What is fashion theology? And what is the link between Christianity, clothing, and the textile industry? Freelance journalist and photographer Whitney Bauck, creator and host of the blog Unwrinkling, gives us a glimpse into the world of fashion and religion, and how the two worlds are, and should be, related. This is a fascinating conversation into something few people actually know about.
The conversation begins with a little background on Whitney, from her roots as the daughter of missionaries in the Philippines to her time at Wheaton College, and finally to how she came to create a website devoted to the link between faith and fashion. Her passion for the topic started young, while in school in Manila and exposed to a diversity of cultural customs and a world of poverty. This passion was furthered in college where she was able to work her interest in art and clothing into every one of her classes that she took at Wheaton. Indeed, she recalls fondly how she convinced a professor to allow her to write on fashion for her art history class even though that theme was a bit off topic for the course. This further spurred Whitney onwards to think more critically about the linkage between clothing, consumer choices, and the textile industry, and to eventually develop a blog devote to the subject.
The next topic to fall under our gaze is Christian Fashion Week, an event that Whitney attended and wrote about in a recent article in Christianity Today (see link below). Whitney notes how this event is in its third year of existence and is not merely a “runway show.” She discusses the various discussion panels that were hosted, including ones on ethical labor practices and environmental concerns. Interestingly, a number of these panels were inspired by Whitney’s conversations with the organizers of the event who were very open to her comments. We also discuss some of the themes that were addressed during Christian Fashion Week, including the ever-discussed topic of “modesty.” We also discuss the C.A.R.E. approach to doing business in the fashion world, which is an acronym for Contextual modesty, Affordable & sustainable fashion, Responsible use of natural resources, and Ethical hiring.
We move then into the broader topic of Christian ethics in the clothing industry and Whitney talks about two businesses that she has written about recently that put these ethics into practice — Sseko Designs and the Akola Project. The former (Sseko) takes in high-achieving women into their business in an effort to help fund their college tuition. The latter business (Akola) takes a more comprehensive approach to their employees, incorporating spiritual formation into their labor practices. Tony then challenges Whitney on the topic of sweatshop labor noting that some boycotts of sweatshop factories might force the employees of these businesses into worse alternatives such as picking garbage or prostitution. Whitney notes that the issue of boycotts is complicated, but that boycotts can put pressure on industries to improve workplace conditions. She then reviews how consumers can make better choices in their garments with a seven step process to ethical consumerism.
Click here to read more.
SOURCE: Research on Religion