05.30.2019 Culture

Olderbrother’s Saffron Sabbatical

Shelley Kashyap
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Saffron is the most legendary spice in the world according to Bon Appetit. Over the ages Europeans have been known to hunt high and low, the world over, in search of spices — so it’s no small honor to be labeled the proverbial cream of the crop within such a category.

Olderbrother is a Venice Beach based boutique that is known for using natural elements to dye their clothing. And, keeping hip with the current times as well as the past, founder Max Kingery has chosen the “It” spice of the moment for their current collection of bold, sustainably made pieces, dubbed Saffron Sabbatical.  

As a spice, saffron is aromatic and adds a pop of color and sweetness to any beverage or dish it graces. It has many known health benefits, including combating mental illness and fortifying skin and hair. Millennials and others are ditching foods comprised of partially hydrogenated oil and high fructose corn syrup in favor of dishes with ingredients they can see and actually pronounce (and it’s worth noting that the bold reddish-orange hue of saffron is not only nice to look at, it’s equally as fun to say).

Olderbrother has extended this favor towards mainstream fashion, an arena with far fewer all-natural alternatives than food. Centuries ago, monks dyed their clothes with saffron in ancient holy rituals. “Saffron was the main concept that drove a collection and explored the idea of a ‘holy’ color palette,” explains Kingery. Indeed, it has a long history of being associated with the divine within Middle Eastern, South Asian, and East Asian cultures.

People all over the world have had their lives intimately intertwined with the spice, which Kingery has experienced firsthand: “Since we’ve released the collection, there have been many people who have expressed such a sentimental value in their relationship with saffron!” This collection has allowed Kingery to connect with people of varying cultures to become a part of a larger web that stretches across place, culture, and time.

In a way, Olderbrother is playing the role of an archaeologist, excavating the cultural practices of the past and marrying them with the love and familial imagery evoked by saffron in the present — and then importing that wisdom into the mainstream.

But Olderbrother’s wisdom extends beyond just the healing properties of saffron. Kingery emphasizes that the brand strives for sustainability in every collection. Normally, the so-called useful parts of saffron are bottled up into saffron extract, with the other parts discarded.

Not at Olderbrother, however.

Their very name originates from Kingery’s hope that “every person has someone invested in your path.” (In the way one might expect from an attentive older brother.) They have taken that belief to heart and choose to create their own dyes from the discarded portions of the spice.

At one point or another, most of us have felt like those left over parts of saffron. So it’s a beautiful concept, one infused with a holiness all its own. To not only intrinsically know that we hold wonders within us, but to be able to see and touch that sacred power in the form of saffron-dyed fabric — that’s a true boon. Ancient monks, the first people clothed in saffron, would be proud.

Shelley Kashyap is a writer who lives in Orange County, California, and can’t imagine living anywhere else.

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