When asked if she could provide an elevator pitch for her latest artistic endeavor, World Ink Project (WIP), founder Carrie Beth Waghorn readily complied, though only after having to ask what exactly an elevator pitch is. Adorable.
Whatever Waghorn lacks in knowledge of business jargon, she makes up for in spades with creative talent. We've already gushed over her women-driven art and told a bit of her heart wrenching personal story in a City Paper article last year, but since then, Waghorn has once again turned her hand to the female form — only this time, her medium is clothing.
WIP is a fashion line. Every piece of the inaugural, 10-piece collection, which launched June 1, is sewn, dyed, and painted by hand, Waghorn's own, to be precise, and buyers can expect a new collection each month. She sources her fabric from fairtrade retailers, and everything is made of untreated, raw, natural fibers (usually cotton or linen). The process is intimate, involved, and frankly, takes a long time. "These collections are truly an extension of my portfolio: it's another form of art," asserts Waghorn. Because each garment is crafted one at a time, no two will ever be exactly alike. And the collections are inclusive of most body types: each design is available in two sizes, as Waghorn has no desire to "size discriminate." The catch? Once they sell, they're gone.
So where does her inspiration for these one-of-a-kind garments stem from? Why, the ladies of course. "I'm enamored by the lines and curves of women's bodies," says Waghorn, "and excited to create clothes for them!" Her designs transcend the physical, however. For example, if she meets a vibrant person, Waghorn will channel the way that person made her feel, and use that as a jumping off point for a new composition.
As for whatever the painter's equivalent to writer's block may be, that hasn't affected Waghorn yet. "Sometimes my creations are spontaneous; I'll just stare at it until something resonates with me, like a particular color, and then it evolves from there. Sometimes the ideas just come to you." We certainly hope that remains the case for a long, long time.
And while she may still be brushing up on her lingo, Waghorn obviously has a knack for commerce. If you take a look at WIP's website, you'll notice immediately that this is not some self-taught seamstress' novice foray into an Etsy store. For starters, Waghorn called in editorial photographer Lindsey Shorter, whom she met a few times in person and whose "calm exuberance" and "stunning portfolio" she found particularly attractive, so she had high quality professional photos before the website was even made.
The savvy Waghorn describes her process: "I started with a high-fashion, editorial photoshoot in these amazing homes in downtown Charleston, and it was so energizing to see my clothing on actual models in this beautiful setting. Lindsey is a dream to work with; it all felt so organized, and I realized that the way you present clothing is just as important as the pieces themselves."
Furthermore, WIP's Squarespace website is also Waghorn's own design, which for someone who'd rather be naked with her paints, is no small feat. She laughs while recalling that, "the first two days the website was up, no one could select a size!" Like any successful business person comes to realize eventually, no woman is an island. Waghorn acknowledges that she may need help down the line, like someone who can follow the patterns which she's already created so she can spend more time painting a piece than sewing it. She loves Charleston for what she calls the "Hey, I got you!" attitude of friends, and their level of willingness to show up for one another.
- Lindsey Shorter Photography
In that vein, a percentage of each garment WIP sells is donated to an organization that supports women, like the Florence Crittenton Home, to name one. Because Waghorn does everything herself, she relies on her local network for support. By giving back to her community, she creates a defined, traceable flow of karmic synergy. So when you buy your first (or next!) garment from her line, know that you, too, are part of that positive interaction with your community.
In addition to this micro win, you'll also feel good about the macro impact you can have on the environment. WIP is the antithesis of the garbage-in, garbage-out, 52-seasons-of-disposable-fashion frenzy, popularized by contemporary clothing brands. Remember back in 2010 when we found out that H&M slashed then trashed all their unsold garments to avoid re-sell opportunities? How sick is that? Between child labor, unlivable wages, carbon footprint, and landfill overcrowding, there are any number of compelling reasons why you should keep your dollars in your own community.
We don't need any more reasons to shop WIP, but just in case your mouse is still hovering over the "Purchase Now" button, here's one more: the garments are machine washable. The ink is set — it will fade a little over time, but that only adds to the garment's intrigue by softening the pattern. Just use the cool setting on your washer, and "never, ever use the dryer!" Waghorn pleads.
So go ahead; click, wear, be the talk of the town, wash, repeat. And do it now: this collection will be gone faster than H&M's "Summer Collection 1,283.3" has hit the Dumpsters.
Peruse all the goods at worldinkproject.com.