11 Things Yves Saint Laurent Taught Me

Sunday, June 30, 2019
Virgin Atlantic Flight 21K

IMG_8440Yesterday was a special day. After an amazing “destiny helping” 2-day summit in Marrakech, a few of us got to spend some quality time together. We toured the Yves Saint Laurent (YSL) Museum, Majorelle Garden and wrapped up the day with lunch at the most breath-taking residence! By the time we finished at the YSL museum, the writer in me could no longer stay focused. So, while other members of our small party toured the garden, I found a nice shaded spot to “insure” my reflections by writing them down.

IMG_8437Now, as the aircraft soars many thousand feet above the Atlantic, I thought to read and reflect on my notes, enrich them with my current thoughts, and also share them with you. I hope they stir up something in your soul as well. So, here are the lessons I learnt:

  1. You were born with your dreams, and they will show up as you journey through life, but you have got to pay attention, or else you will miss the signs. YSL began dreaming of “couture” at the young age of 13. However, if he didn’t tend to and nurture that dream, he would never have created a timeless empire.
  2. A dream will remain an unrealistic fantasy if you don’t make a deliberate and conscious decision to nurture it. YSL joined Christian Dior at the age of 18 (in 1954.) No, he didn’t defer his dream to study engineering, accounting or medicine for his parents first. But beyond being an apprentice with Dior. Nurturing a dream also requires following the clues and leads life gives us even when we don’t have all the answers yet. It requires sowing and tilling with hope and faith, otherwise there can be no bountiful harvest.
  3. You have got to step away from the market place. Perhaps YSL f51c1630-635e-4fa6-ad0c-7b04292322f0wouldn’t have been so creative and successful if he didn’t move from France to Morocco, just as I had to step away from the tour of the garden to journal my thoughts. Could I have done it later at night? Perhaps, but it wouldn’t have been as effective and potent. It may be hard, but you have to learn to step away from the “action” to properly protect, visualize and actualize your dreams.
  4. Don’t be afraid to shine your light. That’s the only way your destiny helper will find you. Dior passed away suddenly just 2 years after YSL joined him, but he (Dior) named YSL as the one to continue the artistic direction of the House of Dior. Had YSL been afraid to shine his light, Dior wouldn’t have recognized the “successor” he had in his team.
  5. Don’t be afraid to “move along.” Especially when you are having a good time and living a “comfortable” successful life. I doubt if YSL would have been as successful if he had stayed trapped in the familiarity of France or House of Dior.
  6. Yves Saint Laurent said: “Style is important, not fashion. Fashion with its madness fades, but style remains.” This quote hit me like a ton of bricks! And I “heard” them in every piece on display as we toured the room where some of his amazing designs were showcased. I mean, those amazing pieces he created years and decades ago would still stop shows today.
  7. Don’t be afraid to be the first. From being the first to launch a ready to wear label in 1966 to unveiling his Chinese collection in 1977, YSL was never afraid to be the first even if the move was greeted by criticisms. He led with boldness and conviction.
  8. b8525e57-5239-4a99-950e-ad36dfc50afaHonor your “tribe.” In one of his speeches, he thanked all the women who had worn his clothes, specifically thanking both the ones who were famous and those who weren’t. He recognized the fact that regardless of how much fame they had, any woman who wore something he created was a member of his tribe that was worthy of the same respect. It was this particular lesson that gave me the strength to leave the private luncheon I had felt so honored to be invited to, barely an hour into it yesterday. I mean, I was having important conversations with everyone I had wanted to speak with one-on-one during the conference, and my flight wasn’t until 10 p.m. at night, so why the hurry? I mean, the fact that Hafsat was happily recounting the stories I had told her about SD a couple of months ago, that a country’s serving ambassador was telling me she wanted me to meet her daughter, or that I was having an amazing conversation with one of the democratic women I have admired for a long time, were enough reasons to stay. But I didn’t. I had promised a young member of my tribe serving in the Peace Corp in Morocco that we would meet, and was more important than any conversation I was having.
  1. Comfort is the enemy of success. But even the best of us get distracted and complacent. Had YSL not been fired from the House of Dior at 30, he may never have created his empire. While waiting to board this flight at Heathrow, I called my older sister whose advice means a lot to me. I told her that I intend to quit one of my “constant” revenue streams to put more time into expanding She-EO. Her response, as expected, a fear laced “why?” sent shivers down my spine for a brief moment. But thankfully I “met” YSL yesterday, and his life reinforced my belief that “I can’t taste mind blowing success unless I am ready to fail woefully.”
  2. Beware of the endless applauses and the boos. Just when I thought I was in my zone writing my thoughts, a strange man walked up to hold my hand blurting out something in native Moroccan language. I am not sure what he said, but he was certainly applauding something I was doing or wearing. His compliments and adoration got lost in the language barrier between us, and then made me lose my train of thoughts. The brief distraction reminded me about “real life.” How often does this happen in our lives? We step away to work on something important, but somehow the noise finds us and derails us. It blocks our signal and connection with our GPS, so we end up getting lost. However, it isn’t just the applauses that can distract, the endless criticisms from the “well-meaning critics” will slow you down faster than the stationary -trucks on “Lagos bridges.”
  3. Yes, leave it all on the field, but don’t wait until the “fat lady sings” before exiting the stage. YSL quit the fashion stage when the ovation was still so loud in 2002. You also have to know when the music has stopped playing or when the tune changes to slow jams, so you can change your steps.

I hope you found at least one of these 11 lessons as useful as I did.

IMG_8447A big thank you to the Founder of Women in Africa – Aude, and her husband who both opened up their home and hearts to us, President Hafsat Abiola (I think MKO would have been super proud of you this week as always,) to JC, who not only led our delegation but took it upon himself to make sure we were deriving maximum benefit from the conference, my roommates – Lydia and Funlayo, Ngozi, who introduced me to Women in Africa, and to every woman and man who transformed lives at the summit this week. Thank you all for staying true to your “why.” May the impact you continue to make never be erased for generations and in eternity.

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