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At the age of 64, style sensation Lyn Slater is in a sartorial league of her own. Also known as The Accidental Icon, Slater joins the ranks of luminary women helming a new greynaissance movement in fashion.
Lyn slater’s ascent to fame began as most stories of celebrity seem to do – by accident. Slater recalls standing on the steps of New York Fashion Week waiting for a friend when she caught the eye of a photographer whose images catapulted her to internet stardom. With a following of over 500 thousand followers, Slater is celebrated for her striking eclecticism that she infuses with a subversive charm. “I stood out and so I got attention a bit more quickly than I might have if I followed the rules,” admits the social justice professor. At 64, Slater revels in the radical freedom of experimentation and pleasure of self expression. Moving past theories of convention, Slater’s brand of creativity reflects a refreshing responsiveness to femininity, experience, and self-representation.
I want to control my own representation, which I think is the most important issue for our time.Lyn Slater
LYN SLATER: It really was accidental. I was meeting a friend for lunch, and my campus is like a block away from the Lincoln Center. It was during fashion week and the photographers were around, and they started taking my pictures. When my friend showed up she was laughing because I was surrounded by these people, and she said, “oh, you’re like an accidental icon.” I had the first post ready but I could not think of a name for my blog, and when she said that, I thought “that’s perfect”.
LS: I really love clothes. I love writing. I loved creating content, and so I’m just following my passion. At the start, I had no idea what could even happen to me. I had no contacts in fashion, I knew nobody in fashion. So I just started to put myself out there and see what happened. I guess the best way to say it is that I became a paradigm, or I challenged categories of age in fashion. But that was never my intent. It happened coincidentally I think in a way, because I focused on being a creative first. When you are showing something that resonates with a cultural moment, people respond to it.
LS: I always used clothes. Even as a little kid I had this perfect, formative relationship to clothes where I was always dressing up. I would dress up and imagine myself as characters that I read about in books. I always loved clothes as a tool to sort of play around with different characters and identities. I was always interested in performing. You know, I always wanted to experiment with being. And particularly, when I was in school, I would be in plays and I would write plays. I have always loved writing. I guess I’m really into communication. I’ve just always tapped into the different ways that we can use signs and symbols and communicate about our culture.
LS: I was already very disillusioned with the mainstream fashion magazines- 90% of them were indistinguishable and they followed this very formulaic approach; ‘this is what I’m wearing today, this is where you can buy it’. So I decided that I was going to do something very different. I decided that I was not going to have a target market. The person that I wanted to speak to was anybody; no matter who you were, no matter what your nationality.
LS: For me, fashion is a system. It’s like government. That means there’s a lot of power attached to it. It’s very evident how much power fashion and clothing have in terms of how others perceive you. And for me, I always like to know who has the power in this situation? What is my power? I want to control my own representation, which I think is the most important issue for our time.
Really spend time trying to figure out your passion.Lyn Slater
LS: No, I think what I’m doing now has nothing to do with age. I think I’ve always looked different and I was always rebellious. I think that comes from the time I grew up in- it was a very revolutionary, rebellious time. As a small child I would put together outfits and perform roles using clothes. Many of my characters and their sensibilities I kind of had my whole life. I always had that trait and it always transferred into the way I thought about dressing. I never mention age. I don’t do age things because I think that for me, real inclusion means that designs, beauty products and cosmetics are made for all women. All women love fashion and beauty and get pleasure from it. I think that’s why a lot of young people are very drawn to me because I’m challenging a category in the same way.
LS: I think style is a way to express your personal identity. I think when a woman has that vision of style and is are aware of who they are and what they want to communicate, they have true style. Those are the women who you would say, “wow, they really have style”. You can take the same Chanel suit and put it on two different women and one will look just amazing, and the other you could barely notice.
LS: I think my favourite piece of advice is to really spend time trying to figure out your passion. Then go out and start finding other people who are passionate about the same thing. It doesn’t and should not be people in the same field or area. For example, I’m passionate about fashion but I don’t hang out with other fashion bloggers, I hang out with young fashion designers, I hang out with photographers, I hang out with technology people. They’re all passionate about fashion, but we’re looking at it from a lot of different ways. I think that it really helps me to be more creative.
LS: I have no goals. My only goal has been my motivation in doing it which I think has probably made it successful. It is the pleasure I get from being creative. I started this expression because I found academia to be increasingly more constraining especially in terms of how you can express yourself. It’s becoming very corporatised, so it is important to me to express myself as a creative person in the world.
Lyn Slater is an academic, former social worker, Professor of Social Justice at Fordham University and fashion blogger at her site The Accidental Icon. Frustrated with the creative limitations of academic life Lyn decided to experiment with fashion as a means of self-expression taking sartorial risks as a reminder that she was still very much alive and present. She continues her work as Professor of Social Justice as well as her work on The Accidental Icon and brand collaborations.