If you don’t believe that fashion is a religious sect unto itself—and a fast-growing one at that—well, maybe you should pray a little harder. Need you be reminded that today’s most awe-inspiring transfigurations are achieved by supermodels, not saints? (Easy to confuse the two, granted.) Should you be one of these lamentable non-believers, you might want to check out Visionaire’s latest issue, devoted to religion and guest-edited by Riccardo Tisci in collaboration with Givenchy.

While the subject of faith is one that few can discuss winningly, Tisci can and does—rapturously, with a childlike enthusiasm. “These days, the world doesn’t have much respect for religion,” says Tisci, who was raised as Catholic as can be. “But to me, it’s totally fundamental. It’s nearly an obsession.” And one that stems from his childhood. “I grew up in a poor family in Italy in the 1970s. The force and energy that religion gave me…it helped me carry on no matter what. It helped me believe that everything would get better.”
Tisci doesn’t describe himself as Catholic now, per se. Religion, he believes, has become more universal and amorphous. “It is the mother, the family, it’s love, it’s work, it’s abstract,” he explains. “Yes, it can mean that you believe in God, but it doesn’t matter which god—the point is to believe in something.”
However vaguely Tisci sees his own faith, his Visionaire is Catholic with a capital C, featuring eye-popping imagery that turns a millennium of European art on its head. Housed in an unfolding wooden case that nods to the great tradition of the altarpiece, the issue doesn’t scrimp on saints, including Carine Roitfeld, appropriately venerated in a series of haunting portraits by Karl Lagerfeld. (“Religion is anything you believe in,” the Chanel designer offers.)
The rest of the issue is an exuberant visual tribute to religious tropes. The Madonna and Child are revisited by Mario Sorrenti, and while she’s not exactly Rubenesque, there’s a certain minimalist serenity about her that beguiles. Paolo Canevari and Francesco Carrozzini canonize Franca Sozzani, complete with a Giotto-like halo, while Tisci’s house model, Lea T, is reimagined by Giovanna Battaglia and Pierpaolo Ferrari as a beautiful veiled martyr in Renaissance-style couture. The Son then comes into his own as Danko and Ana Steiner and Jared Buckheister rework the crucifixion, mounting Jesus on—or is it at—a lectern. Some of the pictures are slightly less tranquil. The shoot by Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott of Lara Stone bound in ropes beside a burning cross conjures both Saint Joan and Mississippi Burning. But perhaps the most indelible image is that of Tisci suckling at the breast of Marina Abramovic, a woman who knows a thing or two about suffering for belief.

Carine Roitfeld, 2011. Photography Karl Lagerfeld

Makeup Peter Philips for Chanel using lace by Sophie Hallette, Paris
Hair Sam McKnight for Pantene (Premier)
Production Katherine Marre and Mighela Shama

Visionaire 60 RELIGION is out in June 2011. Click here to pre-order your copy today.

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