PARIS, Jan 23, 2009 / FW/ — Was it prescience or Francisco van Benthum knows someone high up in the Vatican? The Dutch designer’s Fall 2009 menswear collection inspired by the ritual clothes of priests, cardinals, bishops and choirboys was unveiled five days after the Vatican announced that it will get its own YouTube channel.
That the very conservative Roman Catholic Church is delving into new media so that the faithful can watch Pope Benedict or Church events is enough to make you stop and think. For an avant-garde designer like Francisco van Benthum to be able to put his finger on this radical development is amazing.
Some fashion grouse would say that it has been done before; Miuccia Prada and Stefano Pilati at Yves Saint Laurent had sent Roman Catholic vestments-inspired clothing on the runway. And they will be right. But, it is Francisco van Benthum’s impeccable timing that makes his Fall 2009 more than just a pretty face, and has a big chance of standing out among the most desirable 18 – 34 year old demographic.
The Vatican launching its YouTube channel right now with a must have been inspired by heaven (pun not intended). Without giving a sociological or philosophical treatise, religion usually becomes very important to many people during a time of crisis.
Francisco van Benthum, without neither being overt nor showing any sign of disrespectfulness had touched a nerve with his collection that blends a pinch of purity with his signature abstract and elegant style. Case in point, the long black monk’s-habit, the stand-up collar shirt and the layered silhouette are translated into an elegant and sharp collection.
With the sober and rigid colors of blacks with white, dark navy, harsh fuchsia and red; the fabrics ranging from lightweight nylon and silk, coated wools to sharp cottons; the collection’s sharp coats, a series of suits from oversized to body conscious, fluent silk tops and pressed-pleated pants might have had religious beginnings but they are definitely modernistic.
Perhaps that is what the Vatican is trying to do, opening itself up to the world via YouTube.
Photos by Peter Stigter, courtesy of Francisco van Benthum