And so I broke away from that by simply accepting the fact that I love the arts, and I love creativity—it’s what brings me alive. It’s in my DNA. Theology is very much my field of study, but I think theology has a huge potential for imagination and for creativity. And that’s why I’m using all these things. And I think that I have not even begun to scratch the surface of the huge amounts of imagination that we can have.”

“Your work in fashion and the arts is an unexplored territory for the church—or at least for the modern church.”

“It is—and it’s quite an interesting point that you’re making. A few weeks ago the Church of England decided that it’s not important for the clergy to be wearing the vestments anymore. There is a huge discussion on the topic.

What’s interesting is that one of the arguments is that what the clergy wear is quite alien to a lot of people. You see, I used to think that was the case as well, but once I started working with creatives, I realized it actually was the opposite.

Because some people who have never been to church actually find some of the allegory and some of the creativity, some of the designing, some of the fabric that they see the ministers wearing a point of reference. They know what they’re getting.

And it is a point of discussion in so many ways. And I think that it just sometimes has these assumptions that people find that alienating without actually being with the group themselves, if you see what I mean.

One of the most fascinating conversations I always have with the fashion designers and with the common person on the streets when they realize I’m studying theology and fashion, is never about how much that’s off-putting, but actually how that is interesting because they haven’t had that explained to them for many, many years.

So it is a point of conversation in culture. And just a few weeks ago, one brand, did a very interesting campaign, in which they’re using lots of imagery from the Bible, with their own imagination, to actually talk about what’s happening in the world right now.

So I think that there really is a divorce between what the Church sometimes is saying and the question culture is actually asking. It is between these two things that I feel most comfortable.”

“That’s a unique position to be in.”

“It is, it is. And I think fashion also has to do with the question of gender. Gender and sexuality—they’re not the same. It’s not the same discussion. So it is also part of this conversation that the Church needs to understand—there are so many things that we need to be talking about right now. There’s poverty, there’s huge amounts of suffering happening in the world, there’s uncertainty in so many things.

It’s not that we shouldn’t talk about all these things at all, about gender and sexuality, particularly—we should, but we should find better ways of having this dialogue. Because we can’t be attacking people. We can’t. That is the most un-Christian thing ever.”

"What is the Church of England actually doing to get involved in London Fashion Week?"

"That is part of my work during London Fashion Week. During Fashion Week, I’ll be attending some shows to talk about the importance of body and fashion, and how culture is moving on. I’ll be attending some fashion shows, myself, because I’ve been invited.

In those fashion shows, it’s quite interesting, because most of the time it’s never just one thing. It’s always two things that happen. One is, because I’m a vicar and I’m in that environment, very often people would say to me—models would say—‘I’m a little bit nervous on the catwalk today, can you say a prayer?’ Or the designers would say ‘I haven’t slept for days. The collection hasn’t quite gone how we expected. Please, rev., could you send some thoughts?’ You know, because they don’t use the word prayer, but I know what they mean.

Which, again, is really a lovely place to be, and it is very important. This is me. But most of the time, I’m also there with my Ph.D. researcher, where I’m looking at what the new trends are, I’m looking for Christian iconography or any religious iconography and asking questions about that. But I’m also looking at the stories.

I meet a lot of new, up-and-coming designers, and it’s quite an opportunity to go to big fashion shows and big brands, but, obviously, I’m not there to criticize their work ever. That’s not what I do. I’m there to support what they’re doing, but I’m also there investigating, if you like, what culture is saying right now.

Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus