By JOHN LEGASPI

The Catholic Church and its liturgical teachings have shaped and honed the culture and values of Catholicism. Its rich history has been a favorite subject of artists. From The Last Supper of Leonardo da Vinci and The Creation of Adam by Michaelangelo to the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar, and the movie The Passion of the Christ, the sacred realm of Catholicism provoke thoughts that are bold, solemn, and even controversial.

And one of the many forms of art that draw inspiration from Catholicism is fashion. The Catholic Church, whether we admit it or not, has a flair for the dramatics. With its many emblems and insignia, such as church hierarchy–robes and clerical clothing, the scent of incense, and the center aisle that somewhat mimics a runway, Sunday masses are a wellspring of look inspirations.

Last year, the Met Gala shook the world as they celebrated the Catholic Church with the theme “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination.” The Costume Institute, together with the annual chair of the Met Gala, Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour, partnered with the Vatican to create an exhibition highlighting the church’s iconography and how it translated to fashion, featuring some 40 Vatican vestments, accessories spanning 15 papacies, and other religion-inspired works of great designers such as Cristobal Balenciaga, John Galliano, Jean Paul Gaultier, and Karl Lagerfeld.

Among Filipino designers, many also like to take the consecrated beauty of the Catholic Church to the runways. Dubai-based fashion designers and couturier Michael Cinco’s 2015 collection, “The Impalpable Dream of Sainte-Chapelle,” was inspired by the stained glass. It consists of sharp suits and couture dresses with strategically placed images of holy characters in a spectrum of colors and intertwining lines. Ending this collection was a long black beaded dress with a 20-foot-long cape, crystallized and hand-painted to give the ethereal and monolithic feel of a huge stained glass window in a basilica.

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WINDOWS TO THE SOUL Sharp tuxedo and a 20-foot-long dramatic cape with stain glass images from Michael Cinco’s “The Impalpable Dream of Sainte-Chapelle”

Fresh off the runway are the pieces of designer Cherry Veric designed after the Renaissance-era paintings of religious scenes by old masters like Rubens and Leonardo. His collection, entitled “Homage,” is a tribute to himself, his journey from college to becoming a fashion designer. With this collection, he aims to give the feeling of heaven on earth and people the chance to put art in the heart of beauty and faith.

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LIKE A PRAYER Cherry Veric’s Homage collection 2019 (photo by Wil Nanquil)

Job Dacon channeled the suffering of Jesus Christ in his beautifully pensive pieces. Growing up in a strict Christian family, for whom the Bible is the law, he yearns to discover something beyond the prose and the verses. He plays with sheers and appliqués in black to highlight religious accents such as the exquistely crafted Sacred Heart and crown of thorns made from unconventional materials such as polyethylene and PVC. His aesthetic comes from different eras of history like the Renaissance and Baroque periods.

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SACRED HEART Job Dacon’s black illusion dress with black floral appliqués with the Sacred Heart and the crown of thorns (photo by Roj Miguel)

Fresh off the runway are the pieces of designer Cherry Veric designed after the Renaissance-era paintings of religious scenes by old masters like Rubens and Leonardo.

Dark, sad, and seductive was Dak Bonite’s F/W 2018 “Melancholia” collection. The gloom and despair exuded from every ruffle and lace and the tiny shimmer of the delicate embellishments reflect the unbearable loss of the crying women at the foot of the crucified Christ.

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LADY OF THE LACE Black lace dress from Dak Bonite’s Melancholia collection (photo by Kryss Rubio)

Internationally acclaimed designer Rocky Gathercole is known for his avant-garde sensibility. He draws his inspiration from the architecture of the cathedrals he has visited. He weaves religious art such as the chains and thurible, biblical images, the sculpture Pietà by Michealangelo, and many more into his extravagant and gender bending pieces. His latest design features an angelic halo replete with a cream veil embellished with metallic strips reminiscent of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

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MOTHER AND CHILD Rock Gathercole’s dark and regal robe featuring Michaelangelo’s Pieta (photo by Roj Miguel)

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Culling inspirations from Catholicism is a movement that is both a cultural and a personal mission for artists. It celebrates both the designer and his or her heritage, journey of faith, and beliefs. This way, fashion becomes art, both functional and contemplative, like a prayer.

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