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Franciscans get new habit designed by Milan fashion house

Franciscans in Assisi have engaged a Milan fashion designer to create a new habit for them.

The black pleated habit used by the Franciscans' Third Regular Order for 150 years, not only "weighed a ton", the friars said, but looked "clichéd," and failed to reflect their philosophy, reported a British newspaper.

Elisabetta Bianchetti, a specialist designer who has created robes for cardinals and monsignori, was brought in to produce something "simpler, cleaner, more dynamic and professional". She has now come up with a snappy, charcoal grey model in lightweight wool.

Besides being much lighter than the present black wool habit, the trim new design has breast pockets in which the brothers can keep their mobile phones.

Italian journalist Vittorio Messori was critical of the new habit. "St Francis did not distinguish between friars and the poor.. To remain faithful to that spirit today, friars should be dressing in the same way as down-and-outs. But the problem remains: Where would one keep one's mobile phone?"

Franciscan spokesman Fr Lino Temperini argued that while the design being brought in now was "new," it was in fact based on a cross between what had been worn by St. Francis himself, and an old habit designed in 1447.

He said: "To return to a more modern, humbler style, which is in fact based on a much older one, we are returning to the simplicity which we are supposed to be all about."

Franciscan friars change old habits for designer outfit