[Sings in Morrissey voice] "I would go out tonight but I haven't got a stitch to wear…“ that was my dilemma every time I was looking thru my t-shirts," remembers Ellen Kollmar of Devarishi Apparel when I ask her what inspired her to start her clothing brand. Co-founded with her husband, Dharmavit Das, the singer of hardcore outfit Safe, Devarishi Apparel has expanded into a bigger operation, with books, zines, and other items connected to the couple's devotion to Krishna conciousness.
"I’m a '80s and '90s skatepunk hardcore kid who loves the rough copy and paste Xeroxed fanzine style from back in the day. I wanted t-shirt designs that looked like someone had to sit down and cut all out and put it back together like we all used to do before Coral Draw 95. The universe of punk rock is packed with inspiration and creativity by nature, so it needed only a spark to set the perpetuum mobile in motion and the House of Devarishi was born."
For those of us who don’t know, what does the word “Devarishi” mean anyway? "'Devarishi’ is a Sanskrit term meaning 'celestial sage.' It’s a Rishi walking amongst Gods. The most famous Devarishi is Narada who is said to be a son of Vishnu, which is why his main concern was to promote Bhakti-Yoga at all times. The main characteristics of a Devarishi is that he is contemplating on the self constantly, he is bond to the truth and incarnates to help enhancing self-realization in every
We choose 'Devarishi‘ for our label name not to state who we are but to encourage everyone to grow into the Devarishi state of mind and soul and be the best version of ourselves on a daily basis."
Since they're still expanding their German-based operation, I ask Ellen what falls under the House of Devarishi umbrella. " The House has basically two major departments: apparel and music. My job is to take care of the apparel and Dharmavit is the boss of the music sector, distro, and label. Besides apparel and music, there’s a lot of more smaller yet important projects like books and fanzines we promote, and we also have handmade crystal jewelry, malas, beadbags, devotional Items, and so on. The House has many rooms by now and keeps expanding."
Since both Ellen and Dharmavit come from the hardcore scene, the DIY concept is ingrained in everything they're doing with Devarishi. "Without the help and support of our friends, families, bands, and the Devarishi Army, none of this would work out. We appreciate anyone who supports what we do. Without the interest of guys like yourself, Carlos, the House would remain a little hut," laughs Ellen.
I was also curious who designed everything on the apparel side of their business. "At times, the ideas for new designs seem to appear out of the ether. In the beginning, we tried to follow up on a printing plan but gave it up because new ideas kept popping up and that’s the end of any planning. To put an idea in the right visual form is mostly the biggest problem. Anyone who knows me can confirm that I’m the least talented person when it comes to Photoshopping. I get help from those who take pity on me, mostly my friend Michelle Olaya Ortega, one of the hardcore scene's most talented and dedicated photographers [I agree!]. But of course, there’s other graphic guys in the back running the show."
So, when did Ellen first become aware of Krishna consciousness? "In my teens, I was a big fan of German novelist Hermann Hesse, whose work deals mainly with self-knowledge, authenticity, and spirituality. The Bhagavad-Gita meant a lot to him and so I got interested in the holy scripture. When I got in touch with Shelter in the '90s, there was always a Bhagavad-Gita class before the shows, which my clique and I thought was fascinating. Everyone would start reading the Gita and start discussing life's purpose. I started going to the temple regularly and went on a pilgrimage to India in 1997."
In addition to Safe, Dharmavit's Youth Crew Records has also released music from such bands as Think Twice, Fumbles In Life, and Set Me Free, so I asked Dharmaivit what the plan was for the label now that it’s under the House of Devarishi. "Yes, Youth Crew Records is a part of the House of Devarishi now. I will continue to put out new releases. At the moment, there’s a project in the pipeline that will be awesome. It’s a repress on vinyl from a '90s band.
"So, basically nothing will change for the label, but there will be also the Devarishi logo on the releases. The other big news is that we started to distribute vinyl from other record labels."