Fashion + Diversity

The Religious Utopia in Fashion

Religion in fashion takes up a world of its own, with certain brands staying out of the argument of religion as a whole, to brands making religiously sensitive lines. With designers, making lines based on certain religious groups and beliefs.

In today’s society, many people are part of diverse and different religious beliefs sets, influencing the manner in which they dress. Leading designers and brands making lines inclusive of all belief sets, adding to the utopia created by fashion. 

The Resurrection of Christianity at the Met

The Met Gala’s 2018 theme was Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination, deriving inspiration from the impact of the Catholic community and Catholicism in fashion. Many stars adorned items with strong and clear connotations towards the Catholic religion.

Stars like Rihanna stunned in a Maison Margiela by John Galliano outfit consisting of a Pope hat, jacket and dress. The hat had been the clear link towards Christianity, as the Pope and the Pope’s hat are hand in hand, you can’t have one without the other. Such a blatant link allows the audience to know who the star used for inspiration. Zendaya wore a Versace gown which resembled Joan of Arc, who heroically led the French army to victory against the English Orleans. By doing so she was burned at the stake by the English. She became a Roman Catholic saint 500 years later. Showing through fashion, the sinister side of the faith by taking inspiration of such a figure. Katy Perry dressed as a human-sized angel, wearing custom Versace, with huge wings which dragged behind the star, as she walked the iconic stairs.

Surprisingly, the male stars had taken risks this year, ditching the tuxedo or skinny suits, with stars like Jared Leto wearing Gucci, donning a gold crown resembling the Crown of Thorns, a blue suit with big black lapels and a heavy embroidered Tippet, corresponding with the Camp look of Gucci. Chadwick Boseman wore custom Versace, which was a white suit with a draped over jacket, incorporating heavy golden embroidery including hints of red in crosses.

These looks had encompassed the Catholic faith and the undeniable impact the faith has had on fashion, with many designers deriving inspiration from the faith as a tool of expression. By stars wearing their own interpretations of the faith, they had showcased the wicked and immeasurable side of the faith in the form of fashion. 

The devotion of fast fashion and religion

M&S, H&M, and ASOS have all added lines to their vast collections for people who dress a particular way for religious purposes. High street brands finally opening themselves up to new markets would allow them to get more customers, leading to wider varieties for shoppers, creating a diverse audience.

M&S created a line of burkinis, which are a modest version of a bikini, aiming at women of the Islamic faith. Evidently, this created heap loads of controversy, with people seeing this as negative for the brand as they are associating themselves with a religion.

H&M created a modest line which included free-flowing and large garments in bold colours which covered vast parts of the body. Showing an immense change within fashion, a change towards diversity and acceptance.

Asos created a modest line, again with free-flowing garments, head scarfs and Hijabs. This was a perfect exhibition of how brands like ASOS can integrate what its meant for modest clothing wearers, yet keeping to their brand, the stylish, street leisure style. Models also wore Hijabs for other looks which weren’t part of the collection. This had shown the acceptance of diversity in fast fashion, with lines and models being accepted and used, linking to the idea that diversity in fast fashion is something that is approachable now.

There are many independent brands which have devoted to filling the gap in the market, especially modest lines. These independent brands solely cater to a demographic like religious people, who want to cover up. By independent brands doing so, it allows for the fashion world to open doors for small brands to use a gap in the market for their convenience, as many brands don’t make religiously conscious lines.

However, this conjures the arguments that by doing so, are they doing it due to the gap in the market as there aren’t many brands doing such lines.

The sacred relationship between high fashion and religion

Alexander McQueen is the undeniable king of fashion pushing boundaries and creating a world of art, moreover, the SS00 and many more collections showcased the complex relationship of fashion and religion in the eyes of McQueen.

The SS00 collection focused on Islam including models wearing Burqas and chainmail bodysuits covering their entire faces bar the eyes, taking inspiration from the Niqaab. This would create the argument that McQueen had created the clothes as forms of shock factors, as the ode to the religion had been dismissed as models were wearing Burqas but had been cut off at the waist. This goes against the religions core belief of being modest.

In the AW96 show, McQueen took us all to Christianity, setting his show in a church. With models wearing masks with Jesus’s resurrected body placed between the eyes plus models wore the crown of Thorns. This showed the dark side of McQueen’s work, showing a mix between a seductive side yet a Gothic side of the collection with a distinct link to the catholic faith.

The idea of a high fashion designer using religion as a form of inspiration isn’t revolutionary; many designers have used religions as motivation tools. But McQueen showed the world a dark and traumatic side. With the rebellion attitude still holding its place in the show simply showing the twisted and dark relationship with religion. With bohemian and daring looks, McQueen showed us the ample and grave area of religion, with the continuous reference to religion in many of his collection.

Unlike other designers at the time, McQueen took the risk of showing a more sadistic side to religion by breaking the barriers of certain belief sets and turning them into a more sinister outlook and putting the McQueen seal on the garments. 

Guo Pei, a couturier in China, uses religion as a form of declaration of faith, especially Christianity. In the designer’s SS17 show, Pei used heavily embroidered gowns with models wearing matching headpieces. The designer took motifs like colour, materials and embroidery which held clear links, like exaggerating certain garments relating to the faith.

The use of such colours, motifs and designs allowed for the audience to be encapsulated in the world of Christianity in the 18th Century. With each piece of work having clear and distinguishable relation to the designer’s religion. This showed the romanticised relationship between a person and their religion, by using such regal materials and work for the garments.

The Sacrilegious relationship between religion and fashion as a whole

There may be a small number of high street brands catering to different religious groups, but the vast amount of high street brands have got a one for all attitude, making them less inclusive.

Many high-end designers would use religion as an expression tool, however, the problem is that normal people like you and me can’t afford all the designer pieces and not all designers are creating religiously sensitive lines. They’re creating lines which are influenced by religion.

When high street brands are creating collections the main goal is what will make the brand the biggest amount of money and what will help their artistry. By making lines for certain religious groups it would not generate large amounts of money as they would not cater to everyone. When brands create inclusive religious lines they don’t seem to last, with many brands having their lines discontinued or consumers would have a limited amount to work with. 

How fashion and religion can strengthen their Holy Bond

Fashion brands need to consider that their consumers would be part of religious groups, meaning they have certain requirements for their wardrobes. As some brands have shown this is do-able, by not changing the aesthetic of the brand or the collections set in place, they can create lines which would cater to the needs of certain consumers. When doing so, brands need to understand and educate themselves of religious dress codes and what certain garments mean for the purchaser and the religious groups.

The consumers and shoppers, you and me, need to understand that there is a need for these products, in a diverse world like ours. Brands need to cater to all of our needs. Also as shoppers, we need to understand what certain people have to do when Western fashion trends don’t adhere to their religions.

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