• Beatrice Tamagnini

Holy, queer, saint, sexy and ethical - Patrick Mcdowell’s new collection Catholic’s Fairytail perfectly expresses the hot mysticism that we’ve been looking for. A fairytale where catholicism doctrines completely accept queer identities. Mcdowell's collection comes as the answer to all of us who grew up in families that are maybe too close to religion but too far from simply accepting us for who we are. Because religion for too long has impacted the way queer children grow up and internalise homophobia, they, as well as their families, are less capable of accepting, learning and teaching sexuality. See it live on on BBLS Studio at :

Growing up in Rome I can testify that if only one priest will embrace Patrick’s beautiful clothes there will probably be queues of queens lining up in front of the Vatican. My family is not Catholic and doesn’t follow anything religiously except probably the TG1 news show on RAI that goes live on the telly everyday at 8pm.. A part from the spells of television - the abandon of religion feels palpable. And even if Kayne West wants to push us to get back to churches designed by James Turrel, that old weekly Sunday ritual was lost a couple of centuries ago. If you ever step inside one of Rome’s churches and stay a little while to admire a painting, a priest will probably jump out from behind a marble column asking you to sign some kind of form to invite you to the next mass.

Churches smell like old times and they hardly know what marketing strategy is, let alone sign up emails, social media campaigns or how to profess the word of Jesus digitally. I don’t know if you were ever a victim of Hackney Church's social media campaigns - or checked out their brand identity (that btw is the work of Studio OMSE). Hackney Church translated what it’slike to go to a great gig into going to church. A strong community that speaks the language of their times. Is it a contemporary voice what Churches are actually lacking at the moment? Are Churches still speaking our language?
Pope Francis’s opinion on homosexuality is so contradictory. As Cardinal he opposed same-sex marriage and the same-sex marriage bill in Argentina in 2010, then in 2013 as Pope he repeatedly spoke about the need for the Catholic Church to welcome and love all people regardless of sexual orientation. He was named the Person of the Year by the LGBT magazine The Advocate. But then in 2019 the Pope stated that homosexual tendencies "are not a sin”, but "acting upon it is a sin" - which.... doesn’t make sense. The truth is that we haven’t yet seen a catholic same-sex marriage EVER, or heard about it since Pope Francis was elected. Because even if the Pope says so, it doesn’t mean that the 2000 year old monolith of the Catholic Church would ever become an example of anti-homophobic culture today. When it should actually profess just love and not hate.
In 1606 Caravaggio was using prostitutes to represent his Virgin Mary’s and his young lovers to represent cupids. Most of his paintings are about real people living their lives, gambling at the kitchen tables, walking bare feet in the muddy streets, singing, playing, discussing and also fighting. He was using radical cultural associations not just to provoke, but to speak to the audience of his time. In fact if you look at his colleagues you will see Saints all covered in crowns, wearing golden sandals and silky dresses. Roman churches were adorned with the world’s best marbles and its cardinals were wearing the most precious silks. As a roman citizen of the 1600s you would have probably felt astonished in front of all that opulence that was probably paid for with your, and the richest European’s, courts taxes.
Let's take as an example the painting of La Madonna dei Pellegrini (1604-1606) where Caravaggio uses the famous Roman prostitute Maddalena Antognetti (also called Lena) as the model for the Virgin Mary. The Pilgrims’ Mary is portrayed as a classic exhausted mother - no floating, no angels, no flower crowns - wearing simple clothes and caring more about holding her child safely than feeling pleased in front of the two pilgrims on her knees. Commissioned by the Roman Church the painting was Caravaggio's answer to the same Catholic Church that was weakening prostitutions laws. Many Cardinals were known to spend time with prostitutes and new Protestant churches were popping up like mushrooms. The latter was for the Catholic Church to show some rules of chastity that were so well praised by the Protestants. The fun fact is that the painting was actually commissioned for a chapel where a famous courtesan was buried - in one of Rome's most famous churches. You can still check it today: five steps away in between Piazza Navona and The Pantheon.

Caravaggio's realism is a reflection of his times that we will not have perceived otherwise. He was a visionary, a rebel of Raphael’s School (yes, angels and crowns) and he had a strong influence on the baroque’s of the XVII century, two hundreds years after his death. He found in Realism the way to communicate his political view and hopes in society. He was against the Church’s attitudes and acts - or he preferred to tell the reality instead of a fairytale. A vision that is not far from the latest message behind the beautiful genius of Patrick McDowell.
In his last collection Catholic Fairytales, McDowell reclaims the religious space that has been neglected to young queer people: “I imagine a religion which accepts and embraces all of the beautiful queer people who inhabit it.” It's not realism but works towards a beautiful imaginary that not only wants to provoke but open a wider view especially to the younger generations.

Dressing his models with catholic opulence and silver jewellery, Patrick represented his picture. Contrasting outfits defined by white alpaca handmade crochet tops and flared black trousers with Swarovski's gems at the hem. An outfit that won't go amiss on any dance floor. Sheer white gloves adorned by silver cross charms, the ☧ symbol ("Chi-Rho"- I had to google it) drawn by an infinite number of gems on the chest and painted black on the face. Cardinal sheer capes that frame an absolute beautiful satin pink bow that really reminds us of Madonna's costume worn in the 1985 pop video Material Girl - except that the model is wearing a Pope's hat covered fully in huge Swarovski's stones.

Although the hat isn’t modelled on the classic open pointed top (which Rihanna followed to the letter with her Pope costume for the “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” 2018 Met Gala ) it is curved, which according to (yes.) is used by the Pope in the winter months.
Patrick portrayed queer saints with silver jewellery and black dark metal make-up because there is a need to represent a sign of freedom for those kids that experience manipulative religious doctrines, so that they finally are capable of filtering those realities in order to live their own.

Catholic Fairy Tales is not the only message that Patrick wants to communicate in his latest collection. His research on sustainable garments and collective awareness of practises is as always astonishing. Just to mention some example the Make Up Artist, Czar Joshua Ventura, using ethical beauty such as the Bioglitz (yes biodegradable glitter), or the partnership with Silk producer Taroni, winner of the Green Carpet Award for Sustainability, and most important the collaboration with Swarovski - that lately opened Creatives for Our Future is a new global grant program designed with advisor ONU. Everything has been calculated in details and McDowell’s team showcases people who are willing to make the difference in sustainable fashion, while supporting as well The National Aids Trust (@nationalaidstrust) and The London’s leading community-based HIV charity, Positive East (@positiveeast)

I’m in love as always with Patrick’s work, and I think with this collection he reached his masterpiece.