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Devout / Divine – Fashion vs Religion

Start Date 26 June 2010
End Date 09 January 2011
Venue Modemuseum
Location Hasselt, Belgium
Curator Kenneth Ramaekers
Designer Michael Verheyden
Design Brusatto
Project Assistant Eve Demeon
Exhibition display of dressed mannequins
At first glance, fashion and religion seem to have little in common, but nothing could be further from the truth. The fashionable use of religious symbols has not been surprising for a long time. In fact, more and more designers have been making use of them in recent years.

The exhibition Devout / Devine – Fashion vs Religion therefore deals with a very topical theme. Religion and the accompanying symbols or costumes are high on the social agenda. There was the headscarf debate, there are voices calling for a ban on the burka, protests against the wearing of religious symbols in public functions are increasing, and so on.

Moreover, 2010 was a Virga Jesse year in Hasselt. For three weeks, the city was under the sign of the devotion to Mary, culminating in the processions through Hasselt’s streets.

Enough reason for the Fashion Museum Hasselt to take a closer look in 2010 at the link between fashion and religion and more specifically at the use of religious symbolism in (designer) fashion, based on an idea by Kenneth Ramaekers.

Fashion has a superficial image and the symbolism used is indeed usually not a heavy statement about a religious identity. The symbols are usually selected for their aesthetic value. There is no reference (at least not consciously) to the underlying values ​​of the religious code from which they are derived.

The aesthetic side is irresistible. Stylized symbols appear as motifs or prints in the street scene. The symbol politics of the bearers must certainly be put into perspective. It is symbol inflation, but not a non-committal one, because no matter how hard you blink, the original meaning cannot be dismissed, so such pieces are often controversial.

Since the late 1980s, there has been a trend for designer fashion to refer explicitly to religious clothing. The first craze was coined by pop star Madonna who clearly refers to traditional Catholic devotion in her performances. Fashion designers such as Jean Paul Gaultier, Christian Lacroix, John Galliano, Alexander McQueen, Hussein Chalayan and Dolce & Gabbana have designed collections that are full of religious symbolism and inspired by religious garments.

Fashion is one of the industries where current affairs are translated first, but can one speak of an advertisement for God or a new interest in religion? Modern man perhaps still craves the transcendent, a need that has remained unfulfilled in secularization and individualization.

Or is fashion becoming a new religion for an ever-widening public? Designers carry a message through their collection and set trends in values ​​and norms that used to be determined by religious institutions. Devout / Divine zooms in on designers who make eager use of religious symbolism. The exhibition examines how the cross-fertilization between fashion and faith came about, how the various religious traditions are interpreted and why centuries-old symbols continue to fascinate.

Idea and curator: Kenneth Ramaekers

project assistant: Eve Demoen

Scenography: Michael Verheyden

Design: Brusatto

Participants: Rick Owens, Walter Van Beirendonck, Mada Van Gaans, Bernhard Willhelm, AF Vandevorst, Giambattista Valli, Todd Lynn, Manish Arora, Sabijn Peters, Idriz Jossa, Noor d’Izar, Adam Courtney, Dries Van Noten, Raf Simons, Cristobal Balenciaga, Alicia Framis, Jean-Paul Gaultier, …

With thanks to: City of Hasselt, Board of Mayor and Aldermen, Vzw De Vrienden van het Modemuseum, Employees of the Modemuseum Hasselt, Employees of the Central Workshops of the City of Hasselt,

Volunteers of the non-profit organization Friends of the Fashion Museum

Image courtesy of Modemuseum, Hasselt, Belgium.