People are not at their best when stretching themselves like a rubber band in order to justify and rationalize, and that’s certainly the case with Fashion Jesus. Unlike many people, I’ve read the bible, cover to cover, more than one version. Given that reading, I can say that the bible is not overflowing with fashion, hot or otherwise. Well, okay, there’s some interesting bits, clothing-wise in Revelation, but other than that, the bible is a bit skint on the fashion side. That’s not stopping people from claiming they are being inspired by Jesus’s great fashion sense.
…But now Jesus is being put forward as an icon of an entirely different sort – in the world of fashion. The Church of England has given its blessing to London Fashion Week with an official video making the Biblical case for the clothing industry.
Shrugging off the “sackcloth and ashes” image of clergy’s puritan forebears, it argues that – despite criticism of the industry over size zero models and cases of sweatshop factories – fashion and design are ultimately an expression of God-given creativity.
In one extract, the Church’s de-facto catwalk chaplain says fashion designers have told him that they draw inspiration from church interiors, stained glass windows and even Jesus’s cloaks.
The Rev Peterson Feital, the Diocese of London’s “Missioner to the Creative Industries”, said many had been drawn to the “beautiful clothes” Jesus is often depicted wearing.
“Designers ask me about fashion,” said the Brazilian-born Rev Feital, who also runs “Haven+” a charity working with people in the fashion and entertainment industries.
“They are all so interested when they walk into a church building or a cathedral and they see the stained glass windows and what they see there are beautiful figures and Jesus wearing beautiful clothes – a cloak and all that kind of stuff.
“So right there in the centre of our worship there are so many elements in which fashion belongs in that conversation between church and culture.”
Simon Ward, a former chief operating officer of the British Fashion Council, said that despite questions about how aspects of the industry operate and the “image it conveys”, he was convinced fashion itself is divinely inspired.
“He’s a God of creativity, and fashion is just one of those areas that really focuses on creativity,” he said.
“And what did He do first? He created the seasons, so the idea that fashion changes a lot again I think reflects God’s heart.
“All the way through the Bible clothing and fashion imagery jump out of the pages at us. In the New Testament the first Christian in Europe was Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth … The image we get of Jesus in heaven is what he’s wearing, with a gold sash around his chest, and then the New Jerusalem comes down; what are we told about it? – ‘dressed as a bride’.
“So I think God and fashion really are closely linked and if we think that they’re not we’re getting it wrong.”
No. No, no, no, no, no. None of this has the slightest thing to do with Jesus, and it barely has a connection to any bible. What they are copying, and claiming to find inspiration in is the work of artists. As an artist myself, I can say that there was much exaggeration in stained glass art, and other art found in cathedrals. Artists love colour, we love textural things, luxuriant and rich things. It’s doubtful that Jesus, if he existed at all, wore any of the high status clothing depicted in stained glass windows. Rough cloth, rope sandals, and very dirty feet are probably closer to how any itinerant preacher would appear. There wouldn’t be much fun depicting that. The powers that commissioned cathedrals and similar expected artists to portray everything in an overwhelming way, one that would stir emotions along with stimulating the visual sense. For the olfactory, there is always incense burning, and the scent of flowers. For the aural, the echoing silence and wind of whispers. Not one bit of this artistic creation has so much as a single flake of paint in reality.
I don’t think it’s at all wrong to pull inspiration from the work of previous artists and the stained glass of cathedrals. I do take issue with the whole Fashion Jesus lie.