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Rel Ico igious nog r Iss aphy ue

There’s no doubt religious iconography and symbolism is a firmly established fashion staple, every season sees an updated version of this trend produced by high street and high end designers alike. Now commonplace are crucifixes, hamsa hands and eye of providence emblems which can be seen adorning everything from sweatshirts to clutch bags. But in our modern society as younger generations renounce religion, have these sacred symbols lost their meanings along the way?

Are they simply pretty pictures used to sell garments or

is subverting these images still shocking a la Madonna circa 1989? We investigate in this religious iconography special of Sacrilege Magazine‌

Sister Jane cross pearls blouse, £52,

Buddah chunky boyfriend tee, £35,

Dana Levy hamsa hand bracelet, £80, urbanoutfitters. com

Mr Gugu & Miss Go bodycon dress in stained glass, £55,

For Eve

Sheer symbol tights, £8.50,

Cameo and cross brooch, £8.50, topshop. com

Hamsa hand leggings, £25,

Truly Madly Deeply psychedelic high-low tee, £28,

‘Church Fade’ Tee, £45,

‘Kenzo x New Era cap, £35, Browns

Underated ‘Angels Remix’ Sweatshirt, £45,

Double cross ring, £10,

Bite by Dent De Man Crosses Print Trousers, £55,

For Adam Flocked Jesus Money Bank, £10,

Ichiban ‘With the Homies’ tee, £32,

Jesus socks, £8

Ganesh Oversize Vest, £18,

Your Style

You show us your sacred style...

Eye sweatshirt

Hamsa hand necklace

Hamsa hand t-shirt Crucifix blouse Chakra bracelet

Ganesh t-shirt We asked you... Why do you wear religious imagery?

Crucifix earings Star of David necklace

For fashion purposes For Empowerment As a sign of faith Other

Your Say


of people were either personally offended by this image or could see how a person of a certain faith would be

In our survey ‘Religious Iconography and Symbolism in Fashion’ we asked 70 people to choose the statement they felt best described how they felt about these images of religious inspired fashion. Here’s their verdict...



of people were either personally offended by this image or could see how a person of a certain faith would be

of people were either personally offended by this image or could see how a person of a certain faith would be


of people were either personally offended by this image or could see how a person of a certain faith would be


could not see anything wrong with this image at all or thought if people were offended by this image it would be an overreaction

On the Catwalk

At the forefront of fashion, high-end designers and fashion houses often employ a wealth of cultural and historical references in their collections to add depth and a sense of narrative. Religion has been an inspiration for many collections, with designers using imagery and iconography from divine sources in fashion forward garments. Take a look out our favourite runway looks from recent seasons...

S/S 14

Among the abundance of Grease inspired biker jackets seen at Jean Paul Gautier’s most recent Spring/ Summer 2014 collection, religious iconography adorned boyish sweatshirts and oversized mesh tees. An unlikely coupling, the exotic imagery featuring figures with bare blue flesh covered in snakes with captions like ‘Snake Dance’ resembled vibrant Hindu Iconography. Jean Paul Gaultier

A homage to Baz Lurhmann’s film version of Romeo & Juliet, Henry Holland’s latest Spring/ Summer 2014 collection was rife with religious imagery. Graphic sacred heart emblems animated classic shift dresses in pastel colours, whilst oversize clean white t-shirts were embellished with vivid iconography of the Mother Mary. The emotive symbolism used in this collection contrast the preppy, suburban styles hinting at a narrative of dark romance. House of Holland

A/W 13

Dolce & Gabanna

Italian fashion house Dolce & Gabbana’s Autumn/ Winter 2013 collection was inspired by the Cathedral of Monreale in Sicily. In womenswear, references were far from subtle with Monreale’s famous Byzantine and Venetian mosaics forming a richly toned, heavily textured print that featured throughout. Alongside were high necklines, lacy dresses in cardinal red, tapestry bags and an abundance of crucifixes and rosary beads for jewellery.

Kenzo’s Autumn Winter 2014 collection was all about texture as metallic leather and snakeskin, fluffy faux fur and tapestry fabrics merged with heavy prints. The print that stole the show was of a third eye, symbolising protection and warding off evil spirits in Hinduism. This motif was seen in large on sweatshirts and in a smaller repetitive print on trousers and jackets.

