And Jesus said to them, “And unto you I give a new commandment: style your hair and robe as I do mine, and you shall be fabulous.”
If you’re not sure what Christ has to do with the catwalk, just take a look at the book of Genesis. You’ll see that God is a God of creativity, beauty, and yes—fashion. He is the ultimate artist, weaving light and land out of the palette of the cosmos, unifying all modes of art and using them to tell the grand story of creation.
God is every bit the designer, and fashion is the perfect way for the Christian Church to step in and bridge the gap between culture and faith.
Leading the charge is the Church of England, which, in 2016, gave its blessing to London Fashion Week by producing an official video entitled, “God in Fashion”. This clip features three leading members of the fashion industry—members who just happen to be Christians—explaining exactly what God has to do with the world of creative clothing.
First up in the video is Simon Ward, former COO of the British Fashion Council and author of “The Character of Fashion,” who links the words of the Bible with that of fashion as he describes the abundance of Biblical imagery and metaphor that deals with clothing. He cites the example of the Apostle Paul, who calls Christians to “clothe yourselves in compassion” and to “put on the whole armor of God”. Christ, in the book of Revelation, he says, is described as “dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest,” with hair as “white as wool”. These accouterments obviously have great meaning, symbolizing something more than the mere threads of which they are composed.
Further, Ward emphasizes the connection that fashion has with creation, itself—because the seasons dictate what we wear to protect ourselves from the elements, fashion is intrinsically linked to the cycles God has put into place. Catholic author J.R.R. Tolkien writes of a similar concept, that of “sub-creation,” wherein a Christian author’s greatest form of worship is to create fictional worlds, just as his or her God created the real world.
And so it seems that a Christian fashion designer can worship through creation, as well.
Also featured in the video is Chrissie Abbott, who has an impressive 25 years of experience working in the international fashion scene. Of her experience founding Fashion for Christ, a group for Christians in the industry, she says, “Just to see what God has done in the fashion industry has been the most incredible blessing. I've seen people get jobs, I've seen people supported, I've seen people mentored. I think lots of people look at us and think, how can God be in the fashion industry? And I truly believe that God is there: in every sector, in every business. The most important thing is that you just connect with Him, you call Him into that industry. You honor Him.”
So we can see that clothing is important in the Bible, and that there is room for Christians in the industry. But you’re probably asking yourself a very important question right now—why, exactly should you care? Fashion has never had a great reputation in faith-based circles because of the image-obsessed culture that surrounds it—it can seem like idolatry at worst, and meaningless at best.
The truth, though, is that fashion is connected to the soul. The Bible is clear that our choice of clothing is symbolic of what is in our hearts, of our purpose in life—what we wear speaks volumes about us, and affirms the way God made us—the traits He placed into our hearts. Fashion is a universal language, and importantly, it is one that faith and culture have in common.
For the third figure in the “God in Fashion,” fashion as a bridge between culture and the Church is his passion. Reverend Peterson Feital, a Brazilian-born Anglican vicar known as the “red carpet curate”, is the minister to the creative industries for the Diocese of London.
Feital is hard at work on a social enterprise called The Haven, a performance and exhibition space with a decidedly stylish aesthetic. Here, he wishes to lend spiritual support to musicians, actors, fashion designers, and others in the creative industries.
“Christianity gets a bad press,” Rev Feital says. “Being a Christian is the most exciting thing someone could ever be. It’s about being countercultural all the time.”
Indeed, Christians are called to be different. Jesus, himself, destroyed the social norms of His time, refuting the leading religious thinkers and politicians and positing that there was a better way to live.
And when Christians get involved in fashion that’s exactly what happens. It gets redeemed. It gets better, because that’s a big part of what Christianity is all about—loving others and helping them have better lives.
It’s no secret that the fashion industry has a few skeletons in its closet. From malnourished models to slave labor to underpaid interns to a lack of environmental sustainability, the problems are many. This is a business that can, at times, seem inextricably bound to exploitation.
But the way of life taught by Christ, just as it did 2,000 years ago, offers a way to improve things, and herein lies the bridge between creatives and the Church. People like Feital, Ward, and Abbott are going into the fashion industry with an eye for eliminating exploitation, and for untangling image from identity while lifting up the very best of what creative fashion has to offer.
When Christians engage culture in a way that frees people from misery and helps them find meaning, bridges are built. We should all be striving to do what the Church of England is currently doing with their fashion outreach program—going out into every business there is and lending our help to struggling people.
When you look at it that way, can’t you just imagine Christ doing the same?