Spirit Junkie Gabrielle Bernstein is as famous for her fabulous outfits as her modern girl philosophy on living a miraculous life. She talks wedding dresses, turbans and shopping from an abundance mindset with Ruby Warrington. Portraits by Annie Powers.
So did you always dress like the fashionista babe we know and love from your Instagram feed Gabby?
No – I used to dress like Mariah Carey, I’m not even kidding. Horrifying! It was like the tighter the better because I used to work out so much, I was like I may as well wear tight clothes. Also when I was building my business really wasn’t into spending money on clothes.
So that wasn’t something you ever used to of make you feel good about yourself? That’s a trap a lot of people fall into…
No! I wanted to always look good, but I didn’t need it to be a designer brand, or some major fashion statement. But that changed when I met my fiance Zach. He has very, very strong interest in fashion, and he would take me to McQueen and Barney’s, and places like Costume National and Comme des Garcons – for me it was like going to a museum.
Was there a turning point when you got into high fashion yourself?
I think that happened when I bought my first pair of Isabel Marant sneakers, which coincided with me starting to be in the mindset of like; ‘oh I can afford to buy them’, you know? And that was kind of like a big deal for me.
I remember those first experiences too – spending real money on clothes and feeling like ‘this isn’t going to completely bankrupt me’. It’s like getting into an ‘abundance’ mindset…
Yeah! It was amazing. But really if you always shop within your price range you can always feel abundant – buying on credit automatically creates a feeling of lack. And if you’ve saved up for something special the energy is clean. I’ve also got to a place where spending $300 on one special piece makes me feel way more special that walking out of H&M with ten bags of cheap plastic stuff.
We’ve spoken about this before, but tell me about detoxing your closet from all the ‘plastic’…
I was addicted to hi-lo shopping, and I had to recognize that it was an addiction based on my old belief system. My parents weren’t wealthy, so my experience of gifts and shopping growing up was all about quantity over quality – that was normal, but not right. When I was able to witness that I put myself on 90 days of no hi-lo shopping. And I’ve remained abstinent!
You must get loaned a lot of stuff these days too?
I was introduced to one of my favorite designers, Camilla, through my friend Annie Ladino, a really great stylist in New York. She put me in touch Camilla’s publicist Denise, and then they just started loaning me a ton of stuff – amazing. Now I own so many of her kaftans it’s insane. It’s become a go-to look for me because it kind of works anywhere anytime, even though it’s more beachy and summery.
And it’s also so the opposite of the whole ‘Maraiah Carey’, in your face sexy thing.
Exactly, yeah. And you know, I used to dress like super hippie at college too.
Really? Like what kind of stuff?
Oh my god like, corduroy pants and Birkenstocks and all of that shit! Ripped t-shirts…
Sounds rad… Do you still have any clothes from that period? Do you get sentimental about keeping old clothes, or do you prefer to keep the energy in your closet nice and clean of memories?
The only things I have from back then are like, the things I stole from my college room mate…she had great style, but maybe don’t put her name in this story! But in general I’m not sentimental about material things, I don’t get attached. You’re setting yourself up for failure that way, because at some point it will be lost, or break, and if it’s become so special there’ll be a sense of loss.
I think you’ve always been inspired by the way your friends dress too – right?
Yeah, like my friend Elisa has become a sort of fashion guide for me. I just really like the way she puts herself together, so I started to buy what she was getting, you know. But it’s less about copying than enjoying and appreciating how somebody looks.
Some women can get territorial about their ‘look’ – what’s that all about do you think?
That comes from a place of comparison and attachment to being uniquely ‘you’ – it’s a way for your ego to enhance your ‘specialness,’ as if only you can have that look. I say, when people want to dress like you see it as a compliment.
Do you feel like you do that with people, in the same way that you’ve had lots of different guides, teachers and gurus in your life as well?
Yeah. I think in every area of your life you can definitely pick up different things from people you find inspiring and make them your own…even Zach has been a great teacher to me when it comes to fashion. But again, it’s about taking those ideas and making things your own – constantly bringing it back to what is real to you, and not getting too into the comparison thing of thinking ‘I have to be like you’.
You’ve told me how you like to gift yourself also. Why is that important?
When you buy something as a gift to yourself, the energy behind it is coming from a place of gratitude, as opposed to neediness. That’s when it becomes a gift, not an indulgence. A celebration of yourself.
So when do you gift yourself?
Well around the time that I sold my fourth book I kind of had a little shopping party for a few weeks…
Yeah…but I have to be careful, because I can still find myself doing these weird, sporadic shops when I just end up with stuff I don’t need. I think a lot of women have this problem. So, I try to stick to only going out shopping with an intention, you know? You also said something once that really hit home for me – when you’re contemplating a purchase, ask ‘is there something else that will do the same thing?’
So what’s on your spirit junkie shopping list right now?
Well since I got into Kundalini yoga I’m trying to buy more whites. Like yesterday I bought some white jeans and a turban online. The turban was from Venuis Turbans in LA, I basically just googled it!
I also got Zach some mala beads, which are for meditating with – it’s a necklace with 108 beads, which you count through your fingers as you chant a mantra. Usually when I’m teaching I’ll have a mala in my hand too, or if you’re like having a bad day you can just carry them with you.
