By Julie K.L. Dam
August 02, 1999 12:00 PM


Wood-bead mala bracelets: spiritual statement or must-have fashion accessory? For Richard Gere, a friend of the Dalai Lama’s who wears one on his wrist, it’s probably the former. For model Rachel Hunter, it’s the latter. “I bought them because I thought they were fun,” she says of the three bracelets she picked up earlier this summer. “They’ve been bringing me good luck.”

Used in meditation, the bracelets are like “Buddhist rosary beads,” says Egyoku Nakao, the abbot of the Zen Center of Los Angeles. But, notes Leonard Benton, a buyer at American Rag in L.A., where Cameron Diaz and Courtney Love shop, “the kids wearing them now are more into the aesthetics than the spiritual.”

Called “Buddha beads” by fashionistas, the malas can cost from $3 for a simple sandalwood strand to $39 for a rosewood one. At such affordable prices they’re the perfect carefree summer accessory, declares fashion stylist George Kotsiopoulos, who has dressed Heather Graham and Calista Flockhart: “They evoke the hippie-chic spirit.”

with Steven Cojocaru in Los Angeles