Backstage

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Lyn Slater

When Lyn Slater walks into a room heads turn. Whether she is commanding a lecture hall of doctoral students or adorning a jaw-dropping ensemble with larger than life accessories, the full-time professor and fashion rebel has become an icon in the New York City style-watch community and all eyes are on her.

Lyn, who grew up in Westchester County and claimed New York City as her adopted home almost 25 years ago, holds duel master’s degrees in social work and criminal justice and uses these academic achievements as weapons to attack social problems at the individual, family and community level. After years of experience in the field, Lyn is overwhelmingly conscious of the complexity of human nature and the resiliency of the human spirit—these difficult issues turning her fearless and fueling her rebellious streak. And while Lyn fights to advocate for the well being of all citizens and passes this tenacity on to her Fordham University students, she also crushes fashion convention with a closet full of carefully edited garments that put Lyn at the top of the couture game.

The professor's bold clothing choices transformed from a personal daily adventure into a wildly successful blog, Accidental Icon, that caters to anyone who is seduced by fashion, especially those who desire to be inspired by a truly original woman who lives an interesting but ordinary life. Beginning her love affair with fashion at the tender age of three with a handmade, light green getup and moving into a much more sophisticated style that is firmly planted in neutrals and pops of colorful accessories, Lyn captivates with simple “what she wore” posts and striking self photos.

Lyn’s bravery toward controversy coupled with her superior style captured the attention of Oribe Hair Care, and in her first foray into the world of beauty, Lyn will be modeling for Oribe’s next brand campaign video shoot. The video, which was expertly styled by Oribe Global Ambassador James Pecis, features a curated group of social influencers who, combined, claim an audience of more than 3 million followers, Lyn being the oldest, but arguably the least conventional.

Here, we uncover the story of Lyn’s scholarly and stylish life. 

Where do you get all of your fashion-forward ideas and information?
I love independent magazines that combine fashion, art, design, music and culture. I read about six or seven different magazines every week to prepare for my blog’s Friday Fashion Bibliography. I get a complex, three-dimensional view of fashion and how it responds to the current culture, and most importantly, what subcultures are emerging that will exert an influence.

Do you remember the first outfit you ever put together?
When I was a young child, around three or four, there was an older woman who lived in my building and was like a surrogate grandmother to me. She was an incredible seamstress and used to ask me what I would like to wear. Then she would show me all of her fabrics and textiles and we would design—as much as a four year old can—an outfit. At my direction, we also created bows for my shoes and a ruched headband. My favorite was a sea green tulle skirt with a satin top. I secretly wanted to be a ballerina and when I wore that outfit I really believed I was one. That’s when I discovered the connection between aspiration and clothing. I think that outfit and experience is why I want to work with a designer and create a small capsule collection.

You have surpassed 50K Instagram followers—why do you think your content continues to captivate people?
Credit goes to my partner and photographer Calvin Lom. Because Instagram is a visual platform, it is all about the quality of the images. The story people see on my Instagram is of someone having a really big adventure and a professor wearing and doing things that one might not expect. There is also a street vibe to my photos that people enjoy. Many of the skills I have had to develop to engage and maintain the attention of students have been effective in social media as well.

What are five other Instagram accounts that everyone should follow right now?
It depends on what inspires you. Because I think about photography and art direction I’m drawn to @eggcanvas, @leoleoparis, @juergentellerpage, @bleumode and @dazedfashion.

What sparked you to start a fashion blog?
The idea came from two experiences. The first was that I could not find a blog, or even a magazine, that spoke to an urban, intellectual, creative older woman who was still in the professional world. There was nowhere for me to go for inspiration. The second push came from many of the young people I interacted with in New York City. They kept telling me I should start a blog because they admired my style.

Where did the name “Accidental Icon” come from?
I teach at Fordham University’s Lincoln Center campus. The last year that New York Fashion Week was held at Lincoln Center, I was meeting a friend who had come in from Canada for the shows on the plaza. I was wearing a vintage Yohji Yamamoto suit and carrying a very unique Chanel bag, and all of a sudden photographers started taking pictures of me because they thought I was some fashion person. Then tourists started taking pictures, and my photo ended up in a magazine. That is how it all started—accidentally—and thus the name.

How has this blog changed your life?
It has created much more work! I thought it would just be a fun outlet for my creativity—there was no way I could have anticipated what it would become. To keep it going takes commitment as I really like to stay engaged with my audience.

