Following last week’s media frenzy surrounding the AI-generated “photos” of Pope Francis in a white puffer jacket, the Roman Catholic Church has announced its partnership with luxury fashion house Balenciaga for a new menswear line that integrates the aesthetics of Catholicism with contemporary fashion trends. “The Catholic clergy wanted to appeal to the younger generations who are abandoning faith in droves these days,” a spokesperson from the Holy See press office told Hyperallergic.

The spokesperson confirmed to Hyperallergic that it was the design team at Balenciaga who reached out to the Catholic Church to propose the concept of a faith-based clothing line, striking the iron while it’s hot after “Dope Francis” went viral last weekend. Researchers and trend forecasters at the fashion house noted that the public’s general response toward the generative image of Pope Francis in the white puffer jacket was overwhelmingly positive despite the initial shock of the spectacle.

The collection’s “showstopper” look

Staying true to the pop culture moment, Balenciaga’s designers have anchored the collection with the puffer aesthetic, highlighting both utilitarianism and modesty as key elements that characterize the line. Sneak peek images provided by Balenciaga show male models in floor-length light cream-colored “puffer robes” with light gold embellishments and clean, minimal sneakers. Information surrounding the line is limited right now as the fashion house and the church plan to release the collection name in time for Easter Sunday as a part of a “rebirth” in tune with the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but Hyperallergic can confirm that there are at least four menswear looks with the “showstopper” being a bright red oversized puffer jacket robe hybrid.

The billowing silhouettes may scream “luxury” to some, but the Catholic Church confirmed that “spirituality is the principal motif” of the clothing line. When asked about the collaboration, the Holy See press contact said that “it all comes down to shared values” between the Church and the company, and modernizing Christianity to generate more interest from millennials and Gen Z youths who are identifying less with religion as generations pass.

“Balenciaga brings us to the here and now,” the spokesperson added. “We welcomed the opportunity to collaborate with a fashion design brand with a global audience. To be able to extend our reach to today’s youth through popular culture is a new and meaningful approach for us, and we look forward to guidance from Balenciaga every step of the way.”

A more streamlined, streetwear-aligned outfit from the collection

Rhea Nayyar (she/her) is a New York-based teaching artist who is passionate about elevating minority perspectives within the academic and editorial spheres of the art world. Rhea received her BFA in Visual...

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