The first time Lyn Slater felt control over her body was at the age of 40, when she got her first tattoo. Twenty-three years later and she's never felt better. The oldest of six siblings, Lyn has spent her entire life surrounded by young people. Working as a professor at Fordham University, she became frustrated with the split between her academic life and her creative sensibilities.
Taking the decision to actively challenge the ageing process she started 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.
Then in 2014 she started a style blog, Accidental Icon, and her life changed for the better.
What was the moment that Accidental Icon was born?
It was during New York Fashion Week. I was waiting outside the Lincoln Center for a friend, dressed in a Yohji Yamamoto suit and carrying a Chanel bag. Within seconds I was surrounded by a swarm of street style photographers and fashion journalists, all clamouring to find out who I was.
How has your background shaped who you are?
Most of my life I have been around people younger than me; I am the oldest of six siblings and during my career in social welfare I worked mostly with young people. Because of this I have had to stay culturally current: I need to be sincere with the way I interact with people. I've always been in the habit of evolving my identity.
How has your relationship with your body and identity changed over the years?
My body felt out of my control until I got a tattoo at age 40, which marked the moment where I assumed ownership and achieved total self-acceptance of all of my cognitive, physical and emotional strengths and limitations.
For a time my identity was always forged as a reaction against something. I was always rebellious, but now I'm much more the architect of my identity -- though not accepting the status quo is still part of my DNA, I know how to do it without being angry.
So, what does beauty mean to you?
For me when I come across something or someone who represents beauty to me, I have an involuntary intake of breath. It is very subjective and physical. What is beautiful to me may be full of horror for someone else because my notion of beauty comes from my life experiences and the social geographies I have inhabited throughout my life.
What about being a model?
I hope that the way I model conveys the importance of self-acceptance and being the person in charge of your own life, personal identity and style. I realise I am not someone who models only clothes but also a certain attitude and that people feel a relationship with who I am beyond clothes. Therefore I always think carefully about what I do as I feel that I have a certain responsibility to honour that relationship.
How can we challenge what society thinks of as beautiful?
By creatively performing alternatives. If you notice I never talk about or discuss age on my blog or in my posts. I let my photos and art direction tell the story. As a professor I know people generally do not like a lecture.
Why do you think we're having a conversation about diversity in the fashion industry at the moment?
Social media has changed the relationship people all over the world have with fashion and diversity. It allows people who don't live in diverse communities to be exposed to different people and ideas.
Do you worry that it is just another trend?
Perhaps as a very specific and current political response it may fade and will not be so overt, but in the long term I think it is here to stay because it comes from globalism, technology, the increasing power of the consumer to influence decision makers. It will only keep evolving.
Finish this sentence: Age…
Isn't something I consider when getting dressed… or doing anything else for that matter.
Text Tish Weinstock
Lead image Oskar Gyllensward