The biggest change is that it has transformed me into a public figure. Every day that I go out, someone on the subway or on the street will approach me and say, “You’re Accidental Icon. I follow you.” I have to think about what I look like when I go out, even more so than I did before. It has also given me opportunities to meet creative, interesting people, which is what I enjoy the most. It keeps me learning new things.

How does a great outfit make you feel?
That’s an interesting question because the answer depends on how I want to feel or what identity I want to “perform” on a particular day. I chose my clothes based on that. One day I might want to look and feel romantic, and on another day I might want to project more of my intellectual or creative side. This approach takes advantage of the power of fashion in a very productive way. 


Why is it important for smart, strong creative women who are aging to dress honestly?

I have found that the most important quality anyone can have is authenticity. Whether it is through one-to-one interaction or digital interaction, people know when you are not being yourself. What you wear is a powerful statement of your unique identity and voice and is always a creative act.

What do you say to someone who says that there are age parameters when it comes to fashion?
Can I use swear words in this interview?

What is your unfinished business?
Right now I have closure on my old unfinished business. I was able to find a way to express myself creatively and have taken risks I was hesitant to take before. My present unfinished business is to see where Accidental Icon can take me and to be able to devote myself to it fulltime.

Why did you decide to take part in the Oribe Influencer Video Campaign?
My hair is a very important part of my signature look, along with big earrings and sunglasses, so I knew my move into beauty would focus on hair. And, because my own authenticity in regard to my followers is important to me, I only feature or endorse clothes and products I actually wear and use in my everyday life. I have been very selective and thoughtful about my partnership choices. This is the first time I have branched into beauty, and I thought Oribe told an interesting story, offered quality products and were bold in seeking someone of my demographic for a beauty shoot.

What was your favorite part of the shoot?
I loved meeting all the great people involved. I was kind of nervous as this was my first video shoot, but everyone on set was comfortable, supportive, fun and open to listening. As the day went on, I got more comfortable and suggested we push the envelope when it came to my hairstyle. My favorite part of the shoot was the way James Pecis styled my hair for the final look—and everyone’s reaction to it. 


Favorite Oribe product? 
I have more than one favorite. I am seriously addicted to Gold Lust Dry Shampoo and Dry Texturizing Spray. Given the texture of my hair, it does not always hold its style or volume and these two products give me a big assist when I have to be running around the city all day. Confession: Sometimes I use them just because I love how they make my hair smell. I know you said one, but my new favorite for fall is the Lip Lust Crème Lipstick in The Violet.

How does New York City inspire you?
New York City is a global cultural capital and that inspirers me in multiple ways. I have access to established and emerging designers, consignment and vintage stores, boutiques and two of the best fashion schools in the country. Since I have an urban, artistic and intellectual style, I am influenced by the many creatives and intellectuals who migrate here to develop art, design, technology and culture.

Most “pinch-me” moment of your career?
Seeing myself on the cover of Grey Magazine.

Is there any relevant crossover between your professor/child advocacy life and your fashion life?
There is a big meeting point between social welfare for women and girls and the sustainable fashion movement. Last spring, my intern and I produced a sustainable fashion show and panel at Fordham University that linked the production of beautiful clothes and materials with lifting women and children out of poverty. There are some big brands that are moving in this direction and many of the young, emerging designers are being trained to think sustainably. The sustainable fashion movement is a great vehicle to address inequality and human rights in ways that are creative for everyone involved.
 
What is one fashion statement that will never go out of style?
Beautifully tailored black trousers

What is your everyday hair routine?
After many years, I am fortunate enough to have found a stylist who really knows how to cut my hair. This makes life very easy as my hair is straight and simple to style. I shampoo and condition every other day. On those days, I blow dry and use a product that gives me volume like Volumista Mist for Volume. If I just want to air dry and use a little Dry Texturizing Spray, I can do that too.

Favorite color to wear?
Black (and white)
 

 
How do you get inspired?
Other people inspire me—my daughter, granddaughter, students and the many different people who live, work and get dressed in New York City. I’m also inspired by experiences with music, museums, books, independent magazines, travel, social media and film.

Most luxurious possession you can’t live without? 
My Cartier watch

What is next for you?
I love to collaborate with other creative people. I see it as a broad category where you work with brands and designers to tell their story around capsule collections that include jewelry, clothing, accessories and beauty. My big dream would be to have a great team that could turn my blog into an online fashion magazine.

In addition, my dean at Fordham University, who is a very tech-savvy person, has asked me to develop a content strategy for our school’s social media. I am very excited about that.

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