Not your ordinary active gear, these mats, water bottles, and hand weights are wrapped in the brand’s waterproof cashmere, turning exercise routines into enjoyable tactile experiences. Turlington, a wellness pioneer who appeared on a 2002 cover of Vogue doing a bow pose, has observed the transformation of the activewear industry, and was drawn to the quality and design of the Loro Piana products.
Here, Turlington recounts how she was first introduced to yoga, the tools it has given her for everyday life, and her thoughts on leisurewear.
How did you first discover yoga?
I started practising yoga around the age of 18, so pretty early. I grew up in northern California, not necessarily in any kind of hippy culture, but it was not a foreign idea for people to practise yoga. My family didn’t necessarily, but I was familiar with the practice of yoga growing up. [And then I had] my first serious boyfriend, who had a steady yoga practice. I’m sure I would have found it anyway, but meeting him when I was 18 and very impressionable, [and] to have discovered [yoga at the] beginning of working full-time as a model and sort of upping the pace of travel and just the general frenetic pace of the industry, it really gave me so many tools that I have continued many, many years later to call upon whenever I need them.
What are some of those tools?
Breath work, pranayama, certain mantras. The very first kind of yoga that I was introduced to was Kundalini yoga, that’s not the yoga that I practise anymore, but I remember the very first mantra that I learned, and I would use that when I would travel and be jet lagged—because you always had to kind of get up, roll off of a plane, and go straight to work in my years—so just having those breathing exercises to be able to get sleep and get rest, it was so essential through all of those years.
You are a wellness pioneer. Was that a conscious decision?
It was part of my life early on, but I feel like when I started to talk about it more was after losing my dad to lung cancer. That’s the moment when I started to be more active as a public health advocate, and that’s when I started to jump in and do a lot of public service announcements around tobacco cessation and prevention, sharing my story as a person who had been addicted to tobacco, but also who had lost a loved one who was addicted to tobacco for many, many more years than I was.
I wrote a book about yoga a few years after my father passed. It is called Living Yoga: Creating a Life Practice, and I feel like that book was in part a kind of memoir, as well as an opportunity to go deeper into the practice of yoga. By that time I had gone back to school at NYU and I studied Eastern philosophy and comparative religion and was not travelling as much as I had been prior to that time. That’s when I would say my practice became a real daily practice. The book in a way was like a thesis project, to go even deeper, in keeping with what I studied in college, but also the travelling that I did to India post-graduation, and then really applying it to just practical living. Like how yoga can be helpful when you are grieving a loss of a loved one, how yoga can be helpful when travelling, or in a stressful kind of lifestyle, how yoga has really put a certain perspective on the world and my place in it. That book came out in 2002, and by that time I was talking about yoga all the time.
That’s around the time you did your famous Vogue cover, right?
I also started a couple of businesses out of college which were somewhat connected to the yoga lifestyle. I had a company called Nuala, that was a subunit of Puma [and] was sort of inspired by my yoga practice. Back then nobody was making clothes for yoga, or certainly not any attractive clothes for yoga. That’s when I did a pretty well-known cover that Steven Klein photographed. I remember being so surprised that it ran. We knew it was going to be a good photograph and we were excited about it at the time, but it was something that we kind of threw in at the very end of the shoot. I just remember being so thrilled to see a posture like that. I also did a cover for Time magazine. Suddenly, yoga was getting more and more popular. I wouldn’t say that I’m fully responsible for that at all, but it was starting to rise in popularity at the end of the 1990s.
How did you come to be involved with Loro Piana’s Art of Wellbeing collection?
All of this came to be because of the many, many years that I’ve been out in the world talking about yoga and meditation and living it as a life practice. I have been a fan, having the good fortune to be able to wear pieces of [Loro Piana] through the years. I don’t do a whole lot of shooting anymore; [but this project] resonated with me because I know that it’s a very high quality brand and I love what I have seen and what I’ve worn. And then I loved that they were looking at this wellness side because wellness has changed so much since I first started talking about it. It’s become so much bigger of a market. But I haven’t seen a company that is so classic [take it on]. They sent some pictures of the products and right away, I was like, ‘Oh, those are beautiful!’
Do you have any favourite pieces?
I was really impressed with the little hand weights and the water bottle that have cashmere. They’re unbelievably beautiful. I was like, ‘Wow! This is a whole other level of refinement and luxury.’
What are your thoughts on the new trend for comfort dressing?
It’s been so interesting, after this year when we were all really hunkered down and wearing our pyjamas all day, or whatever sweats we had, I thought it was really a smart move to be able to say, if you’re going to be spending so much time in leisure wear, why not feel as good as you can about what you’re wearing? And as we all move forward into the unknown of where we’re going to all be over the holidays and beyond, I just thought, gosh, I owe it to myself to go into this taking better care of myself, also in the sense of what I’m wearing. Those little things matter so much. I’ve always been one of those people who is like less-is-more, in the sense of I’d rather have fewer great things. I do believe that that kind of high quality knitwear will last forever. I think those kinds of things for oneself, or as a gift, are the kinds of things that I as a woman, and as a consumer would be interested in.
Speaking about feeling good, can you talk a bit about the mind/body connection in yoga?
We’ve been hearing a lot about mental health for years, but particularly during this time of pandemic with people feeling lonely and stressed out and uncertain. There’s a definite mind-body connection, the physical aspect of yoga is really to prepare you for meditation. It’s got all these great benefits, but the real purpose is not to have this hard body, [and] external kind of effect; it’s really for the ability to be able to sit for long periods of time and meditate.
How has this mindfulness helped you?
The peace that [yoga] brought to me in those early years, is that sense when external things are eating at you—the things that we can’t control—that, with practice, you can control your perspective. You can control your emotions in those moments or in those times. It’s not to say that every moment should be calm and blissful, it’s to say that there should be equanimity. The word yoga means union and it means light and dark; it’s like this balance of all things. I feel like through meditation and through a practice of yoga and the practice of the breath work, pranayama, that it just becomes very clear that you are connected to nature, that we are a part of an ecosystem of a planet. We are taking in oxygen, we are moving and changing constantly, and I think having that sense of that connection is what brings about some sense of calm or peace. [I] know that if I find myself getting agitated or stressed out that I can make a choice to walk out of the room and I can change my perspective entirely, just by breathing.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
This article originally appeared on Vogue.com.