Simon Ward is retiring as chief operating officer of the British Fashion Council after 30 years in the industry. He's moving on to work for the Diocese of London.
What makes a fashion boss want to work for the Church – an institution that many would consider unfashionable?
Simon seems to have no problem marrying fashion and faith. He has been a key player in organising London Fashion Week and the British Fashion Awards, but is passionate about making connections between the creative industries and the world of faith.
Also a worship leader, blogger, author and former operatic tenor, the head of British fashion writes and sings his own songs, drawing on the Bible for inspiration.
Appropriately, one of his songs finishes with the phrase: "Your truth never goes out of fashion, I can always walk with my head held high" – a verse taken directly from a modern translation of Psalm 119.
Simon was brought up going to church but "escaped the religious stuff" as soon as he could as a teenager and only committed his life to Jesus as a young adult, when his parents persuaded him to return to church and he had a life-changing encounter with God on a youth camp.
The fashion industry has often been criticised as a narcissistic manifestation of our image-obsessed society and associated with child labour, sweat shops, skinny models, sexual exploitation and vanity. But Simon insists that darker side is also about the celebration of creativity and talent – God-given gifts.
"I love the links that can be found between God, the Bible, fashion and culture.
"[Fashion is] such an important thing and a really vibrant industry. Traditionally, the Church has tended to have a negative view of fashion, but I always point to Exodus 28 – the subtitle of which is 'Priestly Garments'. There's a whole chapter dedicated to it," he laughs.
"Lots of imagery in the Bible is about garments and clothing. God is interested in these things – God is a designer, bursting with creativity and constantly making things and innovating very visually and tangibly. It's incredible.
"God is creativity. He created the earth, he created the seasons – he made it so that we need to wear different things at different times of the year.
"Fashion definitely has the ability to enslave, to become a mask and people use it to hide their insecurities, and I think that's really sad," . "But we have to explore how fashion can be used exclusively for good.
God is a designer ... He is creativity"For the last few years and some other Christians in the industry have organised a Day of Prayer during London Fashion Week. It gives me a chance to email everyone in the organisation and let them know it's happening, and ask if there's anything they want prayer for.
"People are always very responsive to that, I've really never experienced any negativity."
Simon believes the high profile of fashion, its importance to such a large number of people and the size of the industry make it "a huge opportunity for the gospel".
"However, in the aggressively secular environment prevalent in the creative world, making headway will require industry-wide vision, bold action, and a framework of organised prayer and support," he concludes.
With this in mind, his friend Christina Abbott of fashion house Burberry has begun a Facebook page called HTB Fashion Network to encourage prayer and Christian networking among those in the fashion industry.?
Read Simon's blog and more information on his website www.simonwardlondon.com