The New York Fashion Week was held last week and has seemed its normal amazing experience. Since 2001 when I lived in NYC, I have always had a hankering to go back when fashion week is on. The people watching is incredible, even without an all-access pass. In general New York is pretty impressive for getting your fill of incredible style, both contemporary and classic. But from the week before to the week after fashion week, NYC comes alive with the most incredible sights. When I was there, Bryant Park was the epicentre of fashion for this period. Now it’s spread across the city and at Spring Studios, but I am sure it is still a hive of amazing activity. To get my fix, I checked out a few of the shows online, and I wasn’t disappointed.
Rihanna’s show was incredible to watch, starting with a beautiful slow relaxed portrayal of models from many walks of life, shapes, colours and abilities. There was something deeply primeval to the whole show, so it came at no surprise that one of the models reportedly went into labour backstage, but not before performing in stilettos and fishnets. The Hadid goddesses reigned supreme, and although it all looked slightly like the set of the Teletubbies, the message of powerful, unique and glorious women was crystal clear.
It got me thinking about my own personal journey, culminating in StopTheGape launching. In fact, it was in NYC that I started to attend daily meetings where I recognised the problem existed. I sat across from both males and females who were completing the now-recognisable shirt tug to try to stop their buttons from gaping open. In an image-conscious society, New York at the time was rife with my future customers. But as it turns out, I didn’t have to even look across the table to see potential customers. I am one. I am the absolutely typical person who needs the product. I haven’t worn a shirt in years, without having to have the hideous safety pin trying to keep the gape from forming.
It is quite interesting when you are the ideal customer for your own product. It makes you both the worst critic, and also the perfect promoter. I cannot wear a shirt without wearing a StopTheGape. It also means that I needed and wanted the design to work so well, as I needed it to have confidence when wearing shirts. It does work well by the way. Just saying.
Growing up I was very aware that I had boobs. And not just boobs, but BOOBS. My boobs were frequently the talk of my male peers, and sometimes my female ones too. In my second year in high school one particularly lovely girl started to call me Mama, because I would be able to breastfeed the entire population if I chose. Ahhh, those wonderful days of high school. Being pretty busty and shy, I would frequently wear ill-fitting clothes or cardigans to hide my boobs. On top of this I also had a tight spiral perm, and brown lipstick. I mean really – someone should have really taken me aside and helped me see the light. Somehow though I came through it pretty unscathed, but I definitely wouldn’t say I was screaming with confidence.
At 21 I moved to New York City, and decided that since no-one knew me, no one knew I wasn’t confident, and I could pass myself off as anyone I wanted; my original ‘fake it till you make it’. It took a long time for the fake to become the reality, and I am really happy that now I am reasonably happy in my own skin. Don’t get me wrong, there are things that I would change, but I don’t fret about them continuously, and I know what I do well. I don’t love pictures of myself, and often with them the old me comes roaring to the surface, with a natural feeling of nervousness.
So, how did that result in StopTheGape? Well, after leaving New York, I had a life plan and it all involved getting back there, permanently. I applied for a Masters program, planning on joining the Post-Grad program for the company whom I had worked for in NYC. Except I didn’t get accepted to the program. I got to the last 3 for the entire Europe, Middle East and Africa intake, but I didn’t get the position. I was devastated. I had planned something, and now it wasn’t going to happen, and I felt so upset that this hadn’t happened for me. With hindsight, it was because it wasn’t for me. I didn’t know it at the time, but life is funny in the way that it gives you what you need, even if you don’t know why at the time. After moping for a short time, I started working for a consultancy in London, moved things on with my husband, and my journey carried on as it was meant to.
I know confidence is something that I sometimes take for granted. My confidence has largely been related to an ‘I Can Do It’ attitude. I can’t say whether this is something that I was born with, or which I have developed, but I just never really thought that I couldn’t do something. That’s not to say that things have come easy – hells no, but just that I don’t think I have ever stopped myself from trying something. It’s currently one of our favourite sayings in my household, and something that I truly live by.
Knowing the difference in the way that I feel today, versus me when I started in the corporate world, I think it’s so important to believe in yourself, be confident in your uniqueness, and celebrate it. There are knocks on the road to starting a business. Not having a clue about, well, basically anything, means that I have had to learn as I go. But in reality, is there a better way to be? Allow yourself to fail, and just keep on trying is certainly my mantra, and potentially should be for all new businesses. Every day truly is a school day, but, my goodness, is it fun!
So, in a nod to the wonderful journey of confidence, trying and failing, but trying again, this week I will remind myself once again to have a go. Getting knocked down, getting back up, getting on with it. I can do it.
Till next time,