Accidental Icon is a New York-based personal blog that expresses the concept of timeless elegance. Lyn Slater, the woman behind the website, has a deep knowledge of art and an extraordinary understanding of Japanese fashion. With unique style sense, she uses clothing to dress up her emotions, evoked through the pioneering designs of Comme des Garçons, Issey Miyake and Yohji Yamamoto. Accidental Icon showcases that garments can convey beauty and intimate values no matter the age of the wearer. We are glad to feature Lyn and three looks that she excusively styled for LE PARADOX.
Lyn, you are a true style expert and tastemaker, when did you become passionate about fashion?
I have always been interested in fashion because I have always been interested in art, theater and culture. I understand the performing and improvisational nature of clothing and have used it as a way to experiment with various “selves” throughout my life, even as a child. I always used fashion as a way of investigating my identities and making a statement. I would say within the last five years I have been able to devote much more time and resources to the fashion project as my responsibilities in other areas like parenting and developing my academic career have decreased. Putting together a look is a true creative act, especially when you are thinking about what you are wearing, who made it, where it came from and why you are choosing to wear it on this day, to this place and for this experience.
Who is the Accidental Icon and how did you come up with this idea?
My “public” performance as Accidental Icon has really been a solution to the split that seemed to be operating in my life where my creative explorations had to take place outside my academic explorations. There did not seem to be a space where both could be held in my particular academic setting. So I was searching to find a container where I could integrate my intellectual and creative lives. Simultaneously, I was also coming to acceptance of the aging process and realized that fashion could offer a solution to the invisibility that often accompanies aging. I started to risk more in my style, almost like a dare, and got comments, particularly from young people, about how much they liked what I was wearing. It got to the point where everyday I was being stopped and asked about my clothes. I found this so surprising. One of the young people in a consignment store I frequent said I should start a blog. That seemed the perfect solution. So as you can see it was actually quite “accidental”.
With great elegance, you seem to express your thoughts, feelings and emotion through your outfits. What is the role of fashion nowadays? Do you see it as an important tool of communication?
Fashion has the potential to and does communicate at the individual, group and societal levels. It is also shaped by political and economic forces, communicates class and status and holds the capacity to include both productive and oppressive practices. Various sub-groups have used fashion as a way to identify themselves as unique and to break fashion rules. Punk is an example and the early work of the Japanese designers in the early 1980’s. That is why my blog focuses on “thinking” about what you wear and why you are wearing it. This offers potential for you to be purposeful and powerful in what you are communicating as well as what you are rejecting. When I look at a fashion show I ask myself, “What messages about age, gender, bodies and inclusion are being communicated here?” I feel happy that “street style” pictures are having as much exposure as the shows themselves, it allows you to “read” how culture is being played at different levels.
You have a truly nonchalant approach to how you dress. Is that something that came with age or is how you have always been?
Interestingly I think that this comes from the fact that during my early education until I went to college I went to schools that required me to wear a uniform. I think that does introduce a nonchalant approach to dressing, as it is worry free, there are no decisions to be made about what I have to wear every day. In another way it nurtured personal style and creativity in that we all searched for small adaptations that fit within the rules but allowed us to have some individuality and flair. I would accessorize with religious medals and rosary beads because jewelry was not allowed.
What are your main sources of inspiration for your unstoppable researches and fashion experimentation?
My inspiration for fashion experimentation as Coco Chanel says, “comes from ideas, the way we live, what is happening”. I have always been a great reader and observer of visual culture and of course living in New York City is always stimulating. If you are interested in art you can’t help be also interested in the fashion that attends the artistic world. So an art exhibition may be a starting point. At other times I might start with a designer and research their inspirations and thinking about the design process. This allows me to develop affection for them and their clothes as I connect to the story. I read about and look at fashion on the internet and sometimes an event, like Rick Owens menswear collection earlier this year, will inspire a theme or topic that I might write about or incorporate into how I style myself. Other times it might be the geography or architecture of a neighborhood. So the short answer is everywhere!
I personally find your style sense truly unique your wardrobe is a perfect blend of rare, new, recycled and contemporary pieces. I’d like to ask you which are your favorite stores and where do you find such incredible one-of-a-kind pieces.
I love brick and mortar consignment stores and I have several in New York that are my favorites, Pilgrim, About Glamour and INA. My favorite on-line consignment store is Vestaire Collective. For new items I like small boutiques in Brooklyn and Manhattan, such as IF and Five Story and of course Dover Street Market and for newer items I check Racked for sample sales.
You tend to include so-called avant-garde designers such as Issey Miyake or Comme des Garçons in your daily looks. Which kind of sensibility do you found in these creators? What makes them speak to straight to your soul?
