Culture 18 October 2018
Attendees group photo in their sunglasses provided by Luxottica. Photo Courtsey Of Sarah Merians Photography & Video Company
What happens when 36 executives in the fashion and media fields come together over autumn-inspired dishes and cocktails? “Meaningful connections and authentic relationships that hopefully can lead to bigger partnerships,” says SWAAY’s founder, Iman Oubou, on the cohort of female executives warming up the room on New York City’s first brisk evening of the season.
Power. Resistance. Authenticity. Alacrity. This was last night’s tone hovering throughout Haven’s Kitchen, a female-founded restaurant complex, dedicated to forming communities through cooking and eating. The third-floor loft space provided an amiable setting for established executives from brands like Luxottica, Rosenthal & Rosenthal, and Steve Madden to mingle with founders of emerging brands like ADAY, Neely & Chloe, INSPR and Affordable Luxury Group; brands that emphasize the fashion world is never too saturated to break into.
“We live in a world where we’re consuming and discovering trends in a different way than we ever have before,” said INSPR’s co-founder, Chantel Waterbury, explaining her brand’s ability to take advantage of a consumer trend’s short-lived cycle and turn it into an entire label. “We’re essentially giving creatives an empty canvas to tell their story for around 90 days.”
Iman Oubou, Neely Burch, Nina Faulhaber, Amelia Lovaglio
Photo Courtsey Of Sarah Merians Photography & Video Company
Aptly named “A Night of Empowerment,” Oubou celebrated the evening as SWAAY’s first partnership with Accessories Council. “Karen and I met at our last SWAAY dinner,” shared Oubou before introducing Karen Giberson, President, and CEO at Accessories Council. “We had a conversation about how we can always be doing more to support one another; it’s about collaboration, not competition.”
Karen Giberson, president of the Accessories Council, continued, “We are an industry that serves women and there really aren’t enough women in most senior leadership positions. We have an opportunity to change things.”
As the room glowed with an aura as soft as the tea candle-lit tables, connections came alive as the fashion-forward attendees shared their industry experience by introducing some of their glorifying wins, but more importantly recognizing similar struggles while building a career within a still male-dominated field.
“Being the only female family member in the Rosenthal business often makes me feel that I have to work just that much harder to prove myself,” says Cassie Rosenthal, Senior Vice President at Rosenthal and Rosenthal, opening up the floor to introductions from the range of women she brought together in collaboration with SWAAY and The Accessories Council. “What I’ve come to learn over the years more than anything is, it doesn’t matter how outnumbered I am, it’s my unique perspective and approach to business that allows me to affect change.”
Karen Giberson, President of Accessories Council
Photo Courtsey Of Sarah Merians Photography & Video Company
In response to her honest and humbling opener, the room buzzed with similar tales of unfathomable wins and what makes each invitee’s story unique.
“Being a woman in this male-dominated world has helped me a lot,” admitted Arelis Gutierrez, President and CEO of Aria Logistics, who also unabashedly referred to herself as the “Elle Woods of the trucking industry.”
Affordable Luxury Group’s founder Aimee Kestenberg also shared in success by giving into being different. “People told us we were too young and stupid to do anything in fashion, but now we’re the only millennial owned and run fashion company in Manhattan,” she shared, also noting they were just named the fastest growing, privately owned fashion company in America.
“If women demonstrate qualities that men are revered for, they are interpreted as bitchy, overbearing, and tough to deal with,” explained Sloan Tichner, President of Steve Madden Handbags. “If you want to achieve an objective, you have to detach emotions. As women, it’s indicative to take on everything for the cause, even if it means doing someone else’s job but you can’t manage and do; it was only when I got here that my business took off.”
Staci Chen, Chanel Brand Director at Luxottica inherited her comfort in communicating after moving to the U.S. at 15-years-old; she didn’t speak English, therefore, wasn’t vocal. “My parents said do whatever you need to do to get your point of view across. If you speak your mind, you communicate in a way that you get what you want.”
Fran Lukas, CEO of the Jewelry Group, shared her lessons from growing up in the industry surrounded by men, and applying their wisdom to inspire women, “not to be intimidated by each other’s strengths, but to lift each other up and take it to the next generation.”
Neely and Chloe is an aspirational, attainable handbag brand that represents this next generation, with sisters Neely and Chloe Burch attributing their success to the leading ladies in style who came before them. “So many women have struck out on their own and have made it possible to do what we do. It’s our turn to dive back into this world to support other women in their endeavors and dreams.”
Other names in fashion included former executives at Hermes, Nine West, and Ivanka Trump, along with innovative companies such as zero-waste, superfood organic beauty brand LOLI and luxury accessory brand Deepa Gurnani working to change the stigma surrounding women’s roles in India.
It was an evening full of camaraderie and confirmation of what happens when women work together to support one another, not just from all angles of the industry, but from international corners and across all ages. Oubou concluded the inaugural dinner with an ode to the series on the horizon, to keep the conversation flowing and inspiration consistent. “Our hope with these intimate gatherings is to give a platform for women to come together and insist on each other’s success.
We all get comfortable in supporting each other from afar, or commenting on each other’s social media posts, but there’s something magical about women coming together in real life to build deeper relationships and have meaningful conversations. We are excited about this dinner series and the incredible stories that will come out each gathering.”
For decades, women have been unknowingly suffering from PSD and intergenerational trauma, but now Dr. Valerie Rein wants women to reclaim their power through mind, body and healing tools.
