LA VIE EN ROSE– Looking at fashion through rose-colored glasses
The mantra …
“Fashion is a language. Style is how you speak it. Speak a beautiful story.” Those words are my fashion mantra. Everything I love to do with fashion, from designing, to styling, to curating collections, comes down to one thing for me: the ability to tell a story without needing words. Whether it’s the story of your mood, bringing a glimpse of a fantasy world into your every-day life, or representing a brand you are proud to support, fashion gives you the power to tell a story.
One of my all-time favorite songs which I listen to often in my design studio is Edith Piaf’s “La Vie En Rose.” With that song as my soundtrack, I’ve cried happy tears, nostalgic tears, envisioned life goals, and reminisced about memories of my grandfather who used to share a love for that song with me when he was alive. I remember the last time we danced it together; his feet barely left the ground, but he was glowing. That one song can stem such different emotions and memories within me. I believe fashion has the power to do the same, if you let it.
The story …
Throughout the past six years of working to keep my fashion business afloat in this cutthroat industry, my story has had many different chapters with their own unique plots, highs, lows, and what would be their own soundtracks.
There have been moments of milestone celebrations, and ironically enough, moments of self-sabotaging what could have been growth. It makes no sense right? Why would someone who works so hard to be successful take a huge step forward, then pause and over-analyze, rather than take the momentum from that step to take the next one?
After some serious soul searching, I’ve finally pinpointed the cause. I want to be part of something that uses its power for good and sends positive messages through respectable role models; not something that feels shallow, or like a superficial contest for social media likes. When I see fashion brands I respect sell out to millennial influencers who’s “stories” sound something like, “Hi loves, I’m literally dying over these pants,” I sincerely want to throw in the towel. Let me clarify: there is nothing wrong with “literally dying over fashion.” As long as you don’t like, literally die over it, I support it. I can also give credit where credit is due to those killing it at their social media and blogging game. However, I, Salwa Owens (maybe not you), need MORE. If I am to respect you as a person of influence, I need to be inspired by you and you need to stand for something beyond what we see in pictures.
My fashion designer self feels discouraged by this because I put blood, sweat, and tears into my business and want to believe I can gain the audience I deserve by being authentic to me. I don’t want my success to revolve around getting my clothing in the hands of a pretty girl with lots of followers and paying her to say she’s dying over them. My blogger self also feels conflicted because I blog about style as a way to share styling tips and inspire real women, such as myself, to try new things. I showcase my pieces on models for the shop, but then I’d like to think when you see 5’3 me wearing them, styled in my own unique way, it opens your eyes to the fun adaptations fashion can have on non-cookie-cutter model types as well. But I don’t want to be put in the eye candy blogger category, when my intention is to be a soul food brand.
So, I’ve pulled back at times when at the brink of finding a rhythm I can ride to growth. I’ve done so to revisit the drawing board and figure out how I can use fashion to tell a beautiful story, while not letting it be the entire story.
The aha moment …
The aha moment happened recently. I realized my fashion story is and has always been about manifesting beauty. I am a creator, after all, and have talent and passion for fashion, which I should use proudly. But it does not have to be the entire story. As I’ve experienced growth, I’ve felt a sense of increased responsibility to align my business further with my purpose of empowering women. That goes beyond fashion. For quite some time, I’ve experimented with different things.
I’ve created a blog under a different name to cover deeper topics and give others the opportunity to showcase their work, and it empowers others in their careers. In order to feel socially responsible, I’ve affiliated my fashion events with non-profits, donating a portion of the proceeds even when that has meant taking a loss.
I regret none of this and will continue to give back but have not yet hit the nail on the head of aligning my business to my purpose. Furthermore, I have to ask myself, “Am I watering down what I, as a whole, want to offer women to try to fit into a box? Am I putting too much pressure on my fashion alone to target the multifaceted purpose of female empowerment? Is it taking some of the joy out of it? Can I cover the other areas separately, yet still under my brand, and let fashion be play time?” The answer is YES!! Everything I create and put out there is authentically me. Whatever that looks like whether it’s a dress, fitness class, or written piece, that is my brand. When it comes to style, let’s have some fun!
I’m taking the pressure off fashion. As a reward for all the hard work I put in, I am giving myself the gift of seeing fashion through rose-colored glasses again. I want to see it with the childlike admiration I felt the first time I looked through the pages of Vogue and decided I wanted to be a fashion designer at the age of 9. I can’t worry about what others are doing or what they stand for, that I might appear a certain way to those who don’t truly know me or let the business pressures taint the beautiful story I want to tell. When it comes to style, just as a little girl who loves to play dress-up, I want to play!
What I hope my STYLE posts do for you…
I hope to share fashion stories that bridge the gap between editorial images we see in the media which we can’t relate to, and that which is obtainable and applicable to real life. I want to inspire you to try new things and break the stigma that fashion is not for you. I want you to lose the fear that you will break the bank or not know how. And most importantly, I want you to join me in the uninhibited act of getting up, dressing up, and going through the journey of life telling your own unique fashion story. That is the essence of style, and to me, that is La Vie En Rose.