Sartorial Freedom & Religious Symbolism

The Crown

Coenrad Demol


'The Crown' debut at the South African Fashion Week Spring/Summer 18 collections, as one of the most sartorial intricate collections SAFW has seen since its founding in the late 90's. Surface analysis could easily box and package it as an attention seeking collection with a slight chance of sparking a bit of controversy but that's just swimming on the shallow ends of understanding creativity.

Coenrad Demol, costume designer turned cotoure designer is well known for his attention to detail, timeless design and fine craftsmanship. Mentor and teacher for young designers currently learning patterning making and garment construction through a program launched by South African retailer Edcon and runway production called 21 steps to retail. He has grasped the meaning weaving to perfection.

In his latest collection inspired by robes worn by the pope and other religious leaders he aimed to give thanks to God and make an offering that closed old chapters to make way for new ones; a religious narrative carefully documented and repeated in all Torah. The use of symbols is what got our attention. Having partnered with E.G jewellery they have carefully curated a beautiful story of how fashion can transcend trends, fluff and speak to real life situations. Most importantly how it can be used as a medium to communicate those messages.

Let's us unpack some of the religious symbols used and give their meaning:


The cross

The cross symbolises the death of Christ. It places the psyche of believers at the place of the skull or Golgotha where they believe the greatest event in human history happen. God gave His son, carried in the symbols of the Old Testament in using a scape goat for the sins of the children of Israel, for the sins of all His creations.

It is the greatest reason for jubilation amongst Christians because Christ overcame sin, death and all manner of suffering. The event was also a testament of God's love for His children. This is where all talks of gratitude begin, thus the use of this in a collection that's dedicated to giving thanks to God.


The circle intertwined With the triangle

The circle stands for the macrocosmic unknowable spirit of God, the fullness, from which all revelation evolves, and which embraces all creation. From the circle emerges the triangle meaning the divine spirit in its threefold revelation father, son, and holy spirit.

The use of this may symbolise the designer's awe of the power of deity and his workings in the designers life he cannot verbally articulate.



The Chi-rho is formed by superimposing the first two (capital) letters—chi and rho (ΧΡ)—of the Greek word ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ (Christos) in such a way that the vertical stroke of the rho intersects the center of the chi.

In most cases this is a symbol of Christ and is often drawn with alpha & omega on either side to relay that Christ is the beginning and the end.

In the designer's case he explained that he had gone through a dark period in his life leading up to the creation of the collection but that a new dawn was on the horizon for his life. Thus, a reason to give thanks.


The use Of white

White has always been the color of choice for the Pope, seen as early as 1566. It is referenced a lot in the bible as well. It symbolises purity, in universal use on wedding dresses- virginity, cleanliness and innocence in some instances.

For purposes of this collection it represents both the purity of the designers offering (like the lambs in the Old Testament - without spot) to God and the innocence/virginity of his new journey.


As the title makes reference to sartorial freedom; this is reflected in how the designer's undertook to repurpose the iconic symbols used in religion for a collection that blurs the gender byline. A collection that contains social undertones that not only challenge the teaching of masculinity or the performance of it but goes against it. It also dismisses patriarchal culture as enclosed in the Septuagint, redefines being manly, sticks it to the capitalist who benefits from the divide and ultimately presents an ironic critique of the South African consumerism.

This is what being a 'dada' means. Merging different worlds in a conversation had in the seams, interwoven to perfection as the ultimate token to pay respect to deity. In the same process leading masses to a new dawn of fashion that focuses on expressing style by what you wear not worrying about the gender boxes society has created  for everyone to fit in. Fashion is how we talk to each other, how we express our attitudes, beliefs and ideas.