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The Iconoclast photo1

The
Iconoclast

BY ALICE NEWELL-HANSON

At the age of 61, professor Lyn Slater is at the beginning of an extensive, immersive research project called fashion.

Lyn's signature style features a graphic play on black and white, bold jewelry, and sunglasses.
Cashmere TurtleNeck Sweater €79.90, Ankle Length Pants (Arrow Stripe) €29.90, Rayon Blouse €29.90

During her four-decade career in social work, and as a professor of social justice in New York, Lyn Slater has pushed boundaries with her creative counselling and teaching methods. She's used theatre to help trauma victims and given papers that toe the line of performance art (one video piece ended up in a Chelsea gallery). And she wears her rebelliousness for all to see.

Last year, Lyn launched a blog called Accidental Icon where she documents her irreverent personal style. She posts striking black and white pictures of her daily outfits−sculptural monochrome compositions−accompanied by thoughtful reflections on fashion design and its luminaries.

"I've always been creative and, for me, fashion is about performance," Lyn says. Growing up with long red hair, a petite frame and a flare for statement-making accessories, she reliably drew attention on the street.

"I reject the idea that there is a set way you must look if you want to make a difference with your life."

The
          Iconoclast photo2

"Fashion is cyclical and I was around the first time everything happened."

"I always perform the era I'm in," she explains. But as she approached 60 and her daughter had a child of her own, she realised that people's expectations for how a grandmother should be were rapidly diverging from her own. With characteristic force of will she decided that she would not dye her hair; she would wear it in an architectural silver bob. And she would use style to confront the stereotypes that come with aging. There would be no pastels. "I had suddenly become invisible," she remembers, and that was not a state in which she'd ever felt comfortable.

Lyn started to explore fashion more intently. It became an outlet for her creativity outside of academia. She took classes at a local fashion school and read widely in fashion theory. But it was younger people's admiration of her outfits that prompted her to start the blog and put herself out there. If launching a blog at the age of 61 defies expectations, doing so within an industry that idolizes youth is downright radical.

The
              Iconoclast photo3

When creating her looks Lyn typically mixes avant-garde designers with classic essentials like UNIQLO's Cashmere Turtle Neck Sweater €79.90, Ankle Length Pants (Arrow Stripe) €29.90 and Rayon Blouse €29.90

The
              Iconoclast photo4

Ironically, Lyn herself is against following trends. "Fashion is cyclical," she says, "And I was around the first time everything happened." Instead, she chooses pieces with a connoisseur's eye for fabric and detailing. Her look is timeless, but never boring. White shirts are her foundation; black cateye sunglasses and sculptural earrings are her signatures. In particular, she favours Japanese design, and tends towards strong silhouettes that subvert traditional ideas of femininity. She'll wear a deconstructed floorlength skirt underpinned by a crisp UNIQLO button-down, sometimes layering simple black pants beneath ("they're my building blocks"). And while her outfits may stand out against a panel of grey suits at a conference, they are never outlandish. Instead they communicate Lyn's unique and serious voice, one that says fashion has power. Style, she insists, can transform the way others perceive us and the way we perceive the world.

"I always dress for teaching," she says. "And the students respect that I come to the classroom dressed like I do. I reject the idea that there is a set way you must look if you want to make a difference with your life." And now, thanks to her blog, she can spread that message around the globe. "The vast majority of my readers and my students are young," she says, "And I show them that you can still be a rebel at 61."

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