Wry Society: The fashion mystic

Fabled New York designer Ella relies on a cosmic companion to keep her business qi flowing. But is he right om? Words by Clare Coulson

Image: Conde Nast via Getty Images

It was a hazy late-summer evening off the coast of Ischia and Ella Ecklund was nearing the end of her daily meditative yoga sequence. As she slowly unfurled her unfeasibly toned legs high above her into a perfect headstand, the septuagenarian New Yorker defied her years – and the gently rocking bows of the love of her life, her 27.5m, Scottish-built, twin-masted schooner, Apache.

The fabled designer had spent most of her career outfoxing bodily gravity. In her late-1970s heyday, she had built her wildly successful fashion brand from the bottom up, when her booty-boosting “24/7” pants became a global bestseller. She followed them with her “365 Capsule” – a dressing system that took women from boardroom to bar and back again swathed in soothing cashmere and curve-caressing cuts. She had spent her Manhattan youth partying with Mick and Bianca, hanging out with Halston and leaving a trail of amorous A-list admirers, male and female, in her wake. She wrote her memoirs and launched her IPO in style on the New York Stock Exchange by staging a high-kickin’ Rockettes routine across the trading floor. 

And she’d done it all alone until HALO, a Sri Lankan mystic, befriended her in a patchouli haze in a Bedouin tent at Burning Man. Within a few weeks, he was her constant companion and her creative counterfoil. She was thoroughly seduced by his rhythmical, sing-song pronouncements and his calming influence on her loyal shih tzu, Martha, whose random acts of aggression were legendary on Seventh Avenue.

He also seemed to hold all the answers for her business, which was in rather urgent need of a 21st-century reboot. And against the odds, HALO’s commandments were helping to introduce the brand to a new generation of Ecklund acolytes. When he pronounced that the business should go gender fluid, Ella obliged with unisex yogic pants that sold out in stores from San Francisco to Singapore. When he decreed that new collections could only be launched on lucky dates that he’d tracked using cosmic forces and celestial maps, Ella’s spirits were boosted by a spike in sales on each of the mystic’s serendipitous digits. High on her success, Ella promoted HALO to Chief Serenity Officer with sole charge for the wellbeing of her entire staff.

HALO set about staging a karmic intervention at Ecklund HQ to rebalance the company’s qi. He installed gratitude pods for quiet contemplation that swiftly became the perfect hangover retreats for the studio’s hard-partying young designers. His lunchtime connectivity-wall sessions were soon an oversharing odyssey in which disgruntled workers called managers to account over perceived injustices. And his dynamic group-meditation classes resulted in one trip to the emergency room, two periods of extended sick leave and four slipped discs. 


There were also whispers about HALO’s fondness for late nights at Indochine and how, when he’d taken the Learjet on a conservation trip to Costa Rica, he’d actually gone to play golf at the Four Seasons Papagayo. Ella, never one for tittle-tattle, batted off any suggestion that her new best friend could be anything other than a benevolent force.

But right under her nose, productivity nosedived and her stock price headed south (“Sometimes the stars betray us,” proclaimed HALO. “Be patient. The sun is entering Leo”). 

And so she’d spent the summer sailing Apache around the Med seeking inspiration for her next collection, and the sun had entered and left Leo, but she still needed a spark of brilliance, a critical hit that was commercial catnip. As she exhaled her final meditative breath, she gazed up at HALO from her headstand and took in his elegant draped and layered russet robes.

“It’s been staring me in the face. Give me your clothes right now!” screeched Ella. “We need to FedEx them back to the studio.” She snapped right out of her calm equilibrium – and her perfect yoga pose – as the money-making potential of a new range of layered minimalist robes in a rainbow of subdued shades took hold. HALO paused with one of his beatific smiles. “I remember so clearly when I first designed them – the sun was in Scorpio,” he said, his voice suddenly more clashing cymbal than calming balm to Ella’s ears. “Shall we start with double billing, 33 per cent of profits and a charitable foundation set up in my name?”


See also