Have you ever met someone and could immediately see their heart through their smile? When you knew right away they are a good and pure and kind person? That's how I felt when I met Qwynne Winslow at Christian Fashion Week in Tampa, Florida in 2015. Her giant smile drew me to her but her genuine and sweet personality and desire to help others is what garnered my respect.
Qwynne, founder of The Refinery, is an image consultant in Florida, and she had quite an interesting journey getting there. Don't we all? Maybe you're still on your journey. I hope Qwynne's story inspires you to discover the fearless female (or male) inside of you!
Hi Qwynne! Please tell me a little about yourself.
I was raised on what we call a "ranchette" in rural, southwest Florida with two older brothers and lots of cows, gators and other animals. After being homeschooled I attended a large public high school where I was in for the culture shock of my life (haha). I attended college at the wonderful little Judson University, in Chicagoland, where I studied Psychology and History. After working various jobs for a couple of years, including some political ones and an internship on Capitol Hill, I attended Regent University for a Master's degree in International Politics, thus accomplishing a long term educational goal.
My career interests were shifting and though I was passionate about just governance, I decided not to pursue political work for the time being. I did event and communications work for a while in Virginia and then moved back to home sweet home Florida to be close to family. My interest in style and image was growing and I pursued work in various fields of the fashion industry. My enjoyment of style plus a desire to teach and equip people led me to study image consulting and I worked to obtain internationally recognized certifications in Image Consulting for both men and women.
In addition to my study I consider myself an expert on image and style in part because I have made so many rookie mistakes through the years that I wish I had been taught to avoid! As you can imagine with my upbringing, I had a lot to learn about fashion, even though I did love style from an early age. I loved clothing so much, in part because my mother supplied me with beautifully-clad dolls, Barbies and coloring books featuring glamorous subjects ranging from First Ladies to Disney Princesses.
Experiences, even hard ones, often influence our life tracks. In addition to loving pretty clothes, I went through a very difficult but formative stretch as I struggled with my own image. I am grateful to have been raised in a wonderful Christian home, but even there I was not immune to the relentless influence of the world's narrow beauty and image standards. I felt sharp pressure to look, dress and be a certain way.
As I strained to measure up, I got stuck in some damaging mentalities and behaviors. In time God graciously and miraculously worked to heal me; heart first, mind and habits second. He also brought wonderful people around me to speak truth and help teach me about true beauty and my unique image and gifting. I began to see myself the way He does, which is fantastic! Haha, He is the ultimate Image Consultant!
How would you define your fashion aesthetic?
I would describe my own personal aesthetic as eclectic. Depending on whom I'm going to be around, how I want to be perceived or what mood I happen to be in, I will don anything from a sleek, black secret agent-looking getup to a jumble of super sweet florals, to rigorously classic, to exotic, to boho, to skater chick, to artistic, to athleisure apparel. But with my many looks I try to wear cuts and colors that flatter me.
My goal as an Image Consultant is to bring out and showcase each person's unique assets and aesthetic. I teach principles of dress, but I want people to find and enjoy their own fashion voice. There are a lot of cookie cutter styles out there that are not right for many people. I want to foster fashion individuality and help people avoid trend mistakes.
Image and style is not just for women, either. Many men would benefit greatly from a little image and style coaching. Additionally, having a strategic image in the workplace can be invaluable. Your image plays a sustantial role in how people react to you in social and professional environments. Through my years as a professional, traveling internationally, being in political and academic spheres, working with VIPs and in fancy event environments, as well as just being in a family of savvy businessmen, I have noticed the power of personal presentation.
Image consulting goes beyond styling because you can address more than just clothing choices and work on things like body language, grooming and communication, which are all important to forming a good impression. Not everyone thinks about these details. That being said, I don't think absolute perfection is the goal, but situational awareness is a goal. No one will ever be perfect and I am aware of areas where I want to improve. But, I do know that because of how I have dressed and the impressions I have made, I have frequently influenced people to think more of me than is actually warranted in some cases, lol. I also know that I "shot myself in the foot," so to speak, because of how I looked or communicated. Details make a difference and can work for or against you, especially in initial impressions. But image will only help you so much and your character will be what helps or hurts you long term.
What is the mission/purpose of The Refinery?
I created The Refinery for a plethora of reasons. A. I enjoy people. B. Sometimes I see people who could look sooo much better with a few tweaks and I ache to help them. C. I REALLY like clothes. D. I want to help people develop style and image mastery and confidence. I believe there are style principles but that there is a lot of freedom and flexibility in style!
How do fashion and faith connect for you?
Fashion and faith are definitely connected, in my perspective! I see fashion as a creative art form and I see God as the ultimate creative artist. I think creating ensembles is a happy usage of our God-given ability to create things that are visually pleasing and have value.
Like a great work of art, an outfit can evoke a mental or emotional response in the wearer or observer and that can be purposeful. The Bible, furthermore, mentions various forms of apparel and they can have significance. I like that the Proverbs 31 woman clothes herself in fine linen and purple and her family in scarlet, and that Ecclesiastes talks about wearing nice clothes. I understand there are different budgets for apparel but I think, within reason, investing in apparel that looks nice and will last a while is fine.
As for image consulting, the foundation of a great image is confidence in who you are, even with your imperfections. I believe that we are created in God's image and it is His value for us, not our looks, talents, status or accomplishments, that dictate our value. He also created each of us with distinctive features and strengths that are all for a strategic purpose. Because He loves us, we can better love ourselves.
What is the most pressing need in the fashion industry, in your opinion?
I see a few pressing needs in the fashion industry. I'll be honest, I have not researched this thoroughly, so I am basing this off of what I've heard, but apparently there is a human and environmental toll taken with the prominence of what is called "fast fashion." Some say that factory workers are not treated well and that the high consumption of cheap clothing made from cheap material is bad for the environment.
Additionally, I think there is a real need for more and better fashion options for people who need larger sizes than what many stores carry. Also, from personal observation, I would love to see higher style work-wear options for professional women.
And, this will be old news for many, but the fashion and beauty industry helps propagate an image of the "ideal look" that I think is bogus and is discouragingly unattainable for many. Happily, I do see a trend toward healthiness being promoted.
What inspires you?
What inspires me? I want to see people reach their image potential and not hinder themselves by their self-presentation. And I just enjoy seeing beautiful things, be they jewelry, sunsets, works of art, well-designed and decorated spaces and well-curated styles.
What do you like to do in your free time?
In my free time I enjoy being outside, spending time with friends and family, discovering great restaurants and good movies, baking, exploring, walking in places with great views, and reading about history and current events.
For more from Qwynne, please visit www.therefinery-imageandstyle.com.
Photos used with permission.