Photo: Calvin Lom, Styling by me with clothes graciously lent and gifted by Baby & Co, Seattle
As many of you know last weekend I was invited to Washington DC to give a TED talk. The theme was Superpowers and the idea was that we all have something special about us that can help us change the world for the better. My talk deconstructed an article that went viral about me that suggests that a random event three years ago resulted in me gaining immediate fame. The article goes on to state that prior to that event, I was just an “ordinary 63 year old professor”. The article is fake news for many reasons in that it conflates the story of how I got the name for my blog (which was accidental and based on a random event) and the three year story of hard work that has gone into this endeavor everyday while also trying to maintain a full-time academic career. Essentially the essence of my talk was that it was actually me embracing my “ordinariness”; that is the process of aging and the engagement skills I have learned as a professor, that has actually resulted in whatever success I might have had. In other words your Superpower is being your best self.
For me the best part of the event was hearing the creativity and innovation in the way all the other speakers were thinking about solving problems and working towards positive change. I was inspired over and over throughout the two days not only by the speakers but the many participants with whom I engaged. Every aspect of the event was set up to encourage dialog. People were pragmatic in acknowledging there are problems but there was hope, confidence and excitement about their ability to use their “superpower” in creative ways to respond to them.
I realized now that a superpower I have gained is a social media presence. Without even intending to, I have been able to shift some people’s thinking about age, inclusion and more randomly, sustainability and the fashion system. After TED I began to think more about what could happen if I became more purposeful in developing the project of articulating and demonstrating an alternative view of fashion and beauty that considers human well-being and natural systems as what drives design, production and communication. I think I have been improvisational and unintentional these past three years because I entered a system where i did not know what the options or opportunities were so I explored almost everyone of them. Consequently i am aware of feeling very tired almost all the time. I see the wear and tear on my face and feel less strong in my body. So I am taking some time now to prepare myself by resting, exercising, eating well and most importantly saying no. Then I am getting up because I have some wonderful people to work with and some interesting ideas about this approach.
What superpower could you bring to the project of a fashion and beauty that considers human well-being and the natural environment?
And you all have one!