Fashion is Power – An Interview with Cassie Hawrysh
Sympli has always been passionate about supporting women, which is why we partnered with the likeminded organization, PowHERhouse, to spread the message about encouraging women to follow their dreams and increase female presence in key leadership positions. As Charlene SanJenko awed and inspired at Women’s Shows across Canada, we ran a draw for the chance to win a brand new Sympli wardrobe! Our contest winner, Cassie Hawrysh, is a retired Team Canada Skeleton Racer, Journalist, Speaker, and Motivator passionate about the PowHERhouse cause and female empowerment. With so much in common, we decided to sit down and chat with Cassie about her thoughts on women and fashion. Here’s what she had to say…
Q: How did you hear about the PowHERhouse/Sympli contest, what drove you to apply?
A: I first heard about the PowherHouse/Sympli contest at the Women’s Show in Calgary, AB. I was helping rally the troops for an exciting speaking feature we were gearing up to present on stage that weekend, and I was drawn in by the energy radiating from Charlene SanJenko (Founder and CEO of PowHERHouse) who was wearing a Sympli top herself. We got to talking and I absolutely adored the fact that Sympli is Made in Canada; so, I happily entered.
Q: What is it about the PowHERhouse mission that resonates with you?
A: The PowHerHouse brand is about authentically acknowledging who you are and who you want to be. Bravely chasing your dreams like they’re the last bus of the night and fiercely supporting and encouraging others to do the same. On the website, their mission is summarized as ACCESS – ACTIVATE – AMPLIFY. But most of all, for me, it’s their call to action to be a positive role model who helps foster true possibility and potential. Nothing I have ever accomplished in my life was done alone, and as such, I am more than excited to help motivate and celebrate other women (and men) to become exactly who they want to be, achieve every goal they’ve ever dared to dream and do so in whichever chapter of their life they’re in.
Q: Have you heard about Sympli before? If so, what made you connect with the brand? If not, what did you find surprising when you discovered the brand?
A: I had heard and seen examples of Sympli on some of the women in my circle of friends before I entered the draw, but I hadn’t yet had the pleasure of experiencing their fashion first hand. From the moment I slipped on my first Sympli piece from the 2018 Collection (it was a tunic style shirt), it was love, at first sight, looking back at me in the mirror. It flattered my features and felt divine against my skin. As all women know, our lifestyle greatly impacts our style, and it’s a goal of mine to ensure my wardrobe matches my everyday world – especially when that world can change from one week to the next. Sympli steps up to create pieces that transition from transatlantic flights to casual coffee dates; through high-pressure presentations and straight to dinner (casual or fancy) with the love of my life.
Q: What would you consider to be your personal wardrobe essential or ‘go-to’?
A: Because a great deal of my life has seen me as a professional athlete with Team Canada on the Canadian Women’s Skeleton Team (whereas prior to that I was either on the volleyball court or jumping hurdles around the track), my wardrobe has a lot of athletic wear. As such, for the longest time, my go-to essentials consisted of my perfectly worn-in spandex shorts and sports bras. Hey! A gal has to get through 5-6 workouts per week in some level of comfort!
Thankfully, my career away from the competitive world stage sees me speaking in front of crowds of all ages to share my passion for life. As such, I adore the femininity of a perfectly body-complementing dress. As such, I wear dresses whenever I can – even when it’s cold and I should probably be wearing pants. But, there’s something about the beautiful silhouette created by a dress that always makes me glow.
Q: If you had to choose one word, how would you describe your dream closet?
A: Dream closet in one word? Do you know who you’re talking to? (laughs) Okay, okay. I’ll happily choose: “Versatile”
Q: It’s often been said that fashion is a mode of self-expression, what does that mean to you, do you agree?
A: I absolutely agree. Fashion has been a personal mode of self-expression since that fateful first trip my Mom took me to the “fashion forward” store at the mall. Her main goal was to get me away from stealing clothes from her closet, but she also, admirably, was encouraging me to discover my own style. I wandered around in a euphoric daze, touching all the garments, loading up an arm with items I couldn’t wait to try on. So, the moment I returned home, overturned the bag – dumping out the three items I had been allowed to buy, carefully removed the tags, admired them and laid them out for school the next day. I knew somewhere deep in my soul that I was setting off on a journey to explore the powerful, beautiful woman I was to become. That love for clothes, fashion and expressing my personality, mood and extra special ‘Cassie-flare’ has only grown stronger.
Q: What’s your definition of a power outfit?
A: Women have shown that they can wear a pink frilly dress with flowers or a neon green pencil skirt and still kick butt in the courtroom, the showroom, or the boardroom. Basically, we don’t have to dress like men to feel powerful. We can rock a presentation in a pair of leather leggings (easily one of my fave go-to power items) or dance around the grocery store aisles in a flowy frock with messy hair (also a comfy go-to) – feeling equally as powerful and confident. For me, power outfits have no requirements; no rules. It’s all about my perspective that day and whichever outfit best helps outwardly reflects my inner feelings of being authentically ME!
Q: How do you think fashion can be used as a force for good in building women’s confidence and self-esteem?
A: I read a quote recently, from a females-in-fashion style gathering where model Karlie Kloss said, “Knowledge is power and it’s empowering for young women. It can change the way that girls think about themselves and [what they think] they are capable of, but confidence is key. It’s a tricky time, deciding who you think you can be and what you think you can’t. [We need] more girls in the conversation, at the table.” And she’s absolutely right.
Fashion is, as I mentioned, where I first started to define my personality in an outward way. That’s a really, really powerful tool – and the fashion industry knows it. It is then not only their ability, but their responsibility to use their power to show girls that fashion isn’t about looking like a model on a magazine – it’s about celebrating, highlighting and accenting all that is you – inside and out!
Q: Where do you think the fashion industry can improve its efforts to supporting women?
A: It’s a battle we’re facing on many fronts, but for the fashion industry – I would love for them to start by communicating more empowering messages to girls, and not just a one-off campaign. Change the editorial content, don’t market endlessly by comparison alone. I want to see companies caring about the brand messaging and the styles of mannequins.
I remember when I was young, looking in the mirror and not judging myself. I looked in the mirror to check my teeth or revel at how awesome I looked that day. It’s about getting women (young and old) back to a space where they spend more time truly loving their imperfections and quirks. Show one another that beauty is everywhere; in everything. Nothing about the female empowerment movement should be about trying to change the world to support girls, it absolutely needs to be about supporting girls, so that they can change the world.
Cassie Hawrysh, is a retired Team Canada Skeleton Racer, Journalist, Speaker, Motivator, Influencer, Empire Builder and Fashionista forever! Follow her on Instagram @cassiehawrysh or visit her website at www.cassiehawrysh.com.
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