Style matters: Old is the new black

BLAME it on Ari Seth Cohen or call it the Advanced Style phenomena, but age is all the rage. Read it another way and it means that old is the new black. Welcome to Generation FAB (Fifty And Beyond) and their very grown-up sense of chic.

Women of a certain age are having a fashion — and beauty — moment. Thanks to the recent appointments of 61-year-old Christie Brinkley as the new face of Peter Alexander sleepwear, Twiggy for L’Oreal, Joan Didion for Celine, Joni Mitchell to front the Saint Laurent Music Project, and UK model Daphne Selfe for OPSM, old is the new black.

However, they are only the latest in a string of high-profile women over 50 used in advertising campaigns for industries often accused of ignoring them.

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Last year Kate Spade, H&M’s “young sister” brand & Other Stories and M.A.C cosmetics called on eccentric New York socialite Iris Apfel, 93, revered for sense of style love of  statement accessories, to front campaigns.

And let’s not forget supermodel Carmen Dell’Orefice who has fronted campaigns for Missoni, Rolex and Gaultier. Lauren Hutton, 70, has posed for Lucky Brand denim, Club Monaco and J Crew and appeared on the runway for Bottega Veneta. Catherine Deneuve has spruiked for Louis Vuitton, Anjelica Huston for the Gap, and American Apparel signed up silver-haired Jackie O’Shaughnessy as their lingerie model, then aged 62, back in 2011.

WHAT EVERY WOMAN NEEDS: Age is the new black

Age before beauty? Twiggy, Charlotte Rampling and Helen Mirren. Pictures: Pinterest

Meanwhile castings of Dame Helen Mirren and Jane Fonda for L’Oreal; Jessica Lange for Marc Jacobs; Charlotte Rampling for NARS; and Jacqueline Bisset for Avon, prove that cosmetic and beauty brands also believe style is indeed truly timeless.

This is fashion — and beauty — advertising re-positioning as it pivots to embrace the concept of old is the new black. But more importantly, it’s the tacit recognition of a new demographic of women — Generation FAB — who are independent, intelligent and happy just the way they are.

“Increasingly companies … are turning to older models to give their brands a more authentic feel.”

Francois Nars, the former make-up artist behind the NARS brand recently told the Financial Times that “I don’t put an age limit on beauty. I don’t care if they are 20 or 68.”

But increasingly companies do care and they are turning to older models to give their brands a more authentic feel suggesting they are ready to engage with the realities of their customer base. Particularly important because people over 60 is the fastest growing group of consumers in the world.

So are these new campaigns “just catching up” with the opportunities provided by the world’s ageing population? Are they finally realising the buying power of older customers? Is it really common sense or more a matter of dollars and cents?

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For decades, we have been exposed to images of lithe young things with their smooth unlined faces, pert breasts, legs up to their armpits and a derriere that defies gravity. Or it’s the unbelievably airbrushed images of age-defying celebrities. In other words, young and beautiful equals the fashion and beauty ideal. Unrealistic, yes. Smart, no.

Granted that while these images might be beautiful — aspirational even — they aren’t truly reflective of global trends.

WHAT EVERY WOMAN NEEDS: Age is the new black

Age is a only number: Style stars Linda Rodin, Lauren Hutton and Iris Apfel. Pictures: Pinterest

Editor of British Harper’s Bazaar Justine Picardie was recently quoted as saying: “This is not a passing trend. Brands have done detailed research and realised their key consumers who are over the age of 40 — in many cases over the age of 50 — are affluent, financially independent, sophisticated and don’t want to be patronised with inappropriate advertising campaigns.”

L’Oreal CEO Jean-Paul Agon told the Financial Times last year that he sees mature women as a “new and gigantic opportunity for our company”. So why this change of attitude?

A recent report by the Bank of America and reported in AdWeek stated that consumers worldwide aged over 50 spent more than $8 trillion in 2010 and are expected to spend $15 trillion by 2020.

Real women of a certain age don’t want to be reminded of what they once were. They want to celebrate who they are now and what they have achieved.

Thanks to improved health practices and advances in science and medicine, we are living healthier longer. The longer we live, the more we’ll continue to spend. And according to a report in the, 47 per cent of the adult female population in Britain is over 50. By 202o that’s expected to increase by 20 per cent to 13.4 million. And the 50-pluses account for 80 per cent of the UK’s wealth.

This new cashed-up “silver economy” has a higher net worth in comparison to the shrinking spending power of the employment-challenged younger generations. They are a tremendously powerful demographic that can no longer be overlooked or ignored by ad agencies who are recognising that old is the new black.

Real women of a certain age don’t want to be reminded of what they once were. They want to celebrate who they are now and what they have achieved.

“We have to be able to grow up,” Lauren Hutton says. “Our wrinkles are our medals of the passage of life. They are what we have been through and who we want to be.”

“They are women who don’t buy into the anti-ageing, younger-is-better model and the pressure to look a certain way,” says Alyson Walsh, author of Style Forever, in Sunday Style magazine.

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These women are confident in who they are, what works for them and what they want. And they are voting with their credit cards. They want brands to talk to them (or at least use images that relate to them) not the lives of their daughter, granddaughter or niece. So it makes sense that their role models are also women of a certain age.

If society is ready to accept that these women are simply inspiring — that old is the new black — it’s time that retailers realise who their customers are so we can all aspire to look just as fashionable no matter what our age.

There is something really attractive about a woman who is confident — and comfortable — with her age and style. Oscar Wilde once said that “youth is wasted on the young”. Instead, maybe we could say that “fashion — and beauty — is wasted on the young”.

And who can forget Coco Chanel’s famous last words: “You can be gorgeous at 20, charming at 40, and irresistible for the rest of your life”.

Here’s to growing old!

What are your thoughts? Do you prefer to see more realistic images of older women used in advertising campaigns? Is it really common sense of more a matter of dollars and cents? Would love to hear from you. Ever stylishly yours …



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  1. Sharon
    June 28 / 12:32 am

    Since I am 69, yes, I would like to see some models that are older and haven't had tons of plastic surgery to look 20. I would also like to see more fashion and beauty tips geared towards my age. Thanks for the article.

  2. June 28 / 5:00 pm

    Hey Sharon,
    Thanks for dropping by!
    I'll endeavour to put up more articles and fashion advice geared to the more mature woman as I believe the traditional media fails to address them.
    Thanks again,