Will the Met Gala theme lead to controversy or Awareness?
The first Monday in May marks a fashion frenzy. When the darlings of the celebrate when fashion and art come together. It seems that from the past year’s guests have fallen from the theme, with the recent Comme des Garçons theme falling through, being bypassed by celebrities wanting to make sure that their brand was on target. But will next year’s theme leave space for creativity amongst celebrities or controversy?
Revealed by WWD earlier this week the theme for the exhibition is titled, ‘Fashion and Religion’, with this theme it is set to be the most dramatic, and perhaps controversial Met Gala so far.
This isn’t the first time fashion has been teamed with religion, with designers across the world referencing religion through their collections in differing ways. It is sure to be a theme that will feature predominantly through fashion. Designers such as; Dolce & Gabbana, Christopher Kane and Jean Paul Gaultier have all made religion subject to their collections.
In the past SS/17 collections, religion has taken a more subdued theme for many designers. In a tumultuous period within the world, fashion is keen to put forward their beliefs and faith in the future of fashion, and the country.
Recently Christopher Kane embellished his collections with symbolic images of the Virgin Mary and accessorised the collection with medals of Saint Christopher. However, it wasn’t just Kane who used religion to benefit his collection, but Dolce & Gabbana also used symbols of Christianity through their recent shows. In their last major couture show, many pieces were set with graphics of Saints and aspects of baroque architecture, familiar to Christian cathedrals, embellishing jackets worn throughout the show.
However, the relationship of fashion and religion can often be controversial, and is seen by the general public and some fashion commentaries as an ingenuine conversation for religion.
McQueen and Versace have both used religious symbols as part of their collections. Looking back at the collections back in AW/12, many used religious symbols to heighten the Gothic aesthetic, that many houses were implementing during that season.
Versace came across criticism for this, embellishing the Christian Cross over sheer sexy black dresses – leading to criticism from many religious believers. However, many believed that the juxtaposition of religion and a sexual demeanour led to a conversation towards religious implementation and sexual education.
Although, it isn’t just Christian symbols that have been seen through collections. Insensitive appropriation continues to take place through the fashion industry and is often more prominent than ever, even though we are in a more educated world. Karl Lagerfeld’s 1994 collection for Chanel used a verse of the Quran on the breastplate of a Chanel dress [which was also very low-cut]. After the show, Lagerfeld received death threats and was forced to hire a bodyguard for Claudia Schiffer, who modelled the dress.
As an apology for the controversy that was caused, Chanel burned the three other versions with the verse.
It isn't just the womenswear that could lead to controversy. The men who normally attend tend to keep menswear more subtle, and it is never the cause for controversy. A simple Tom Ford or Saint Laurent suit is first choice for the male attendee of the MET Gala. Although, this does not mean that menswear has never been controversial, and has never been teamed with religion.
Givenchy in AW10 led to a controversial outcry throughout the media. Due to Riccardo Tisci's devout Catholic upbringing, the use of religious iconography has been seen through most collections by Givenchy, however it is increasingly more obvious through his womenswear collections. The collection by Givenchy back in AW10 was dedicated to Jesus Christ, with the show including multitudes of models walking down the runway with silver and Gold thorns around their necks.
Religion mixed with any form of cultural art will always lead to controversy. However, is it time that we begin to accept that the arts will dabble with the idea of religion?
William Whitcombe, chaplain and interfaith advisor at the University of the Arts, including London College of Fashion explained:"When I look at current designers who use Christian religious imagery, I find it difficult to get hot under the collar. I think there is something strangely incarnation about these holy images in the organised chaos of a runway show."
"Hemlines will fall and rise, trends will come and go but these images represent something greater that transcends all that - timeless images which point to timeless themes. They are part of history but they are also part of our human story and that is why there is this recurring interest."
It is inevitable that controversy will thrive with the theme that has been put forward. At any Met Gala there has been controversy, with the 2015 theme of, ‘Through the Looking Glass’, sparking controversy with the ways Western designers drew inspiration from Asia.
Christianity will inevitably take centre-stage at the Met Gala – with the titles of articles already being seen, ‘iconic’. But where does that leave other religions within the theme?
What will be interesting will be how many celebrities and models chose to express their faith through fashion. With Bella Hadid and Gigi recently stating that they are proud of their Muslim faith, it will be intriguing to see whether the models chosen to express their faith through the designers next year or stick with their classic image.
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