Wednesday, December 14, 2011

fashionable religion

In the welter of end-of-year activities we started something new this week, too. A Swedish fashion designer who has recently joined the Parsons School of Design Strategies contacted our religious studies program to propose some sort of collaboration. In Gothenberg he had attended several seminars in the Theology Faculty. Apparently his dissertation explored the applicability of the liberation theological concept of "base communities" to innovative fashion production, although he seems more interested now in talking about heresy. In any case, I invited him to class a few times, and then, Monday night, we had a first official gathering on the religion-fashion connection, in a studio at Parsons - half a dozen faculty and students from each program attended. I thought I might end up with something wearable by the end of the event but that will come later. For now it was just a free- wheeling discussion exploring affinities, metaphors, synergies, of which there are more than a few. It turns out that the Integrated Design Program explains its relationship to design and design studies more generally much the way lived religion relates to "institutional" religion. "Capital F fasion" is, he says, like organized religion, with its authorities, sacred texts and practices, but what they're interested in is more fluid, more egalitarian, spunkier - and integrated with all of life. Everyone gets dressed, his Dutch colleague P said, there's no reason fashion (small f) shouldn't be part of everyone's everyday life. (She doesn't seem to think the same about religion.) We have much to teach each other and learn from each other. We reconvene in February - join us? If not wearables we'll at least be producing a few pamphlets on the subject!

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