I once read in a book that if you needed to know the place of worship that was right for you, one had to think of them like your pairs of shoes. I was only sixteen at the time but let me enlighten you further. The book said churches were like shoes. They all had the same primary purpose; to protect the feet. So some churches were like high heels. They were pretty, sexy, exciting, but they hurt a bit and sometimes left you with blisters. But like you know , what’s a little pain for a world of glamour? Then there are those that are like pumps. Orthodox, routine, dated, not so glamorous and just plain boring. I was more the pumps kind of girl. I like the stained glass in the church, the hymns, candles, frankincense, hommili and the solemnity of it all. The ritual has always been a part of my spirituality. Until i moved back to Nigeria and realised that in a bid to lure back its dwindling congregation, my orthodox church had started adopting a new design of pumps to market and rebrand itself. The first few times I attended mass, I couldn’t help but notice the priests had become more fiery and ferocious when delivering the sermon. At random moments, he would quote passages of scripture that weren’t included in the misille already assembled in Rome. He sometimes even without subtlety condemned the congregation. I always knew them to have very interesting senses of humour with a lot of metaphor and satire when it came to condemnation. At times they were poetic too, even parental using a lots of analogy and allegory to re-iterate their message. Last week the Reverend father yelled at us he said “what have you sacrificed for the lord this year..common fasting till 2pm you cannot do..Later you will ask God please do this and that for me.” He was one of those heavily accented charismatic priests from the East of Nigeria. A bit hardcore for me. We seemed like the belligerent children being seriously reprimanded by a Father. I later asked my mother what this was all about. She said most people were now moving to Pentecostal churches because they said the catholic church was becoming repetitive and boring. I had a friend once tell me she had to change churches because the world was evolving. In her words “we are fighting fire for fire”. But you see, marketing and rebranding the church wasn’t just a Catholic or Anglican thing. As part of my numerous private practices, I got a job to write and voice the advert for a new church somewhere on the Lekki highway. I found myself writing about the church like it was a new business club everyone needed to be a part of. I recently heard of a church event where both gospel and circular musicians were all paid to perform. Not saying that there is anything wrong with circular artists performing at a church, even rapper DMX recently organised a church concert. I was curious as to how lyrics like “what the f*&k do want from a Nigga” would go down with an American negro spiritualist congregation. It all sounded a bit paradoxical to me. Well, Jesus did die for all our sins and didn’t come to save the already saved, so who am I to chastise. I realised it had become much more than faith, worship, spirituality or just general hypocrisy Sunday worship. Churches needed to keep the numbers up. In order to do that re-branding was necessary. For those that built schools and orphanages, the figures needed to add up to maintain that. For those that bought private jets or were intending to, the figures needed to add up too. It seems i just have to get used to the fact that my pumps have morphed just a little. They now have some kitten heels attached and have become slightly pointed; Further more a little uncomfortable too. Need I say, I also have to contend with a two hour Sunday Mass. Maybe it is time for me to move on. Goodbye to meditation and solemnity, hello to a shattered eardrum.
BY WANA UDOBANG Once upon a time glamazons ruled the catwalk, with their Miami Vice style blazers and stomach length jeans. Runways in London New York, Paris and Milan were clad in solid blocks of pastel colours along with shoulder pads and elaborate buttons. Just as fashion was about to experience a black hole, then came a young man. His name, Lee Alexander McQueen. Unbeknown to fashion, he would revolutionise its world in all its grandeur and entirety. McQueen brought something dynamic to the fashion world stage. His shows were theatrical, they were grand, they were a circus, some might even go as far as saying it was a freak show. Essentially in the world of clothing design, McQueen gave the world something to talk about. He became the zeitgeist in the fashion game. Always daring to be different. He created the “Bumsters”, which ultimately spun the trend for the low rise jeans. He also birthed the scarf engraved with the motif of skulls draped on most celebrities and replicated across the globe. In his 1998 Autumn show, he featured double amputee model Aimee Mullens striding down the catwalk on intricately carved wooden legs. With an innately rebellious streak, he was never shy of controversy. Although he didn’t come from a typical fashion pedigree, his accent to the fashion Oligarch is something that can be attributed to his taste for design, shock factor and sometimes the macabre. McQueen’s clothes have an air of craft and architecture to it, because somewhere along his career, his designs had surpassed pattern cutting and tailoring to become clothing architecture. His works have been more fascinating than Haute Couture. His days as an apprentice on Saville Row always came in handy as it could be traced in his impeccably tailored jackets. His sense of the ghoulish never went without a stare. One could see it in the celebrities attracted to his pieces of fashion iconography. Icelandic princess Bjork, Lady Gaga and Rhianna are just a few of his patrons. While Alexander McQueen was becoming the renaissance man for the Avant Garde , subliminally he was reconstructing fashion’s design history. He was doing what Film Noir had done to the world of cinema. Fashion wasn’t just frivolous anymore. It wasn’t just hemming together yarns of fabric or looking pretty in an outfit. This Scottish taxi drivers son had made clothing become art. Like Warhole and Damian Hirst he was crowd the l’enfant terrible(terrible child) of the fashion world.
McQueen’s clothes were sometimes unwearable and at other times difficult to adapt for high street fashion. He had also been criticised for going overboard. Despite all the criticism, he never compromised his fashion principles. Alexander McQueen was a working class boy who grew up on a council estate in London’s east end. After leaving school with one O Level in art, he served his apprenticeship in London’s tailoring Mecca, Saville Row. He would later apply to the prestigious Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design for the role of a pattern cutter tutor. But due to his very strong working portfolio, he was persuaded to enrol as a student and McQueen later graduated with a Masters in fashion design. McQueen served as head designer to Givenchy for five years before starting his own clothing line. Even he once admitted he had to tone down his love for the dramatic whilst working for Givenchy. He won the coveted award for British designer of the year four times and eventually awarded a CBE by the queen Whilst Donna Karen was going through a spirituality overhaul and presenting boring pieces of loincloth on the runway (a total disappointment of course),Jean-Paul Gaultier had lost his sense of the bizarre(the cone bra worn by Madonna became his last memorable piece). But McQueen always kept in line with his vision of drama and extravagance. The McQueen woman was strong; she was a rebel, unafraid, and never shy of making a strong statement. That was Alex’s girl. That was the McQueen aesthetic On the 11th of February 2010, Lee Alexander McQueen was found dead in his home just nine days after his own mother’s death and a couple of days to London fashion week. A British tabloid paper reported that his body was found hanged. . As we mourn the loss this fashion demagogue, we ask who can take his place. Even Vivian Westwood had abdicated the throne as the queen of rebellious youth and teenage angst fashion, who could rule the runways again? Is fashion about to experience another black hole? As the saying goes, “the world is a stage, we all have our entrances and our exits” McQueen left a bit early, but he waltzed of the runway with a standing ovation.
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