Ties that Bind
Non-fast fashion inspired by a love of yoga and friendship
By Elizabeth Sugg » Photos by Mollie Tobias
A business with ideals and priorities set forth by two decades of friendship has a trio of women pioneering yoga fashion from their base in Southern Pines with a product that binds them to places and people far beyond. And that was an utmost goal. To connect and bind. And not just with each other but specifically to India, the birthplace of yoga.
Le-Arne Morrissett, Virginia Gallagher and Lisa Youngclaus met 19 years ago. Morrissett and Gallagher linked up as young mothers when their children were just one-year-old, and Morrissett and Youngclaus met socially before really “bonding through hair” as they put it as Morrissett is a hair stylist who ultimately began Beautopia Hair Face & Body Spa in Southern Pines.
Gallagher took her passion for yoga and her desire to create a style of studio that is as friendly and open as it is skillful into the Hot Asana brand. Her newest Southern Pines studio, one of five across the U.S., is scheduled to open later this summer. Youngclaus who left a bigtime advertising executive position in Chicago to follow her late husband to Pinehurst in an early yet active retirement, continued her agency work on a local level before deciding to embrace and become a 500 Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) at Hot Asana at age 50.
The business these three independent women were about to create — Binding Energies — became a chance to create a product line with each other, and to develop a fresh concept of fashion with goals of sustainability and small batch apparel and accessories. They also shared Morrissett’s vision to source their materials from places around the world, and then have them made in India by artisans, a part of the world, that through yoga, has given so much to them individually and collectively.
Morrissett is a firebrand and a born entrepreneur. Originally from Australia, with the help of her mother’s friend Pat, she began sewing her own clothes at age 10. In high school she took a class in Pattern Making and Design, so creating her own vibrant outfits became part of her life. Learning to style hair became a way for Morrissett to live independently having left home at age 16. By her early 20s she was head-hunted by the Sebastian line of hair products to represent the brand from Sydney for Asia. She met and married her American husband who had fond memories of visits to his grandparents who retired to Moore County, and soon moving to the Sandhills was yet another world adventure for this adventuress. Through the busy years of beginning her salon, raising her children and taking care of her family, the chance to travel came less frequently, so one day when Gallagher and she were talking after yoga, Morrissett spoke about creating the ultimate yoga mat bag together, a small batch product that would give them a chance to see each other more often plus travel. Youngclaus was asked to create their logo, and the trio and brand began within about 72 hours.
Their idea for their original yoga mat bags was to make them of colorful Kantha quilting, a trending artisan style based in the ancient Indian art of embroidery. Indian women are taught needle arts from a young age, and it is a part of their culture to throw nothing away, so Kantha is cloth made from discarded or worn cloth, and then bound together so that it is twice-sewn by hand which makes it Kantha. The results are colorful, distinctive oversized bags that are as multi-purpose as they are sustainably made in a fair-wage cottage industry in Jaipur, India. Sold through Hot Asana and a display area within Beautopia locally, Youngclaus mans their website and their growing wholesale business nationwide, and orders are definitely on the uptick. There are an estimated 30 million people in the U.S. that regularly practice yoga, so the market for yoga apparel and products rooted in the discipline of this Indian art has great potential. Morrissett laughingly calls their growing line of dresses, wrist bags, jewelry and soon, hand-sewn sandals and one-of-a-kind boots, “non-fast fashion”.
“We wanted to find a way to harness our energies locally, but tap into something globally…(our bags) tell a story of the women who made them,” says Morrissett. And they tell a story about what’s important to these three friends.
Fabric for this summer’s dress style made in batches of 50 comes from ancient looms Morrissett found in Turkey, and with the help of a digital artist, the scale is broadened and printed in small runs, just enough for 50 dresses. Extra cloth creates wristlet bags that match the dress, and sold together make a wonderful set. Lessons of sustainability and no waste make their enterprise full of positive energy.
Sanskrit is the primary language of Hinduism, and some of Binding Energies’ jewelry have words such as “kindness’, “truth” and more printed two-sided so both Sanskrit and English are translated. The gemstone jewelry is popular with all
ages, especially the mala prayer bead necklaces and bracelets. Dresses are embellished with vintage gold and (gemstone) medallions that may have been worn by an Indian bride as they are adorned on their wedding day with hundreds of pendants by well-wishers. “Everything has to have meaning,” explains Morrissett.
Last fall Morrissett, Youngclaus and their good friend Holly Davis travelled to India to source and make products in Jaipur. They met up with Morrissett’s childhood mate Trina Randall who has begun to rep the Binding Energies line in yoga studios in Australia. They shared photos from their business trip in a travel essay.
Binding Energies, 150 N. Bennett St., Southern Pines, bindingenergies.com