO Beauty & Body Editor Katharina Bishop is a freelance writer. Her academic background is eclectic and encompasses studies in medicine, psychology and philosophy; she is currently completing a degree in modern language studies. Katharina is the owner of Wondrous Gems, specializing in crystal jewelry and holistic parenting products. A free spirit, she has traveled to more than 30 countries and lived in five on three continents. She now lives with her husband and son in southwest England.

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