The Met Gala and Anna Wintour are in the eye of a storm. It was when fashion and religion conversed, as has happened throughout history. This time though, social media is raging with shock, and also awe at the mammoth showing in the theme of Heavenly bodies, Fashion and the Catholic Imagination.
Images of Rihanna dressed in a papal-inspired ensemble, Kim Kardashian’s golden shimmer dress with a crucifix and Sarah Jessica-Parker’s nativity ensemble headdress, have angered many. What matters beyond creativity, and to what lengths one can go to represent religious lexicons and beliefs, are issues that have been raised. What liberties can be taken in the name of art?
Designer Wendell Rodricks is alarmed at the lengths the Met Gala has gone to, to grab eyeballs and lashed out directly at Anna Wintour, chair of the gala. The usually liberal and activist-hearted designer exclaims, “It was bizarre and blasphemous. This is a challenge to Anna Wintour, please choose Islam as your next theme if you have the gumption! Anna has made the gala into her own ego massage. Being disrespectful to a religion should be avoided at all costs.
Madonna has been using Christian iconography in her songs for long, in cases like Papa Don’t Preach, which speaks of abortion, it was pertinent, but inviting women known for their vulgar clothing to cause shock and awe, or someone placing a crucifix on her cleavage is just not done.”
In fact, he had posted earlier, “As a Christian, I am disgusted at this year’s Met Gala. This year it has gone too far. Every Christian Church, including the Vatican, should sue them for defamation and blasphemy for making the crucifix a sex object, DISGRACEFUL and DISGUSTING insult to religious sentiment. Please try this with Islam, Hinduism or Buddhism and face the backlash Ms Wintour.”
Why the fuss?
Given that the Met Gala and the Vatican have been going back and forth to set guidelines for the theme, and Met received the official stamp of approval from the Vatican, what has enraged people is the sexualisation of Catholicism.
Yet, pop icons, fashion designers and artists have used religious symbols throughout history to explore creativity. For instance, designer Karl Lagerfeld’s use of a Quran verse on a Chanel dress. So what is the fine line one needs to tread between creative freedom and religious expression?
Nithya Shanti, a spiritual leader and guru avers to tread responsibly. “I would like to quote Chetan Bhagat, ‘Be so busy improving yourself that you have no time to criticise others.’ This is the best spiritual attitude. Life is a hall of mirrors, and the wise know that they judge in others the very things they have not embraced within themselves. Instead of judging the judgers, and unconsciously taking on the same holier than thou attitude, I suggest pausing for 10 seconds and sending everyone involved in this — and every other religious or other misunderstandings — loving and soothing vibes. It’s done to provoke so why be gullible and get provoked? Most things that have our attention these days do not deserve it. Honestly, this does not either. The media loves to give attention to rile people up. Let them wear their clothes and be done with it. Why make a fuss?”
Designer Farah Ali Khan calls herself a staunch liberalist, and says, “I am most liberal in my views. I think people should raise their voice against serious issues, this (the gala) was entertainment. Let’s practice what religions teach us instead of focusing on what is where and how it is done. Of course, let us also not make a mockery of religion.”
There are those like designer Manoviraj Khosla who believe in self-expression. “I think what I saw at the MET Gala was absolutely fantastic. If the Vatican has endorsed it, who are we to diss it? It was dramatic. But, creatively and innovatively done. The theme was the influence of Catholicism, and the ones who’ve worn it are Christians. The people who’ve organised it, designed it and worn it are those with an authority in fashion. Let us not refute that. So, what is the argument about? It’s fashion, for heaven’s sake! Let us embrace extremity, and not be fussy. The only reason I see people raising an objection is narrow-mindedness.”
- Ariana Grande in a sweeping ball gown by Vera Wang featured the famed art from the Sistine Chapel, — Michelangelo inspired
- Greta Gerwig in her demure nun attire
- Scarlett Johannsen also sported a subtle red dress
- Gisele Bundchen with hubby Tom Brady were subtle in their religious overtones.
- Even Anna Vintour was dressed in a white lace ensemble without any overt display
- Katy Perry came dressed as an angel
- Rihanna and her papal ensemble
- Kim Kardashian’s crucifix on her dress
- Jennifer Lopez sported a dress shaped like a cross across her chest
- Black Panther’s Chadwick Boseman sported a dandy white suit with crosses all over
- Sarah Jessica Parker’s nativity scene headdress
- Jared Leto’s channelled Baroque Jesus with a golden crown sitting on his flowing shoulder-length locks
There is nothing ‘unholy’ about your body!
I don’t understand why sex and sexuality are considered anti-religious or why certain parts of our body are looked at as ‘unholy’. In times like this, when the world is not going through the best of times, where there is crime everywhere, religion needs to be highlighted as it gives hope. And this needs to be done in a modern avatar, moving with the times. Pop culture and celebrities, who grab many eyeballs were used in this case to promote this idea. Even though they may not be practicing Catholics, none of them went to the event with an intention to upset anyone or create a scandal. I think a big deal is being made of a non-existant issue. I’ve grown up with my religion as a way of life and I believe that it aids one lead a fulfilled life. But I don’t think there was anything wrong in the theme of this year’s MET gala.
— Anand Kabra, fashion designer
Work within boundaries
Art is influenced by so many things; it is harsh to judge. However, I feel we all should know our boundaries. We should not hurt anyone’s feelings be it in art or fashion. Even if we are taking inspiration from religion, we need to keep in mind the thought process. So, although it is our personal process, we should see to it that we do not create havoc in society, because that would be our legal and moral binding to do so.
— Amy Billimoria, fashion designer