Since I founded Studio10 in 2015 my mission has always been to encourage women to not only embrace ageing, but to see the beauty in it. This hasn’t been easy, due largely to being in an industry that has always been adamant that youth is the most beautiful and desirable perception. But, I am cautiously optimistic; there is tangible evidence that those attitudes are beginning to change.
Last year People Magazine announced Julia Roberts, then aged 49, as their 2017 ‘World’s Most Beautiful Woman’, 26 years after she had first appeared on the list at the age of 23. Julia shared her delight at being chosen – for a fifth time no less – saying:
“I am very flattered. I think I’m currently peaking.”
Julia puts her ageless beauty down to her happy home life – not a cream or pill – saying that being settled and comfortable has helped her to age gracefully.
Calvin Klein, known for a very specific visual in their underwear ads and presenting young models positioned as those we aspire to be like; took the world by surprise in his summer campaign that featured the face and extremely beautiful body of 73-year-old Lauren Hutton.
Whilst it isn’t the first time that Klein has chosen a mature model – Christy Turlington was featured years ago whilst in her forties – it is the first time that a discernibly mature woman with signs of ageing has been celebrated in such a ‘front-and-centre’ way. Not surprisingly the campaign was shot by Sofia Coppola, well-known for her love of using women of all ages. Hutton impressed when she walked the runway for Bottega Veneta arm-in-arm with Gigi Hadid last year and she was a ‘natural’ choice for the ‘nineties-inspired’ shoot.
Whilst high street brands such as Zara are being subjected to surveys that suggest 30 is the uppermost age for their fashion, the Spanish chain Mango has embraced diversity by using the 64 year old blogger Icon Accidental(Lyn Slater) to champion its ‘uniqueness’ campaign. Lyn, under her handle “iconaccidental”, has over 550K followers on Instagram, traditionally thought to be a medium for the younger consumer and she has become a style icon, cultural influencer and muse.
Last month’s Fashion Weeks in London, Paris, Milan and New York very explicitly embraced a more cross-age representation with fabulous women such as Monica Bellucci (53), Carla Bruni (50) Isabella Rossellini (66) and Maye Musk (70) walking for Dolce and Gabbana, Stella Tennant (47) walking for Salvatore Ferragamo and an extraordinary melting pot of inspiring women at Temperley London, who were cited as being the epitome of the brand’s ethos – “empowered, unique, creative”.
Whilst the beauty industry has been more advanced in championing the mature woman – Boots No7 and L’Oreal have beautiful campaigns fronting older women such as Helen Mirren, Julianne Moore and Susan Sarandon – the fashion industry has lagged behind, despite the emergence of ‘character fashionistas’ like Baddie Winkle.
Journalist Karen Kay recently discussed the ‘waking up’ to older women within the fashion industry in a piece for The Guardian (22nd July 2018). Karen referred to the idea of social media providing a ‘show-and-tell’ platform, transforming our views of older women. Citing expert voices like that of Alyson Walsh, former fashion editor and blogger at That’s Not My Age, she rejoices in the idea that finally we are seeing older faces sharing their love of fashion and style.
Is this just about seeing older women looking older on the catwalk? Not for me. I second Alyson’s views that women of all ages want to look good and that it’s not only unfair but also uneconomical to suggest that clothes only look right on women far younger than those with the money to buy them.
As Victoria Bereznha wrote in her article for http://www.businessoffashion.com, Maye Musk, at the age of 69, was signed as an ambassador for CoverGirl in the United States and observes, “after 50 years of modelling, I’m an overnight success!” Her style, attitude and beauty is inspiring young women and this power is finally being recognised by the fashion corporations, with social media making this far more viable due to instant visibility.
Will it last though? Currently, “greynaissance” (as it has been termed) is a zeitgeist – the trend of the moment. What’s important now is to keep the pressure on media and appearance-led industries not to slip back into ageist habits when the ‘shock factor’ wears off, recognising that the older woman has a community and a voice that deserves to be seen and heard.
Research suggests that using “baby boomer” models inspires their own generation as well as the younger generation because it shows that life doesn’t suddenly stop at 45, 50, 60 and beyond.
Maye Musk used a recent hash tag #justgettingstarted alongside images of her walking with Dolce and Gabbana. I really hope she’s right.
It’s important to remember - we older women are for life, not just this season’s marketing.