Is Personal Style Still 'Personal'?

I get asked this question quite often, and I am going to take a stab at answering.

Personal style has always and still remains a form of personal expression for me. It also remains my constant source of bread and butter, if I am being quite honest and transparent here. The ultimate dream come true, am I right? 

Disclaimer: Before I delve deeper into this discussion, I want to say that I am merely sharing my thoughts on the evolution and current state of personal style. This is neither for or against said topic. 

Yet, in the recent months and during NYFWM, I couldn't help but question what "personal style" means to the masses anymore. One quick search under the hashtag #ootd or #lookoftheday and you'll see what I am talking about: A deluge, an over-saturation of personal style looks of every variation. In an age of Instagram, where we are primed to 'like' and 'engage' with looks or items that fit a particular mold, style or vibe, originality is starting to be overlooked and gradually obsolete. "Doing it for the gram" seems to be the constant mantra nowadays. It's what sells, as we scroll through the feeds of one cookie cutter to another. 

For those in the peripheral, like me, I'm constantly seeking, digging and nurturing my niche and validating it in my daily conversations through emails + phone calls to prospective clients. I feel as though I live this marginalized life as these successful "cookie-cutters" rise to the top of Instagram fame. I derive great pleasure from actually buying and mixing my own personal luxury purchases with emerging designer brands that aren’t particularly well-known on the runway. In this instance at the Arlo Hotel, which is quite the lovely hotel I must say, I paired a newly-purchased Rick Owens wool turtleneck with a Dress Abstract custom-painted blazer. And I am standing there, still doing my own thing. 

This leads me to my own self-actualization: I dress for myself and no one else. I enjoy knowing that I haven't succumbed to the codes and measures of what it means to be a successful 'style star' on Instagram or if and when a street-style photographer deems me as such. Although I was heavily street-snapped this NYFWM season, including a few appearances on NY Times Fashion, the likes of Phil Oh of the Street Peeper and Tommy Ton still avoided me. (We made eye contact, and they simply walked away. Sorry I wasn't in the latest Raf Simons I suppose.) Almost to proverbially say -- "You aren't worthy." 

This leads me to my own self-actualization: I dress for myself and no one else.

Till this day, I continue to invest in items and brands I truly believe in -- whether they are personal purchases or gifts. I am fortunate to have been able to incorporate this custom, hand-painted blazer from Dress Abstract for my time at NYFWM. It's truly an abstraction of my personal style, where artistic quirks meet classic essentials.

Photography by Nathaniel James & Adrian Martin of Men's Fashion Post