HATITUDE OF GRATITUDE
There are few key moments in a fashion lover's life that have pivoted and even re-defined what style means on a personal level. Such was a moment when I stumbled across Advanced Style, a blog turned Netflix documentary by Ari Cohen, examining the lives of seven unique New Yorkers whose eclectic personal style and vital spirit have guided their approach to aging. A few minutes into the film and I was especially drawn to a vivacious, colorful (literally, her hair was a bright hue of pink!) woman named Debra Rapoport. She had this joie de vivre approach to life that resonated into the very clothing she wore. She described her own style as eclectic and creative; I call it uncharted and awe-inspiring. I began to do a bit more research on my own and was delighted to discover Debra's affinity towards creating hats out of recycled materials; namely, paper towels! I couldn't help but be enamored as I scrolled through the photos in her Instagram feed (check it out for yourself, Instagram @debrarapoport!) as each hat was more whimsical than the one before. In light of Debra's inspiration, the correlation between age and style began to shift in my mind, from that of fear to one of hope in that it truly does get better with age! It was then I decided not only was Debra Rapoport my new style icon, but also that I would hit my prime in my 70's!
Fast forward to a designer panel in Soho in which I was invited to speak. It was ten minutes before we were scheduled to start the discussion when across my wine glass and on the far side of the room, I noticed a delightful hat and a statement paperclip earring that looked all too familiar. The hat turned to face me, revealing it's owner was none other than the one and only Debra Rapoport! Oh how my knees buckled beneath me in sheer excitement and it is a wonder how I somehow managed to waddle my way over to her. She was so gracious and kind as I babbled on through starstruck eyes, fiddling and trying to grasp the right words to convey the honor it meant to have met her. We exchanged emails, the panel was a wild success, and well, the rest is history.
I have had the deep honor and joy of having a front row look (beyond the tv screen!) at Debra's life and am humbled to say that she is even more of an angel in person. There is no such thing as a typical evening or afternoon; our time together consists of museum tours in Harlem, snacking on gummy bears while sipping tea in her living room, and sharing stories in TriBeCa over spaghetti and meatballs while laughing until our stomach's ache. There are many things I adore about Debra, but if I had to share one in particular, it would be her effortless ability to transcend style, no matter what her age.
When I introduce Debra, I refer to her as my sister because she feels like such a familiar piece of my inner soul, a kindred connection to the art of fashion. She represents a part of me that I always longed to tap into but never quite knew how to reach. There is a pure kind of vulnerability that she displays in the way she opens up her heart and soul, inviting others into a safe space to do the same. I love to hear stories of her childhood, witnessing memories come to life in the way she recounts how her grandmother would prioritize playing dress up and the way her mother always encouraged her and her sister to build and create with all the imagination their young minds could muster.
Debra mentioned that even as a little girl, style was a big part of who she was; it was her conversation to the world. And the story continues to evolve, ebbing and flowing through the decades and refining like the finest of wine. I love how Debra says "Age is just a number! So what?!" Really though. SO WHAT?! And along that line of thought, I find myself mustering up the courage to ask other questions like "WHY NOT?!" WHY NOT break all the latest fashion trends and make my own mark? WHY NOT take someone else's trash and construct a hat so special, Bergdorf Goodman would be jealous? WHY NOT decide that age will only elevate and accentuate your story? WHY NOT have confidence that the tapestry of your life not only transcends any wrinkle in time, but welcomes it? WHY NOT?
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. While all of us would hope to celebrate in a unified kind of warmth with our loved ones, the stark reality is that for many, this holiday brings about an annual sort of heartache. It may mean awkward confrontation with estranged family or even the loss of a dear friend represented by an empty chair at the table. Regardless of what Thanksgiving may mean for you this year, I'd like to challenge you to ask yourself a question. Why not choose to celebrate the memories of the past, the gems of the present, and the hope of the future? Debra's hand crafted hats are so special in that they serve as a reminder that there is nothing too wasted that cannot be redeemed into something magnificent. Now that's something to be thankful for. I can't help but smile when I think to myself that those hats may be Debra's special superpower. I like to call it a Hatitude of Gratitude.
Xoxo, Diwa Doll
Hats and Jewelry: Debra Rapoport
Photography: Mirna Plakalovic Photography
Styling: Natalia Martinez Sagan