Annapolitan designer debuts apparel for female clergy
Andrea Blackstone | 4/17/2015, 8:16 a.m.
ANNAPOLIS, Md. On March 18, 2015, a premiere party was held at Loews Annapolis Hotel to celebrate the television debut of Bishop Craig Coates’ clothing line, Modern Priestwear. Coates, 48, designed a dress that was worn by actress Nicole Ari Parker on “Single Ladies,” during the opening of the fourth season. The TV series that is produced by Queen Latifah airs on Centric and BET.
Coates’ TV break emerged when Anthony L. Williams, the head clothing designer for “Single Ladies,” was in search of clergy wear for Parker’s TV role. The Atlanta-based designer, consultant and “Project Runway” All Star contacted Coates about his design for women clergy. The inquiry resulted in a favorable outcome. Parker, who plays a pastor, has reportedly worn several of Coates’ dresses. The actress will be wearing his designs throughout the current season of “Single Ladies.”
“It just so happens to be fashionable, appropriate and classy. They loved it!” Coates said.
The pastor of Fresh Start Church in Glen Burnie has been designing clothing since high school. He studied fashion design at the University of Maryland, College Park. Coates even made his wife’s wedding dress. Whenever the couple attends a special event, Coates said that he makes something fabulous especially for Lady Sheree. Coates explained that his wife has been supportive since the moment he decided to start Modern Priestwear.
The genesis of the company has a noteworthy backstory. Coates previously focused on making and selling clergy apparel for men, until he decided to make a special gift for Pastor Candice Owens’ installation at the Kingdom Agenda Church, when she started a church in Baltimore. After Coates made the dress that she wore, pictures of Owens wearing it were posted on Facebook. A large volume of comments and Facebook “likes” followed, so the designer had a feeling that he was on the right path.
“After that, I said let me test this dress, since I am going to go global with my company. That is how that dress came to be,” Coates said. “I want to rebrand what women clergy look like. I’m redefining it because everything that is out there eithers looks like it was made for a man, or the clergy robes that are made for women look like menswear with darts (which bring together folds of fabric to provide shape of the garment) in the waistline and the bust for women. I just feel like women for so long have walked in a man’s shadow with ministry, we’ve got to catch up here.”
The talented pastor shared that several organizations who have women ministers in their group want Coates’ modern look to be worn by all of them. Coates also said that clergywear is like other fashion trends. Creating new designs is required in order for him to compete in a global market.
“I expect this dress to be in style for a very long time, but I expect for people to look for more and I have to produce more. I have learned a lot more about the design process from a commercial end versus just sewing for individuals. It’s a big difference and it takes a lot of money,” Coates said.
The pastor is grateful that Modern Priestwear has progressed well within the last year, but Coates shared that he feels that more work will be required to grow his business in the direction in which he is headed.
While enjoying his new journey, he reflects on how bringing wisdom to the table can be beneficial while striving to meet goals. Coates believes that it is never too late to pursue passions. He reminds us that people should not feel deterred by time that has passed, if they are actively committed to pursuing a dream or new endeavor.
“If it is your passion, your age should not be the thing that stops you from going forward,” Coates said.