Hardy Blechman´s Maharishi
A Primer on the Military-Inspired Menswear Label
Words: Chris Danforth
Aviator sunglasses. The fishtail parka. The beret. Cargo pants. These are several articles of military uniform that have transcended the armed forces to become fashion staples. But the most ubiquitous style trend to come from the front lines? Camouflage. Below, HHV covers the background of camouflage guru Hardy Blechman, and his seminal brand Maharishi.
Originally from the coastal town of Bournemouth, England, Hardy Blechman is the man behind Maharishi, he also wrote the book on camouflage. Literally.
Maharishi traces its origins to 1994, only one year after BAPE was founded by Nigo in Harajuku, Tokyo, and the same year that Supreme was established by James Jebbia in SoHo, New York City. It was an exciting time for streetwear.
Named after a Sanskrit word meaning »Great Seer« the Maharishi brand is centered around Blechman’s fascination with and exploration of vintage as a whole, but more specifically military-inspired apparel, and camouflage. »The brand’s DNA is all about playing with opposites such as life and death, east and west, camouflage and high visibility, peace and military«, Blechman explained to HYPEBEAST in 2013. Maharishi culminated thanks to several factors; Blechman’s travels in Asia, his experience working in production with apparel factories, and his fascination with vintage and military gear, among others.
At its core, Maharishi is a reflection of Blechman’s interests. In 1994 Blechman made his first official foray with a collection of 100% hemp products, a result of his fascination with the 1985 book
»The Emperor Wears No Clothes« by Jack Herer, which offers a conspiracy theory about how the hemp industry was purposely made obsolete in order to benefit cotton profiteers. Blechman sold his hemp collection in a handful of London-based stores including the reputable Duffer of St George, a leading curator of vintage at the time. The next big turning point for the brand was the Snowpant. Blechman came across a particular pair of enormously oversized US-army snow pants intended to be worn over a full combat uniform. He adapted the fit, making adjustments to the pockets and waistband, and the snow pants immediately became a hit in hip-hop circles.
The Maharishi aesthetic continued to develop, locked down by military references like rank insignias, mixed with Eastern iconography such as embroidered dragons and tigers, as well as Zodiac imagery.
Hemp fabrics were supplemented with more technical textiles like ripstop nylon and sateen.
As Maharishi earned a reputation for military-inspired tailoring, bolstered by Blechman’s curatorial eye for vintage, his efforts started to become more widely recognized, and the early 2000s marked some of the brand’s most important and most developmental stages. In 2000, Blechman was named Streetwear Designer of the Year by the British Fashion Council. Then in 2001, he launched the streetwear-leaning MHI label, which consisted of staple items like T-shirts and hoodies. Shortly after, Maharishi opened the doors to its first flagship in London, DPMHI. In 2004, Blechman published his camouflage bible, containing over 5,000 images, many of which were previously unseen by the public. Titled DPM Disruptive Pattern Material: Encyclopedia Of Camouflage: Nature, Military, Culture, the book tracks camouflage from its genesis and the design philosophy of biomimicry, through its adoption by the military, to its current uses in fashion and popular culture. Blechman’s knowledge of camouflage is all-encompassing, not limited to a certain period or place.
But despite his fascination – some may even call it an obsession – with military apparel and more specifically with camouflage, Blechman is an outspoken pacifist, in fact he has coined the term »pacifist military design« to describe his Maharishi creations.
For sneakerheads, 2004 will come to mind, the year that marked Blechman’s first collaboration with Nike, which arrived in the form of friends-and-family Terminators boasting a white and orange colour scheme with reflective elements and bonsai camouflage. The collaboration has been revisited a number of times, bringing us the 2009 Nike Air Max 90 imagined in 100% organic cotton in a signature »maha Olive« colourway, and then again in 2018 with an assortment of silhouettes, the Air Force 1 High, Air Force 1 Low Utility, and Air Max 270 Bowfin. In 2016, Maharishi also teamed up with none other than Travis Scott for a co-designed collection titled »Year of the Cowboy« roughly coinciding with the Houston rapper’s studio album Rodeo«.
Perhaps no one understands the considerable impact of military apparel on style trends better than Blechman, as he recalled in a previous interview. »So much of modern clothing, especially menswear, is deeply rooted in military design; it’s hard to have an interest in clothing that doesn’t encompass military influence. The T-shirt, cardigan, trench coat, bomber jacket, tie, chino, the modern-day suit and so many other staples were all created for the military«.
Today, nearly three decades after Blechman’s first efforts, the Maharishi brand is perhaps more distilled and concentrated than it ever has been. The Maharishi FW21 collection is currently available from HHV in-store and online.
Shop Maharishi’s 2021 collection at HHV.
Visual Content: Max Dietzmann