As women, no matter how many accomplishments we have or how successful we look on the outside, we all occasionally hear that nagging internal voice telling us to do more. We criticize ourselves more than anyone else and then throw ourselves into the never-ending cycle of self-care, all in effort to save ourselves from crashing into this invisible internal wall. According to psychologist, entrepreneur and author, Dr. Valerie Rein, these feelings are not your fault and there is nothing wrong with you— but chances are you definitely suffering from Patriarchy Stress Disorder.
Patriarchy Stress Disorder (PSD) is defined as the collective inherited trauma of oppression that forms an invisible inner barrier to women's happiness and fulfillment. The term was coined by Rein who discovered a missing link between trauma and the effects that patriarchal power structures have had on certain groups of people all throughout history up until the present day. Her life experience, in addition to research, have led Rein to develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which men and women are experiencing symptoms of trauma and stress that have been genetically passed down from previously oppressed generations.
What makes the discovery of this disorder significant is that it provides women with an answer to the stresses and trauma we feel but cannot explain or overcome. After being admitted to the ER with stroke-like symptoms one afternoon, when Rein noticed the left side of her body and face going numb, she was baffled to learn from her doctors that the results of her tests revealed that her stroke-like symptoms were caused by stress. Rein was then left to figure out what exactly she did for her clients in order for them to be able to step into the fullness of themselves that she was unable to do for herself. "What started seeping through the tears was the realization that I checked all the boxes that society told me I needed to feel happy and fulfilled, but I didn't feel happy or fulfilled and I didn't feel unhappy either. I didn't feel much of anything at all, not even stress," she stated.
Photo Courtesy of Dr. Valerie Rein
This raised the question for Rein as to what sort of hidden traumas women are suppressing without having any awareness of its presence. In her evaluation of her healing methodology, Rein realized that she was using mind, body and trauma healing tools with her clients because, while they had never experienced a traumatic event, they were showing the tell-tale symptoms of trauma which are described as a disconnect from parts of ourselves, body and emotions. In addition to her personal evaluation, research at the time had revealed that traumatic experiences are, in fact, passed down genetically throughout generations. This was Rein's lightbulb moment. The answer to a very real problem that she, and all women, have been experiencing is intergenerational trauma as a result of oppression formed under the patriarchy.
Although Rein's discovery would undoubtably change the way women experience and understand stress, it was crucial that she first broaden the definition of trauma not with the intention of catering to PSD, but to better identify the ways in which trauma presents itself in the current generation. When studying psychology from the books and diagnostic manuals written exclusively by white men, trauma was narrowly defined as a life-threatening experience. By that definition, not many people fit the bill despite showing trauma-like symptoms such as disconnections from parts of their body, emotions and self-expression. However, as the field of psychology has expanded, more voices have been joining the conversations and expanding the definition of trauma based on their lived experience. "I have broadened the definition to say that any experience that makes us feel unsafe psychically or emotionally can be traumatic," stated Rein. By redefining trauma, people across the gender spectrum are able to find validation in their experiences and begin their journey to healing these traumas not just for ourselves, but for future generations.
While PSD is not experienced by one particular gender, as women who have been one of the most historically disadvantaged and oppressed groups, we have inherited survival instructions that express themselves differently for different women. For some women, this means their nervous systems freeze when faced with something that has been historically dangerous for women such as stepping into their power, speaking out, being visible or making a lot of money. Then there are women who go into fight or flight mode. Although they are able to stand in the spotlight, they pay a high price for it when their nervous system begins to work in a constant state of hyper vigilance in order to keep them safe. These women often find themselves having trouble with anxiety, intimacy, sleeping or relaxing without a glass of wine or a pill. Because of this, adrenaline fatigue has become an epidemic among high achieving women that is resulting in heightened levels of stress and anxiety.
"For the first time, it makes sense that we are not broken or making this up, and we have gained this understanding by looking through the lens of a shared trauma. All of these things have been either forbidden or impossible for women. A woman's power has always been a punishable offense throughout history," stated Rein.
Although the idea of having a disorder may be scary to some and even potentially contribute to a victim mentality, Rein wants people to be empowered by PSD and to see it as a diagnosis meant to validate your experience by giving it a name, making it real and giving you a means to heal yourself. "There are still experiences in our lives that are triggering PSD and the more layers we heal, the more power we claim, the more resilience we have and more ability we have in staying plugged into our power and happiness. These triggers affect us less and less the more we heal," emphasized Rein. While the task of breaking intergenerational transmission of trauma seems intimidating, the author has flipped the negative approach to the healing journey from a game of survival to the game of how good can it get.
In her new book, Patriarchy Stress Disorder: The Invisible Barrier to Women's Happiness and Fulfillment, Rein details an easy system for healing that includes the necessary tools she has sourced over 20 years on her healing exploration with the pioneers of mind, body and trauma resolution. Her 5-step system serves to help "Jailbreakers" escape the inner prison of PSD and other hidden trauma through the process of Waking Up in Prison, Meeting the Prison Guards, Turning the Prison Guards into Body Guards, Digging the Tunnel to Freedom and Savoring Freedom. Readers can also find free tools on Rein's website to help aid in their healing journey and exploration.
"I think of the book coming out as the birth of a movement. Healing is not women against men– it's women, men and people across the gender spectrum, coming together in a shared understanding that we all have trauma and we can all heal."