Maharishi (stylized maharishi) has been one of Britain's most storied streetwear brands ever since it was founded in 1994 by Hardy Blechman.
maharishi, derived from the Hindu title Maharishi (महर्षि or 'great seer'), was founded on the idea of making available military technology, Eastern stylings, all under fair-trade production with ethically sourced fabrics. Blechman was decades ahead of much of the rest of the industry in his production techniques and ethics, a pioneering attitude at the heart of his brand. Blechman's former experience lay in the international military and industrial clothing surplus trade, and he started maharishi by producing hemp and other natural fibre clothing as well as recycling workwear and military surplus. In spite of the nature of the garment's and their inspiration laying in military clothing, Blechman's outlook is decidedly pacifist, with many pieces featuring anti-war slogans and imagery. The window of their London flagship claims that the brand "aims to convey a strong anti-war sentiment through its use of camouflage—reclaiming its symbolic value away from war, back to its roots in nature and development by artists and to highlight objections to continued 21st century Warfare."
Hardy Blechman, Maharishi's founder
One of the most recognizable aspects of maharishi's brand is camouflage, of varying shapes and colours. However, most notable is the classic British "Disruptive Pattern Material", which through British forces deployed around the globe, has become one of the most well-known military patterns. It also happens to be the name of a book by Blechman, largely considered one of the foremost experts on camouflage patterns and history. The following passage provides a short excerpt from Blechman's book:
The first proper uniforms to come out after that were the grey uniforms in Germany, olive drab uniforms in the United States and khaki-sand uniforms in England. Often uniform developments are based on who we happen to be at war with at the moment – if we bring it right up to today, we now have an army pattern both the English and Americans wear, it’s the same uniform because we know where the fight is, we are only going to be fighting in the desert because that’s our target, so let’s not pretend that we are going to go and have a fight in a jungle anywhere or in the snow anywhere. There is only one uniform right now, they claim it’s “all terrain”, but to me it looks like a desert pattern and, funnily enough, it’s been like that since 1991.For army uniforms it all started getting interesting in 1929 the Italians invented the process of being able to print on fabric in multiple colours. And once again, after the red uniform colour had been discontinued, there was an opportunity for soldiers to feel special again, and that was a cool and that lasted a long time. It lasted until about 15 years ago when suddenly the military dumped so much surplus camo on the market that it got saturated. That’s when I got involved and camo started inspiring my work with Maharishi, and I began to reference it. Suddenly, camouflage became so popular within the civilian realm that soldiers once again weren’t feeling that special. It got to that point where we saw Osama Bin Laden on TV, filmed in some cave, and you say: ‘Isn’t that a US army jacket?’ ‘Yeah, in woodland camouflage’ and I’m like: ‘You fucking idiots sold it to him in one of your surplus store!’
However, beyond camouflage, maharishi has instead become something of a British Stone Island, in the sense that it is often regarded as one of the industry leaders in new techniques for manufacturing technical apparel. The first example of this was in the Snopants®—snowboarding-inspired pants that feature a number of original design details, including the Snobutton System, which allows the pants to be worn full length, three-quarter length, or as shorts; the Snocord system, which provides a fully adjustable waist and hem; and Temple Bead, a one-part elastic cord stopper. According to maharishi fan and award-winning British writer/director, Paul Black, who spoke with Blechman in 2015, the designer’s “love of hemp led him to develop the first waterproof hemp cloths with the Italian mill ITS Artea, the founder of which spent twenty years designing cloths with Massimo Osti of CP Company and Stone Island fame. Together Hardy and ITS developed hemp bases with PU coatings that gave performance, whilst being 95% natural fibre.”
A few years on, and Blechman was at the top of the streetwear industry. In 2000, he won the British Fashion Council's award for Streetwear Designer of the Year. In 2001, he launched his first diffusion line, MHI. In 2004, he opened their flagship store, as well as published Disruptive Pattern Material, and collaborated with Nike.
MHI bags from the launch of the line
Though Maharishi has had ups and downs, and financial difficulties in the mid 2000s, the brand has a history like few others, and an owner dedicated to success and quality. Through his self-owned factory, he both produced for brands such as Folk, and kept Maharishi alive through the mid 2000s. The brand has came back in a major way in the past few years, and with a legacy like Blechman's, few brands can compare.