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My week as a label-free fugitive from fashion

Wellness retreat
There's one place where fashion isn't needed – on a retreat. Photo: Getty
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If there is ever an end of fashion, and a complete cessation of trends and labels, there is no better place to give the idea a trial run than on a wellness break.

I recently spent an invigorating week at Eden Health Retreat in the magical surrounds of Queensland’s Currumbin Valley. Packing for the retreat was interesting: in went track pants, T-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, swimsuits, singlets, pull-on shorts, socks, sneakers. A pair of Uggs.

Nothing glamorous, nothing that wasn’t stretch, not even jeans. I even packed sporty, basic underwear, which I loathe. Since I was on a roll, I pulled out a wheat coloured cashmere roll neck poncho, a gift from a friend that I never wear because it makes me feel like an old hippy, but I figured that was probably the appropriate vibe.

Non-stretchy clothing need not apply. Photo: Getty

No jewellery, as I would presumably absentmindedly take it off and leave it somewhere, especially after a therapy session spent channelling my ancestors and learning to let go. Obviously, there was no need for a handbag, but the complete lack of accessories was confronting and I felt incomplete.

I stuffed some cotton and silk bandanas into my practical tote, thinking that one tied jauntily around my neck may add certain joie de vivre to day three, when I would be nauseous and cantankerous from the caffeine and Twitter withdrawal. As it turns out, the bandanas would mostly perform as a nifty headscarf, hiding my hair after an Indian head massage with four litres of olive oil.

Scarves come in handy to hide oily hair post-Indian head massages. Photo: Getty

My fellow wellness seekers were all in the same sporty/casual fashion zone, not a designer anything to be seen. But I quickly realised that they were all a little ahead of the game. I was missing one pivotal piece. The sleeveless zip front vest, in fleece or quilted nylon. It was very cold in the mornings and evenings, and I lacked this item that every other person appeared to have, the one that seemed to work so well in a variety of situations – on the bush walk, the inexplicable flying fox, the Tibetan yoga session.

The must-have item for a wellness retreat: the vest. Photo: Getty

It even doubled as a sort of wellness jacket for the men at dinner. I have always avoided sleeveless vests because I thought they were daggy, but given I was headed for the “old hippy in a poncho” look I may reconsider my position. There is something so wonderful about living in sportswear 24/7.

There are of course plenty of luxury fashion houses that sell sweatshirts, and sneakers and parkas etc., and some pretty great sportswear labels, but deep down we know, even as we hand over the credit card that a logo does not make it worth the exorbitant price.

The Kmart trackies will do the trick just as well when you’re all sitting around the campfire, delirious with bonhomie after one week of exercise, healthy food and herbal tea. It’s such a treat to spend a week in clothes that are designed for performance and comfort rather than effect.

But they could still benefit from a jaunty scarf.

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