For those who prefer a dash of prayer mixed in with their partying this holiday season, look no further than New York-based boutique JF & Son, which has collaborated with artist Julia Sherman on a collection of high-fashion nun’s habits. Worried about authenticity? The crepe de chine robes, indigo-colored cloaks, and burlap print leggings were created as part of a new wardrobe for Mother Mary Magdalene and the Sisters of The Community of Compassion in Virginia.
Mother Mary approached Sherman after the newly appointed Abbess found her on the Internet. “[Mother Mary] was faced with the challenge of designing and producing a habit for her community on a shoestring budget and with limited resources,” Sherman explained. “She described herself as having been a real lover of fashion before she took her vows, and she was excited about the design potential of the habit. It was an opportunity to connect to the history of monastic communities while expressing the unique identity of her order.”
Sherman thought of JF & Son’s past work with talents like Amy Yao and Zachary Leener, proposing to “design certain elements of the habit and additional ‘habit-inspired’ pieces to be sold in their store. A cape, hood, beaded collar, ‘sleevelets,’ and silk undergarments would go to the sisters, but would also be available in the store as ready-to-wear winter collection.” Sherman added, “As Mother Mary puts it, she has seen true poverty, and she would not wish that on anyone. The life of a contemporary nun is difficult enough, so why shouldn't the sisters feel beautiful and confident in their habits? If you were going to wear the same outfit for the rest of your life, you’d want it to be well-designed too.”
JF & Son’s founder Jesse Finkelstein noted that Mother Mary wanted some looks to work outside of the convent, since many of the nuns hold down normal 9-to-5 jobs. “We achieved this partly through layering – the looks resonate very differently as they're put together,” Finkelstein said. “In this way, a simple flannel and wool dress can be worn regularly, but the addition of a velvet scapular gestures back to the religious tradition. In general, we didn't create too much of a division between convent styles and workaday styles, as the goal of the project was to adopt religious iconography for everyday styles.”
Finkelstein and partner Katie King have been keeping busy with the relaunch of JF & Son’s website and the expansion of the brand’s overseas studio. “We're doing a three-way collaboration with Grey Area and Francesca Dimattio to launch a line of sheets and quilted duvets, which will be coming out during the holidays,” Finkelstein mentioned. “In April, we're exhibiting a line of dresses made with the artist Louise Despont, and later in the summer we're working with the artist Travis Meinolf to launch a line of menswear. We're also hoping to produce a fashion show for fall-winter 2012-2013.”
JF & Son and Sherman’s Community of Compassion will be feted this Friday with a reception open to the public at 56 University Place from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. featuring a vocal performance by Juelz/Sean interpreting the chants of 12th century Abbess Hildegard Von Bingen. The garments can be purchased at the storefront and at jfandson.com.