Our guest this month is Lyn Slater, known by many in the fashion world and beyond by the name of her blog, Accidental Icon. When Slater, who is 64, launched her site a few years ago, she simply wanted a creative outlet. No one could have predicted that she’d end up in international fashion magazines, garner hundreds of thousands of social followers, or land a contract with Elite Models London. But that’s what has happened.
And she’s only just getting started.
Slater, who lives in New York City and works as a professor of social work at Fordham University, spent a year doing research before launching her blog, but the site was live only a few days when a photographer mistook her as a model on the street. (Not hard to do: She has a distinctive, fashion-forward style.) That incident prompted Slater to change the name of the blog to Accidental Icon. Pretty soon, things blew up.
The editor of Grey Magazine, a biannual hardcover publication, saw Slater’s photos on Instagram and contacted her through photographer Ari Cohen, creator of Advanced Style. The magazine wanted to feature her — even put her on the cover — from there, “it was a slow roll of increasing jobs and experiences,” Slater says. Last December, an agent at Elite reached out to say she’d been following Slater’s story and wanted to represent her.
“I see myself more as a personality than a model,” Slater says, “although I have done modeling. I am a multifaceted person: I write. I do art direction. I do styling. I go to events. When I went to China for Shanghai Fashion Week, I gave two talks. One was on developing personal style and the other was on how to be successful at social media. I’ve been asked by some emerging designers to help them think through what their brand stories are. I do a lot of different things.”
What she doesn’t do is worry about growing older.
Slater says she was in her mid-50s when she first started to feel the effects of aging — and she wasn’t happy about it. “I did not like the changes and some things that were happening, and I actually went through a process to come to accept that this is inevitable,” she says.
The outcome of that process was not just acceptance, but understanding what it was going to take to function at the highest possible level after 60. “It’s really important to take good care of yourself, to eat well and have a healthy lifestyle, and to keep your brain active,” she says.
Starting a website and mastering social media is definitely one way to sharpen your mental skills. And, as it turns out, creativity and daring in the fashion world is one way to make a statement about aging — even if that’s not your intention.
Slater says that as she became older, she “began to use clothes and my appearance to counteract some of invisibility that comes with age.”
Living in NYC and being an observer by nature and profession, Slater says she is always walking and always looking at people. “They are observing me, and I am observing them. I’ve noticed that as you get older, less people seem to look at you, that it’s different from when you were younger. Is it related to age? Possibly. But what I observed about other women — my aunt, my mother, my colleagues — is that they checked out in terms of caring about how they looked. They were ‘retiring.’”
Slater says that she began to take more risks with her dress and appearance. “I started thinking about a new way to express myself in the world and to be creative. I started thinking about how I could present a visual image, how I could share my love of clothes, how I could inspire others. Because my goals in terms of being a mom and my career were fulfilled, and I had the resources and I had this space to fill with whatever I wanted.”
And so she began posting photos of herself in favorite outfits — in one of the earliest Slater wears Marsell boots, A.F. Vandervorst black wool pants, and an Illia leather jacket — and musing on how clothing is a form of communication. Now, Slater says, “My blog is the place where, out of everything I am doing now, I feel the most myself.”
How does she feel about being not only an accidental fashion icon, but also an accidental spokeswoman for aging powerfully?
“It’s a nice thing that has happened,” she says. “Through my work there is a different way to think about what happens to a person when she gets old. Again, that was not my original intent, but I am happy about that accident.”
For more from Lyn Slater, go to accidentalicon.com and keep reading The Fine Line.