A truly divine fashion show
Goods of Conscience — what better name could you think of for a Catholic priest’s fashion line (in fact, the longer you consider it, the more puns and coinages come to mind, and the temptation for bloggers and newspaper subeditors has proved irresistible)? The man behind the label is Fr. Andrew O’Connor, a priest, designer and all-round creative, who has collaborated with artists and conducted multimedia masses, and as a young man studied literature with the critic Seamus Deane in Dublin.
In 2005, while O’Connor was on a retreat in Guatemala, the traditional technique of back-strap weaving caught his eye. Calling the cloth Social Fabric (TM), he now imports it to the US for his fashion line, putting the proceeds to charitable ends.
Last night, I attended a glamorous celebration of his clothes in the Plaza Hotel, and it was like nothing I’d seen before (in part because I’d never seen the inside of a Plaza Hotel apartment) — photographs of Woody Allen and other celebrities (many signed) adorned the walls, and a charming waiter made loops around the room bearing champagne. Rather than stepping formally along a catwalk, the models mingled with the rest of the group, dressed in Goods of Conscience garments. In a nice touch, the female models were mother and daughter — bucking any notion that mature women cannot look gorgeous, and also ensuring that the beautiful young girl was miles away from the exploitation you hear of in the fashion world (her dad was there as well).
Goods of Conscience clothes are sewn by seamstresses in the basement of parish buildings in the Bronx. The story is one I’ve followed for a while (my Irish Echo article is accessible as a PDF), and I’ve visited the workshop, which is full of colour, pristinely clean and airy. The clothes are all fairtrade, and often have quirky elements; in some, Christian symbols shine through at a certain light and angle; others include cloth bought in Gammarelli’s Ecclesiastical Tailoring in Rome, where the Pope is known to buy his vestments. Of all the pieces, my personal favourite has been a delicate bracelet, made of antique Parisian lace.
They’re cool, affordable (perhaps as a treat) and have a unique story. Take a look! http://www.goodsofconscience.com/
Update: See Amy Schroeder’s write-up at the DIY Business Association blog, which includes pics of Cameron Diaz modeling Goods of Conscience shorts in American Vogue, June 2009.