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Freedom is Trending: From Fashion to Gender Equality and Back (to Mindfulness)

I am no stranger to the search for freedom. I’ve always been drawn to the open road and I feel more at home at the helm of a company, rather than a navigator of red tape (respect to those super stars who can and do!). And since I’m confessing, I have been known to resist conformity—a throwback to resisting school uniforms in my early years. But recently I’ve been noticing a trend; the word freedom is appearing in unexpected and inspiring places. Is this the theme of a generation of women who will right the ship?


At a recent event for Young Women of Influence…

Holt Renfrew’s Lisa Tant was talking to us about “How To Dress For The Job You Want.” Sounds like following the rules, right? But instead, she shifted our perspective (love when people do that!) and spoke to us about the power of fashion with a rapid-fire approach of tips and the inspiration that you can get by dressing for your work culture, but with freedom and large doses of creativity (okay, and some healthy spending). This freedom of self-expression through fashion doesn’t have to be so bold you shock your clients, or communicate a message that does a disservice to your skills or ambition. Your fashion sense can and should be used to communicate on your behalf—what you’re made of, who you are and not just what you do. This kind of statement helps you stand out in all the right ways.

Want some of Lisa’s tips? Here were my top 5 takeaways:

  1. Know your dress code and the guidelines, but experiment within them—mixed patterns, pop of colour, get creative!
  2. Don’t dress for the job you have, dress for the job you want
  3. Footwear should never be sensible (my personal fav)
  4. There is no one single look for work fashion. Ask yourself, “who is your audience?”
  5. Power dressing is gone; it’s about authority in your own way

Emma Watson’s UN address…

This expertly and vulnerably delivered message gives us a new reason (because we still need more?!) on why it’s important to treat women the same as men. Watson says, “gender equality is freedom.” Have you taken the 13 minutes to watch this yet? Almost 200,000 people have. And I highly recommend it. Her use of the word that grabbed me heart strings was “solidarity”. There’s something really beautiful about the image of freedom in solidarity, and I pictured the wave of millennials that is heading towards us like a tsunami on the old-school corporate campus. Of course this is what we are searching for! Solidarity with self-expression, uniqueness and freedom, making the most of who we are in the world in which we live.

In my recent workshop for “How to Find Your Passion”…

I was blown away by how unexpectedly freedom presented itself. Vision boarding has long been a part of the brainstorming process that I teach in this course every quarter. Each participant starts by selecting a “jumping off point” comparable to famed designer and woman of influence, Sarah Richardson, who designs a room around the point of inspiration of a certain colour or fabric. Similarly, we pick an image to start the dialogue on what we might want to design our passion around. Since leading this course the participants have always selected an image of a woman in business or leadership role—think power suits, C-suites, corporate visionaries, entrepreneurial shop girls. But this time something different happened.

EVERYONE in the room picked an image that reflected a feeling they were passionate about having. A mind that was strong, clean and calm. A feeling of freedom. It was a powerful message. It had me thinking about Danielle LaPorte’s theory on building your life around your core-desired feelings.

Is this the new passion, the search for freedom of our mind versus the job that we hold? Is this how we will ultimately be able to answer the question, “who am I?” instead of answering, “what I do?”

What’s next?

Let’s make a deal to press on with this trend, and our collective search for freedom, as I believe it will lead to great things. McKinsey & Company’s latest article asks if “Can Women Fix Capitalism?” and Fortune’s Most Powerful Women in Business is showing how we’re doing it.

At the end of the day, I know we’ll never be great (you, me, women, men) if we follow the rules and keep doing things the way they have always been done. Let’s keep searching outside the box, continue to break the right rules, and have an incredible impact from how we walk into a room, change the corporate leadership culture, or simply live with a free state of mind.