I Tried The Fashion Equivalent Of Juicing

When I was growing up, my home boasted as many tarot cards as it did playing cards. I used my allowance for my first palm reading at age 10, was dosed with Bach’s Rescue Remedy when I acted out, and spent a handful of weekends visiting crystal fairs with my mother — who refused to attend church with the rest of the family because she was "too spiritual for that noise." So maybe it comes as no surprise that I was curious when I heard about a luxury fashion company that's inspired by the physical, aesthetic, and symbolic properties of silver. The brand, Arjuna.ag, uses the metal in each of its core products. (Sounds expensive? It is. Sounds uncomfortable? It’s not.)

Why silver? The aesthetic appeal is obvious, but the metaphysical side of Arjuna.ag's rationale is even more compelling to someone with hokey half-beliefs (me). The line of clothing and accessories, intended to be worn as an extra protective layer, claims to be a “second skin” that creates “an inner capsule of health, beauty, and pleasure.” The brand claims that positively-charged silver ions can block electromagnetic radiation from our smartphones, kill germs, regulate body temperature, and reduce inflammation. Could it be true? Radiation and germs are not huge concerns for me, but what isn’t appealing about transforming yourself into a capsule of health, beauty, and pleasure? I decided to wear the line for seven days to see what cosmic treats might be in store.

The clothes are versatile, space-age-y, and would murder pajamas in a comfort competition. Even though they’re supplemented with silver, most of the collection appears rose gold in color. The material is eye-catching — not something you’d wear if you wanted to fade into the background — and pairs perfectly with an otherwise-neutral wardrobe.

I wore the tank top and pants the first day, a look I would describe as "Astro-Mormon Chic." The tank top was a bit clingy, but it wasn’t uncomfortable. When I added a layer, the difference between that tank top and nothing at all was immediately apparent. The tank top was weightless and kept the top layer from sticking to me. Same story with the pants; I felt nude, but lighter.

At work, I put on the Hand Guards, which made me feel like an extra in The Fifth Element (it doesn’t help that half my hair is purple). The packaging says these guards are good for immunity and strength, hygiene and clarity, and comfort and ease. I can attest to the comfort-and-ease thing, although it became challenging to remember to put them back on after going to the bathroom or eating.

Also, I get pretty sweaty. But these clothes warded off any sign of dampness. In an Alex Mack-ian twist, a coworker spilled her drink on my pants, and the pants drank the liquid right up. Neat party trick, pants.

As the week wore on, I found myself becoming attached to the ritual of working Arjuna into my routine. I wore the slip as a skirt and got a ton of compliments. I wore the Monkey Mind Band — a mask for sleep, meditation, and travel — and had some great naps (though the Mind Band was never in the right place when I woke up). I wore the bodysuit and felt like Wonder Woman with a beer belly. Each item of clothing was airy, attractive, and great for sparking conversation. Also, again: These clothes are amazing at capturing sweat. Truly groundbreaking.

But what of the scientific claims Arjuna makes on silver’s behalf? Did I become a healthier person, having worn these clothes? Overall, the answer is no. Here’s the thing: All my mystical pastimes (tarot, reiki, a close encounter with aura-patching) are meaningful to me because they don’t pretend to be grounded in science. They are something else entirely; they know this, and I know this. That “something else” is up for interpretation, but I believe Arjuna would benefit from a similar attitude.
I didn’t experience any obvious changes during my time wearing the brand, and I wanted to challenge Arjuna — and myself — by finding out why. Why didn’t I feel more energetic, grounded, germ-free? Where was my health capsule?

While Arjuna provides scientific studies on its website, these were compiled by a biased party — Lisa Tully, PhD (not that one, GoT nerds). Dr. Tully is the founder of the Energy Medicine Research Center, which obtains clinical trials to support the marketing claims of companies in the health and natural markets. In other words, it’s her job to find science that matches up with marketing.

I spoke with Dave W., a contributor at the Skeptic Friends Network, who noted that of five studies cited by Arjuna, only the brand's Anti-Microbacterial Protection section provides sources that could be independently verified. “One of [the sources] is a silver-industry newsletter and another is a newspaper article that ludicrously suggests that silver is the answer to HIV/AIDS,” he laughs. The third source is an actual scientific paper, which simply states that metals (not just silver) are absorbed and concentrated by bacteria — not that they make for a good antibiotic.

Nor is it solid science that wearing silver clothes will save you from radiation. Olga Evdokimov, PhD, a specialist in high-energy nuclear physics, explains that the scientific community does not recognize normal exposure to radio waves as hazardous. “The radio waves could indeed be called ‘radiation,’" she says, "but are not considered to be a health hazard — at least at the typical exposure levels. It is possible that embedding a thin ‘metal cage’ [of silver] into clothing will reduce exposure to electromagnetic radio waves, [but] it is highly unlikely it would provide any health benefits.”

I asked a few people how I might measure the effects of wearing Arjuna for a week. I wanted to believe! The test that seemed most easy to replicate was Gas Discharge Visualization, or Kirlian Photography. The claim is that a person’s energy field can be photographed and analyzed; ideally, a person who wears Arjuna will have an improved energy field over time. I toyed with popping over to Chinatown for before-and-after aura photos, but Dr. Tully tells me those aren’t exactly the same thing, and Dr. Evdokimov and Dave W. both think including GDV as "scientific backing" is a mistake that makes Arjuna less credible.

I asked Dr. Tully why she chose GDV and was genuinely curious to hear her response. If believing in the unexplainable or the unprovable or the mystic is a scientific crime, I’m not innocent. I light candles with intention; I sleep with a bundle of lavender on my face. I’m focused on finding the right balance of logic and legend, and I want her to tell me something that tips me toward the latter.

According to Dr. Tully, "GDV is approved as a medical diagnostic tool in Russia and is well-respected in many countries. It was developed over many years utilizing Chinese and Indian medicine and shows the effect of products on the biofield, which represents health. It has been used to demonstrate how many products improve general health."

An unromantic but predictable explanation. I admit I was disappointed. I wanted to know what made Dr. Tully venture outside of western science for her marketing business in the first place. I wanted emotion, or passion, or permission to step outside of the pre-approved medical narrative on occasion. Instead, more marketing-speak.

Arjuna has a lovely line, and it didn’t need to make a scientific breakthrough to be important/legitimate/useful. The crossroads of commerce and nature are tricky to navigate, and in some cases, they're better left untraveled. I will not fault the brand for trying to win both the beauty pageant and the science fair, and in a small way, I’m glad it did try. We all know it’s important to question marketing, but how often do we step back and actually do so? (Especially when that marketing confirms our predisposed beliefs?)

While researching this piece, I went down the rabbit hole reading about the legitimacy of acupuncture, essential oils, and vitamins. After considering scientific views, I changed my position in some cases. In others, I resolved to stay curious and open. I still believe in balance and the power of ritual — even if I’m not 100% sold on silver.


More from Trends


R29 Original Series