When I meet someone new, they often ask what I do. When I respond that I'm a writer, the inevitable follow-up question is, "What do you write about?" I write about my passions, which are faith and fashion. Whitney Bauck of Unwrinkling shares those passions.
I first saw Whitney last year at Christian Fashion Week, though we didn't actually meet. Connecting on Facebook a few weeks later, I went to her web site and when I saw this, she had me forever: "Unwrinkling exists to engage fashion in a way that doesn't embarrass God or thinking people." She looks at fashion from a very exciting perspective, tackling problems within the industry and encouraging people to view fashion from an intellectual and theological viewpoint, without compromising its inherent beauty.
Whitney is a thinker, writer and photographer. She grew up in the Philippines and studied art in Chicago. She now lives in Brooklyn, NY. I'm inspired by her work and her desire to improve the fashion industry, especially in terms of sustainability.
Q: What is the mission/purpose of Unwrinkling?
A: The purpose of Unwrinkling is to create resources that help people engage fashion in a thoughtful and theologically grounded way. Basically, I think you can be smart, be a Jesus-follower, and love fashion. Unwrinkling tries to help you do all of those things in conjunction. So whether you're puzzling through the moral implications of shopping at fast fashion outlets or trying to figure out how a breastfeeding model on the cover of Elle relates to the Virgin Mary, Unwrinkling is there to help.
Q: How do fashion and faith connect for you?
A: I've loved fashion since I was little, but didn't start pursuing it as a career until I became convinced that the God of the Bible was genuinely invested in it. So I got into fashion because of my faith, and that faith informs how I want to see fashion change - I want to see it become an industry that better protects its laborers and the environment, that honors diverse images and voices, and that serves (rather than taking advantage of) its consumers.
My faith is also influenced by my experience and understanding of the fashion industry. This industry is part of the context and community in which I live, which means it can't help but influence the lens through which I see faith.
Q: What exactly is ethical fashion, and why are you passionate about it?
A: There's a lot of complexity baked into that little phrase. But for the sake of keeping it short, I'll say this: Fashion isn't neutral. There are real human and environmental costs to every clothing purchase you or I make, or to every textile sourcing decision a designer makes. "Ethical fashion," then, is made according to a rightly-aligned moral compass. This can take into account everything from how wool-bearing sheep are raised to garment factory workers' rights to unionize, but the end goal is to make fashion that does good, not ill, in the world.
I'm passionate about ethical fashion because the call to care for the poor and oppressed and to care for the planet are so clear in the Bible.
Q: What is the most pressing need in the fashion industry, in your opinion?
A: Supply chain reform. I dream of a world in which clothing is made without any harm coming to the planet or to the people who make clothing. That seems like it should be a no-brainer, but we sadly have a long way to go before we're there.
Q: How would you define your fashion aesthetic?
A: I asked a few of my fashion-savvy friends to describe my style, and this is what they came up with:
Wendy from Peter Pan decides to become one of the Lost Boys, but still holds on to her Victorian femme roots, and Never Never Land is like a modern day city.
DIY streetwear thrift store junkie with touches of classy female.
Most popular girl in school steals her jock boyfriend's jacket, rides away on a motorcycle, then founds an artist commune in an exotic locale to use her powers for good.
Q: What inspires you?
A: I'm inspired by art and artists. My background is in fine art photography, and I love learning from artists of all mediums, so I often surround myself with actors, musicians, painters and poets. One of my mentors described artists as "those who stay longer," alluding to the way that being an artist requires you to notice, to stop, to dive deeper into your experience of something in order to digest it and eventually relay it to the rest of the world in the form of a work of art. It doesn't always work this way, of course, but I think for many artists, that mode of being turns them into the kind of people who know how to be deeply present wherever they are. That's worth a lot to me.
Q: What do you like to do in your free time?
A: Read, dance, eat good food, go to concerts/plays/museums, have obnoxiously long conversations about issues that matter to me, stay up too late with people I love.
Photos by Natalie Collins.