Where is God in the fashion industry?
Last night saw the launch of fashion industry executive Simon Ward's new book: 'Riding the Tide: a tithe of Psalms'.
Described as a "worship leader, occasional songwriter and creative explorer", as well as being a key player in the organisation of London Fashion Week and the British Fashion Awards, Simon is passionate about making connections between the creative industries and the world of faith.
The evening promised "surprises and glamour", and certainly did not disappoint.
Simon, chief operating officer of the British Fashion Council, introduced himself by singing one of his own songs, an amalgamation of several Psalms set to an upbeat backing track offered by a live five piece band.
Appropriately, the song finished with the phrase "Your truth never goes out of fashion, I can always walk with my head held high", a verse taken directly from the Message's translation of Psalm 119.
Interviewed by TV producer Claudine de Montule, Simon then shared of his role within the fashion industry and how he is able to reconcile the fast paced lifestyle with his Christian faith.
"I work in Somerset House, where London Fashion Week is held and we have a statue in the grounds that contains a verse from Psalm 1: 'Like a tree planted by the river...'; it's there right in my workplace. I love the links that can be found between God, the Bible, fashion and culture," he explained.
Considered by many to be narcissistic, the fashion industry is often criticised by Christians as an outworking of our image-obsessed society, but Simon was quick to insist that although it may have a darker side, fashion is all about the celebration of creativity and talent - God-given gifts.
"I love creativity. There's so much passion surrounding the fashion and creative industries," he explained.
"It's such an important thing and a really vibrant industry. Traditionally, the Church has tended to have a negative view of fashion, but I always point to Exodus 28 – the subtitle of which is 'Priestly Garments'. There's a whole chapter dedicated to it," he laughed.
"I say this: God is creativity. He created the earth, he created the seasons – he made it so that we need to wear different things at different times of the year. In Exodus again there's a whole section on designing the tabernacle - God is a designer too. So much of the imagery in the Bible is about garments and clothing, God is interested in these things.
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"Fashion definitely has the ability to enslave, to become a mask and people use it to hide their insecurities, and I think that's really sad," he admitted. "But we have to explore what that looks like, and how fashion can be used exclusively for good."
The evening was broken up by more performances from Simon and his band, which included a rap based on Psalm 23. He explained this unusual take, noting his belief in the importance of engaging with the Bible in a relevant and contemporary way.
"Psalm 23 is very traditional, but I think it conjures up urban images," he said. "The 'valley of the shadow of death' in modern terms could be bereavement, stress and pressure; so I wanted to shake it up a bit.
"So often, songs take the nice bits of the Psalms, but if you look at the Bible they go from one extreme to the other. Praise and wonder to cursing everything, including God," he added.
"These were written by real people with real struggles, so I thought let's try grappling with those things."
'Rising the Tide' is a collection of short reflections on some of the Psalms, which Simon has combined with devotions, prayer and visual images. He wants to help people connect with God in a way that meets them wherever they are on their journey of faith.
Peterson Feital, curate at St James, Muswell Hill, where the launch was held added: "It's often difficult for the Church to engage with culture, but we have to find a way in to talk about faith, life and meaning - that's the mission of the Church.
"In our society there is a deep sense of a search for meaning, and we need to engage in that conversation. As a vicar I go to film premieres and fashion shows, because that's where Jesus would be, in every part of society.
"We have the opportunity to be catalysts for change here, and so we must engage with culture in a way that helps people to find meaning."
'Rising the Tide: a title of Psalms' is available to buy now.