Cool. I want you to talk to more about turbans, and why they’re important too…
So, you when practicing Kundalini, you want to keep the energy you create in your body, that’s why you cover your head. From a personal perspective I also feel like I want to respect the sacred tradition – I feel like if I’m a teacher I’ve got to play by the rules. And I also do feel the difference. As you open your chakras, you can feel pain in your crown chakra. Like you can get headaches, or you can feel like, almost bruised on the top of your head – and when you wear the turban it feels better.
Almost like a little bandage? Why is that, that you feel sore?
Because the energy is soaring through the top of your crown!
Okay wow. So back to the “whites.” Why?
It’s about reflecting positive energy out into the world, whereas dark colors, and particularly black, can soak up negativity. So in general I have found myself clearing a lot of black out of my wardrobe. I just don’t feel that good when I’m wearing it anymore.
Did you wear a lot of black in your PR days? That’s the classic image of a New York City PR girl…
Yeah, I think I’ve always worn a lot of black! And I love my black leather Acne jacket, it’s one of my most treasured items, but it can feel kind of like I’m wearing a dark hole, you know? It feels heavy. I’m actually thinking my new staple is going to be white jeans.
Good idea. What are your favorite denim brands?
I like Citizens of Humanity and I actually don’t own a pair of Mother jeans yet but I love the way they look on people. I also really like Isabel Marant’s jeans, of course!
Now I’m interested to hear how else the contents of your wardrobe has shifted since you’ve began following a more spiritual path.
Well apart from the white, I feel like I want to dress more beautifully, if that makes sense. I’m inspired by people like my Kundalini teacher Gurmukh, who always wears her turban and her whites, but might have a color she’s representing that day in her beads that is also reflected in a gem on her turban. She’s very artful about the way she adorns herself, almost like she’s dressing herself like a priestess.
Actually Gurmukh’s turban is really amazing.
It’s outrageous. She hasn’t actually cut her hair for 45 years, and when she doesn’t wear her turban you just see this like huge bun on top of her head. It’s not dreadlocks, she washes it, but it’s probably down to her butt, you know?
Amazing. Are you going to stop cutting your hair as well?
Absolutely not! But in terms of how I want to dress, in Kundalini in particular, it’s almost like a sign of respect for yourself and the class to show up really well dressed. I remember during my teacher training I was doing like a praktikum and I wasn’t wearing all white that day, and my teacher…
Sorry, what’s a praktikum?
It’s where you take a fake class to practice. So I was teaching in front of my ‘class’ and I was being graded on it. And I didn’t wear all white that day and my teacher told me off! Even if you’re wearing wrinkled clothes, they’re like, ‘go iron your outfit!’ But it all comes from an emphasis on self-care. Yogi Bhajan was also really into jewelry and gemstones.
It’s interesting, in ‘The Doors of Perception’ Aldous Huxley talks a lot about how in visionary experience the world often reveals itself in this kind of glowing, jewel-like state. He thinks that that’s one of the reasons jewels have been so revered throughout history and why precious stones became precious. Because in some way they reflect to us the way the world was really made.
That’s neat, that makes sense to me. And there’s also the energy and the healing properties of the stones. Gurmukh has told me I really need to get an emerald for my pinkie, because it’s the finger that represents the voice, the speaker, and the emerald amplifies the voice.
Nice. And I know we’ve spoken as well about the whole thing of living in your yoga clothes. Does that still happen?
Yep! By day I’m in my yoga clothes which means by night I’m ready to get dressed up and go out.
Which is probably the reverse to how a lot of women dress!
Exactly, but I love to get dressed up for my evening lectures for example. For that my outfits can really vary. I mean I’ve worn anything from a really wild Camilla caftan, to like my Isabel Marant fringe boots with like tight black pants and a top. Then other times I’ll wear something more conservative, like a Helmut Lang blazer and jeans. It really depends on the crowd and the overall vibe.
Totally. And what about how an outfit makes you feel?
I feel really empowered wearing nice clothes. It wasn’t always like that, I didn’t always care, but I’ve realized that fashion can literally make me feel like a different person. Whether I’m teaching or lecturing, wearing something that will expand my presence is important.
Absolutely. But do you ever have those days when nothing you put on makes you feel right? Like the hours are counting down to your lecture and you’re like ‘no, no, no.’ Have you got a go-to that always works?
A good jumper is always a go-to. I have long ones, short ones, and actually if I were to buy anything new right now it would be more rompers because I like the way I can put it on and then I’m done. And I mean, even I had to go to a black tie wedding I think I’d wear like this Catherine Malandrino jumper I have.
Well speaking of weddings, how did you chose what to wear to marry Zach? This is like, the most important public speaking gig of your life. I take it you are doing a speech?!
I’m wearing the second dress I bought…which it typical of the bad habits in my shopping style, like, get the first thing you see then go back and get it right! I wanted to wear something that was a real wedding dress, so I could feel like a bride. For anybody who wants to see it, we’ll be doing a #spiritjunkiewedding hash tag on Instagram. See you there!