Kirk Damasco is co-Managing Partner of Worship Generation, a chain of 20 retail stores selling Christian-themed merchandise since 2013. One of the key trends I identified with Chiqui Escareal-Go in 2014 was the increasing popularity of Christian-themed shirts. We predicted that Jesus T-shirts will be massive, especially after a calamity. When faced with many challenges, people tend to look for a spiritual or philosophical explanation to events and religion as a “balm for healing and comfort” remains strong in the Philippines. Kirk shares his insights about the psychology of religious fashion.
Q1: What was the unmet need you were trying to satisfy when you set up your stores selling religious T-shirts?
A: Worship Generation’s aim is embodied in its tagline, ‘make worship a lifestyle.’ It is our goal to provide people the means to express their faith, passion, and love for Jesus in and through the merchandise that they use and wear, and in the process, evangelize to others.
We recognize that when people deeply believe something that has immensely touched them, they couldn’t help but desire to share it to and with others. They would overflow, naturally. Such is the nature and effect of the Gospel, of the Good News of what Jesus Christ did on the cross — with that one and complete sacrifice, God made man right, saved him from the curse and power of sin, and assured him of a full and eternal life. And when someone has realized and personally experienced this powerful reality, his/her life is radically impacted and changed.
Apart from taking his/her relationship with Jesus more seriously by investing time in growing in the faith, the person in a sense becomes a ‘satisfied customer’ and therefore would be excited to tell people about it.
And this is where Worship Generation comes in. For while we recognize that our products do not by an measure change people per se, they serve as media for people to ‘wear their faith on their sleeves’ and in an unobtrusive way, share the Good News to people who see them, to people who interact with them.
This is both humbling and overwhelming for us. It is humbling for us to participate in our own little way in in the building of God’s Kingdom and in obedience to God’s Great Commission – of spreading the Gospel to all nations. And it is overwhelming because we see, tangibly, that people are excited to join us in making worship a lifestyle.
Q2: You sell many shirts quoting Bible verses. Why do you think people buy them?
A: The Bible is an integral part of the life of a Christian. It is the revealed Word of God that, according to Paul’s letter to Timothy, “is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
For a Christian who has surrendered his life to Christ, whether he/she is new in the faith or has achieved considerable maturity, the Bible constantly serves as the “life manual” for the many things that they face in life’s different seasons. Most Christians have what is referred to as “life verses” – verses from Scripture that they hold on to in a specific season of their life or even in their life in its entirety.
We try to capture these things in the texts and designs of our shirts.
These shirts speak to people. And in the same as it speaks to them, they would desire it to speak to others as well.
Q3: Which religious shirt is most popular so far?
A: The most popular shirt so far is the ‘Team Jesus’ design.
Q4: Icon singer Madonna made rosary beads a style statement in her provocative concert tour in 1984. This has inspired others to put Christian symbols like crosses as design on their clothes. Do you see Christian symbolism-inspired fashion growing parallel to your wholesome market segment? Why or why not?
A: That is a possibility. For the power of the symbol lies in the meaning behind it. And Christianity certainly has a lot of symbols throughout the years.
The way we see it is that it would be up to the body of Christ, the church, to revisit and if needed, rekindle and relive the meaning and message behind the many Christian symbols such that it would be create the kind of impact which it was meant to have – life-enriching and life-changing, for the greater glory of God.
Q5: What other trends in fashion do you see happening where religion or religious icons can be used as mode of expression? What can be the reason behind this?
A: One of the trends that we see now is the focus on customer experience by different brands, not just fashion. Brands strive to make the customer experience seamless and delightful thereby increasing the likelihood that they will come back and will tell others about the brand.
As a brand that primarily seeks to contribute in spreading God’s Word, we try to adapt the same thing for our stores. We strive to constantly improve our store design and ambience – making it vibrant, accessible, and relatable. Most of all, we are constantly putting premium on our customer service. For we realize that it is through customer service where we can actively engage people in the stores and we want to make the most of that opportunity not just to excellently assist them with their shopping needs but more importantly. to become faithful witnesses to the message of Jesus Christ in the calling that He has called us to do.
Ultimately, more than the clothes that people wear and more than the accessories that they use, it is the witness of an individual’s life that attracts people to the message of Jesus Christ. Such is our individual and collective challenge as professing Christians – to ultimately live-out the message written in our shirts and to really, make worship a lifestyle.
(Josiah Go is chairman of Mansmith and Fielders Inc. For full transcript as well as Josiah Go’s interviews with other thought leaders, follow his blog www.josiahgo.com)