I think I have always associated the work of these designers with art and I do feel for me that clothing is a material that I use to create, just as an artist might do. Miyake is particularly strong on this as he developed textile technologies like his Pleats Please that literally allow you to sculpt with it. I also love that the initial impulse, particularly from Yamamoto, was to protect women and to counteract ideas of what it meant to be seductive, usually related to states of undress. I love that there are always surprises in the work of Rei Kawakubo like her recent “Bag with Holes” for the Louis Vuitton Iconoclast line where she plays with notions of inside/out and reveal/conceal. When I carry mine people stop me and say, “Is that a real Louis Vuitton?” I can imagine her having a chuckle about this. I was also intrigued during my early education with nuns and their religious garb. I found it beautiful, mysterious and seductive despite being designed for modesty. I loved the way it moved and flowed as they ran around. I think that is also what I see in the clothes of the Japanese designers.
Could tell us about how and when did you discover Japanese fashion?
My grandmother often traveled to Japan and would bring me kimonos and beautiful books with prints of scenes that included women in kimono. I particularly loved the obi and have many obi belts in different materials and colors. So I think that when I saw photos of the Japanese designer collections I immediately was drawn to them. Also I loved the black garments and white shirts, which for reasons I spoke about in prior questions felt familiar and loved.
Do you have one (or more) favorite item? If yes, what’s the story behind it (or them)?
I think my favorite item is a floor length Yohji Yamamoto black, heavy cotton coat. I had wanted a coat like this for a long time. I was wandering around Brooklyn and walked into a gallery and clothing store that I had never seen before. I started looking and most of the clothes were from Japanese designers and the owner travels frequently to Japan, always bringing new items. There was an entire rack of clothes by Yohji Yamamoto and I saw the coat. That was how I came to find About Glamour, my absolute favorite store in the world.
In his renowned book “My Dear Bomb”, Yohji Yamamoto says “Black is modest and arrogant at the same time. Black is lazy and easy – but mysterious. But above all black says this: “I don’t bother you – don’t bother me”. How do you relate to this quote? Which kind of relationship do you have with black and colors in general?
As I mentioned I think my affinity for black and white comes from my early fascination with religious garb. I agree that black is both modest and arrogant which is what I like about it, but I don’t wear it to say, “don’t bother me”. I started wearing black more when my hair turned white and I love how black and white clothing puts my hair and complexion in sharp relief. When younger I wore color all the time especially because I have blue eyes and had long chestnut brown hair. Now since I unusually wear black I love to use color as an interruption or a surprise. The other day I wore some earrings that had colors and all my students noticed I had some color in my look that day. I was almost a little shocking to them, I like having that effect.
After having seen Rick Owens’s rather controversial FW 15/16 menswear collection, you asked to your audience if they ever feel graceful and free because they took a risk that involved fashion. I’d like to ask you the same question.
I have a floor length white, cotton wrap dress with a hood by the designer Ivan Grundhal. It flows beautifully and is right on the edge of see through. However, all you can see is the mere outline of my body. I have long white shirts that have the same effect. So although I am completely covered, there is something suggestive about this kind of white clothing while at the same time retaining the feeling of modesty and purity. It feels both safe and daring when I wear it.
While reading your texts, I noticed that you often connect clothing to the works of various contemporary and modern artists. How would you describe the link between art and fashion?
There is such a debate about whether fashion is art with arguments being made on both sides. I think fashion and art share certain characteristics, for one they are both the material manifestation of an idea and are process oriented. Whether art admits it or not they are both very tied to commerce. However, an artist named Ingrid Mida frames the question in a different way, “When does fashion become art?” I think fashion might begin to approach art when there is a very clear connection between the designers awareness of the historical, political, cultural and economic context they are in and that context is somehow acknowledged in their designs, when the designer says something
Although the fashion system always promoted an ideal of everlasting youth, older people controls a big percentage of global spend. Last January the British department store group Selfridges launched a project entitled “Bright Old Things” that focused on engaging ageing consumers. A beautiful 80-years old Joan Didion was the face of Céline campaign. What do you think about this entire claim around old consumers? Do you believe that the fashion industry is finally becoming to represent everybody who has a vision and is willing to experiment, no matter his age, or it is just another shallow commercial try?
I have to say I am somewhat of a cynic and I think that the fashion industry has finally figured out who has the most disposable income. Most of the older women, who are being used as models by brands, were models when they were younger and still have bodies that meet the standards set by the fashion world, thin and tall. One reason I love Miyake and Yamamoto is that they always had older persons in their runway shows, even when they first started decades ago. I am not sure that Céline choose Joan Didion because of her age, but rather because she represents that kind of intellectual, cool and nonchalant woman that seems so associated with the Céline brand. I think the choice was more about her gravity and hipness as a writer and public intellectual than recognition of older consumers. I think the campaign was still speaking to a younger audience in an aspirational way but more about being a woman of substance than about being beautiful even when you are old.