S/S 13

For Givenchy’s Spring/ Summer 2013 menswear collection designer Riccardo Tisci used ‘the cult of communion’ as a starting point. Fine fabrics such as silk, satin mesh and brocade are layered with classic suits and crisp shirts. Catholic iconography featured strongly throughout, with eerie saintly figures printed onto garments, furthering the narrative.



A newcomer to the fashion world, Leanne Warren’s debut collection for Graduate Fashion Week Spring/ Summer 2013 ‘Her Name Was Rio’ inspired by the city of Rio de Jinerio. Leanne Warren juxtaposes sex and religion with hand drawn illustrative prints of female idols and crucifixes in a palette of pastel pinks and gold sequins. An ultra-feminine take on religious iconography. Leanne Warren


In this Religious Iconography special of Sacrilege magazine, we’ve looked at religion in high street fashion, delved into the catwalk’s spiritual designs, explored your sacred style and asked your opinions. But what have we learnt about the role of religious imagery in fashion today?

In the introduction to this magazine, we set out to answer questions such as: have religious symbols lost their meanings along the way? And, is subverting these images still shocking?

up for what they believe in. It’s no wonder then, that religion can be a touchy subject, and people may view fashions sometimes somewhat obtuse creations as insensitive at best.

In order to answer the questions we posed, we created a survey targeting a broad range of people. We had responses from under 18s to over 75’s, from as far away as Ecuador and from people of many different religions from Agnostics to Buddhists and Spiritualists. This wide spectrum enabled us to gather an in-depth picture of how society as a whole views fashion’s use of religious imagery without being age, gender or faith specific.

So just when did religious iconography become fashionable? What makes religious imagery a successful retail constant every season? An answer may lie outside the fashion industry and in the music industry. For decades many pop artists have taken inspiration from religion, subverting sacred iconography and connotations to shock audiences and therefore gain exposure.

An example of this of this is feminist group Femen’s recent topless protest in Paris where they dressed up in nun habits and stormed anti-gay march. Whilst no doubt the majority support what Femen stand for, their use of religious garments juxtaposed with nudity and anger sparked controversy. In our survey we asked participants their opinions on an image of this protest and 69% were either personally offended by the image or could see how a person of certain faith would be.

In this issue, we have explored religious iconography on both the high street and in high fashion. You’ve told us that religious iconography in fashion can offend, yet we’ve also observed that many choose to wear religious symbols solely for the purposes of style. While the debate on religion will no doubt continue to rage on all over the world, one thing is certainly clear: religion has a different meaning for each individual, it is a deeply personal subject that can evoke many different emotions and options and therefore a consensus on whether it is right or wrong to use (or misuse) religious imagery in fashion may never be reached.

The name that springs to mind when talking about The survey asked participants whether they themreligion and the music industry is, of course, Maselves regularly wore any clothing or jewellery with donna (her name alone harbours religious meaning). religious imagery and their reasons behind this, She was the first pop star to truly use religious icons producing some insightful answers. One subject to shock her audience and grab attention, her 1989 wears a crucifix out of habit as they were brought up music video for ‘Like a Prayer’ where she danced Catholic as another ‘appropriates’ a wooden Star of seductively in lingerie in front of burning crucifixDavid pendant, despite his atheist views. The major- es and turned a black saint statue to life by kissing ity of people asked said they wore religious symbol- him. This sparked so much controversy that the ism for fashion purposes, whilst only 21% said they pope himself banned any appearance of Madonna attributed a spiritual meaning to the symbol. These in Italy and Pepsi dropped her from their advertisfindings suggest a shift in the way we view religious ing campaign. Nonetheless, her legacy still stands imagery which can perhaps be attributed to a society today. Music videos featuring religious iconography with a decline in religion. However, when we asked coupled with sexual imagery are so commonplace participants to then rate images showing religious they now barely cause a stur. Modern day sacrileimagery in fashion, the results were contradictory, gious singers like Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj still with the majority finding provocative clothing with cite Madonna as an influence. This may be reflecreligious connotations to be in bad taste. This sugtive of a culture in which this use of devalued and gests that whilst most people are comfortable with superfluous religious imagery is a metaphor for the the notion of wearing religious symbols merely as a idolisation of pop stars as teenage girls faint at One decoration, using them as a tool to shock or offend Direction concerts and Kanye West announces ‘I people or wearing them with an air of ignorance am a God’ (the title of a track off his latest album crosses the boundaries. ‘Yeezus’.

Religion by its very nature can divide nations, create wars and discrimination as people are quick to stand

Sinéad O’Callaghan

Sacrilege Magazine- Religious Iconography Issue