Since I was a little kid, I always wanted to create things. At age 10, with my BFF Courtney, we wrote and published a neighborhood newspaper on my Dad’s daisywheel typewriter. We put on a series of plays, cajoling neighbors and parents to attend. And while I wasn’t that into dolls, I was obsessed with dollhouse furniture, building tiny beds and sinks and miniature food.
Fast forward through an English Major, a stint as a paralegal, a brand strategy consultant, a freelance writer, and into my calling as a brand builder and apparel designer. Looking back, I now see that it took me for-ev-er, age 38 maybe, to call myself a creator. A designer of things. And even then, I had to fend off a bad case of imposter syndrome.
Why? Why the wait? Why is it so common for us not to fully step into the light of the identity we seek? I’ll get found out! They’ll see I don’t know what I’m doing. I’ll be exposed…
I don’t get it, really. But I do know that as you get older, the insecurity-insanity begins to ebb. For one, you care less what others think of you. And second, a wonderful realization sinks in: that passion and practice lead to the rough draft of what we call experience. And experience leads to knowledge and competence.
The first year we took Oiselle to fashion week, in 2013, I went there with Katron, one of our first and most talented designers (my fave Aero Tights… yep, those are her). Our runway show was sandwiched between five or six other lines and they were as far from athletic apparel as you could imagine.
Case in point, the line before us was a bizarre combination of swim suits and faux snakes plus feathers and sequins. The models looked uncomfortable, the clothes fit poorly, the music was odd. Nothing seemed to be drawing it all together. (I imagined Tim Gunn would be very upset and worried).
I turned to Katron and said something sarcastic. She smiled her sphinx like smile and nodded appreciatively. And then she told me something I’ll never forget: “The creative process is hard… translating what’s in your head into clothes. No matter what a designer creates, I always appreciate and support it, because it’s so scary to take risks. Even if it looks weird, I just think about how they fought through fear to make it happen.”
With a flash, I realized how rare and beautiful it is to feel truly accepted. As is resisting the urge to categorize, to denounce, to classify something as too this or too that. And it starts with ourselves. When we question our own worth, our own contribution, whether that’s creative or otherwise, it’s just that much easier to put down others. It becomes a vile feedback loop, toxic in, toxic out.
In that moment, I loved her. I loved all the designers there. And I felt a radiant kinship. We were all doing our best, and dammit, we deserved love… if not from the critics, then at least from each other.
Humans are creative by nature - and if I could give one thing it would be unconditional support to try things, without risk, without fear. To try on titles like writer, artist, designer, and to move into those monikers with a swagger instead of a slink. Who knows? In a few years, we may all be wearing faux snake swimsuits.
Head Up. Wings Out.
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