Christian Fashion Week Highlights Style and Strong Faith While Grappling With Touchy Issue of Modesty

Ailiya Bai, 30, of San Antonio, Fla., wore one of Viji Reddy's designs. (Credit: Melissa Lyttle for The New York Times)
Ailiya Bai, 30, of San Antonio, Fla., wore one of Viji Reddy’s designs. (Credit: Melissa Lyttle for The New York Times)

As Tom Ford presented his fall 2015 collection in the modern Sodom of Los Angeles, and Marc Jacobs tended his “garden in hell” in Gotham-Gomorrah, around 300 Christians were gathering here for a fashion extravaganza of their own.

There were no buyers from Bergdorf Goodman, or celebrities moving in slow security phalanxes. But Jayson and Silva Emerian, a Presbyterian couple from Fresno, Calif., were among the spectators Feb. 20 at the Vault, a bank turned party space downtown. “I’m just here to support my wife,” said Mr. Emerian, a general contractor.

Mrs. Emerian was gathering material for her blog, On My Shoebox.

“She’s big on shoes,” Mr. Emerian explained.

“Who isn’t?” said Mrs. Emerian, nudging him playfully before turning serious. “I think fashion is so important because it really represents yourself — how you see yourself, how you want others to see you. I want to show the young girls in our church that you can be stylish and still have a strong faith.”

Or, as Mr. Emerian said, “You don’t have to look like a slut.”

The models who would come down the runway shortly thereafter, however, were hardly dressed like nuns. Though none of the 11 designers scheduled for the hourlong presentation showed anything as outré as the utterly transparent dress Mr. Jacobs had offered, or Mr. Ford’s top cut to the solar plexus, there were plenty of skintight leggings, thigh-grazing miniskirts and clingy T-shirts among the women, even as many of the men donned monastic hoods.

Ah, well, as the old throw pillow goes, “The higher the heel, the closer to heaven.”

The issue of feminine modesty has bedeviled Christian Fashion Week, as it is known, though this year the runway show was confined to one evening. The rest is a series of parties, panels and prayer circles, founded three years ago by two other married couples: Jose Gomez, an entrepreneur who, among many other projects, helps churches amp up their Web presence; Mayra Gomez, a former model who once appeared on Janice Dickinson’s reality show and now runs TruModel, a mentoring program for young women; Tamy Lugo, a stylist; and Wil Lugo, a graphic designer.

In their objective to remake the cold and cruel fashion world with love, sweet love, they summon to mind the Paul Mazursky movie “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice,” minus the infidelity and wife-swapping.

Mr. Gomez, who has a goatee and kindly manner, and is also an ordained minister, is the obvious leader of the group. The night before the fashion show, he huddled on a stiff modernist couch in the lobby of the Aloft hotel at a “V.I.P. Rendezvous” attended by models, stylists and audience members paying up to $50 for admission, and explained how his creation has evolved from a simple showcase for designers who happened to be Christian.

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