If you follow beauty, you can’t have missed the recent scandal to hit Dior.
The luxury global superpower found themselves facing a barrage of criticism after using 25-year-old Cara Delevingne to market their ‘Capture Youth’ product line, which is aimed at women in their 40s plus.
The range promises to 'correct all visible signs of ageing to reveal a radiant youthful beauty', so it isn’t unfair to expect that the model they used would be representative of the audience it is aimed at. A woman in her late thirties maybe? Or even right up until her 50s, 60s and beyond.
But they didn’t. They chose a flawless 25-year-old supermodel, who isn’t old enough to even have lines to represent the product.
So why is this so wrong, to so many? After all, surely, we know by now that no potion or lotion, no matter how miraculous, is going to turn the average 50-year-old into Cara Delevingne, so it’s not false advertising is it?
Partly that is the issue, but it’s more the idea that there is only ONE standard of beauty and that beauty is under 30.
Caroline Hirons explained it perfectly when she said:
“As long as you insist on ignoring me (us), I’ll be taking my money elsewhere. And highlighting your poor marketing decisions on my social media platforms.”
Her article led to the #thatsnotme campaign – where beauty bloggers and ordinary women work to stamp out what they see as ageism in the industry by highlighting that those models look nothing like the women who buy the products.
Within the space of a few hours that campaign had reached 169,000 accounts, the clear majority of whom were furious that once again the older woman had been overlooked for a younger woman.
As the owner of a pro-age makeup brand designed for women 35+, who is PASSIONATE about redefining beauty for women as they age as well as ageing, the debate is very much needed.
Interestingly, just weeks earlier, I’d attended a session unveiling research by the 'We Are Superhuman' team, in partnership with The Pool and my inspirational friend, Kate Thornton of TBSeen.
They explained that on the rare occasions that older women are used in campaigns, they look depressed, miserable and grey and yet a cursory glance around the room showed that simply isn’t what 40+ looks like. We’re stylish, full of life and ambitious, but if you ask most corporate marketing groups we should be aspiring to look 20.
Sam Baker shared that most agency briefs coming across the desks at The Pool specifically request that women not look over 40 – even for products marketed to them.
That’s shocking however you look at it, and it’s interesting to note that even when older faces are used, they’re MUCH older – as in 60, 70 plus. That isn’t the middle sector either.
There’s an ignored group in the very bracket that I am in, and that’s middle-age (well, middle-youth as I prefer to say!!). We are buying products, have disposable income and huge influence but appear to have all the attractiveness to brands of Voldemort.
So, as the founder of a beauty brand, is there a defence?
It’s not so much that Dior can be defended for this, they can’t, and I wouldn’t try to, but there are challenges facing us right now, in that attitudes (for better) are shifting, but are conflicted.
She's fabulous, but Baddie Winkle is by no means 'us', any more than Cara is...
In amongst the comments hammering Dior were the snippets that might go some way to explain why beauty seems so behind the curve on this one:
“I think it’s wrong, but the other day I saw an advert for skincare and she had wrinkles, which totally turned me off as she looked old.”
“Meh, I don’t mind the younger woman, who’s going to buy anti-ageing skincare from someone with a face full of lines?”
Both comments were on the feeds from Loose Women – another often more mature audience who shell out a lot for their skincare.
For me personally, and now in my 50s, I really don’t mind, feel alienated or ignored by brands using younger models.
BUT, and it is a big but, the product advertising must match the product efficacy claims – and if it’s aimed at improving older skin, using a younger woman kills any credibility in the products ability to do that. It’s about authenticity and not dumbed down advertising.
However, with fashion, beauty and lifestyle marketing, it’s also about inspiration and aspiration. I love keeping up with trends and hi-fashion; it’s not about becoming a victim to it, but more about making them my own. We’re much younger in our attitudes and feelings, and how we live today.
I’m seeing real age-fluidity across the generations, whether it’s buying the same jeans as my 18 and 15-year-old daughters or having a joint 18/50th with my daughter. It wouldn’t have happened in my mum’s day!
I love Julianne Moore and shared a picture of her recently that had inspired my own look that day on our Instagram feed. The same week I also picked one of a gorgeous messy bun that I, as a busy working mum I really liked. The model was 30 at most.
For me, the issue is about highlighting the beauty and inspiration of women of all ages - young and old - and making it relevant to me.
Most of all it’s about education and confidence. The more women see themselves as beautiful at EVERY age, the less discussions around ‘anti-ageing’ will matter and the more ‘pro-ageing’ will become the key.
As part of an industry worth billions, I agree – we DO have a responsibility to do that.