Sixty-year-old Supermodels!

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Linda Rodin , Jacky O’Shaughnessy, Catherine Deneuve, Daphne Selfe are our new supermodels, and they’re all over 60!

Fashion intimately reflects society, what’s happening economically and emotionally in the world is illustrated to us through the way we present ourselves to the world.

So are older models the new fashion favourites?

Photographer Nick Knight believes the success of older models is part of a broader cultural change . “We don’t live in such a youth based culture as we did 50 years ago,” he says. “The internet is where most people get their fashion information from now and we’re seeing all manner of different cultures and values.”

Major brands are also realising that they shouldn’t worry so much about alienating their younger audience as about alienating their older (and richer) consumers. Ben Barry, founding director of the Fashion Diversity Lab at Ryerson University, Canada, surveyed women over the age of 35 in 2012, discovered that they were 200% more likely to buy a product when they saw it advertised by someone who reflected their age, and 65% less likely when they didn’t.

Major fashion powerhouses are also taking note. Miuccia Prada has revealed in a recent interview that she’d like to find a solution to society’s obsession with youth. While Prada haven’t used older models on the runway just yet, she said she was conscious of the fact there was a demand for them.

While Miuccia may not be not be up to the challenge of using older models just yet, other designers including Karen Walker have embraced the recent trend, with Walker using models aged 65-95 to showcase her latest eyewear trend.

Karl Lagerfeld used 61-year-old Ines de la Fressange in his 2010 couture show, where she walked with models 40+ her junior.

Louis Vuitton’s spring/summer 2014 campaign stars a range of women, including  70-year-old Catherine Deneuve.

Daphne Selfe, 85, who has appeared in the pages of Vogue and worked with Jean Paul Gaultier, says she’s working more now as an older model than ever before.

“I’m doing more high fashion now than I did as a young woman, I think because at last I’ve lost the puppy fat!” said Selfe.

She interrupted a successful modelling career in her 20’s to have children. Since resuming her  modelling career at age 70 the work hasn’t stopped coming.

Apart from a great bone structure and large quantities of energy, O’Shaughnessy, Selfe, Rodin and Deneuve all share an infectious amount of exuberance. They are delighted by the longevity in a career in which you were in your prime while still a prepubescent. As Selfe says “Younger models I work with are very sweet – I’m no competition. But they also want to be like me: you give them hope that they’ll have a long career.”

Older women also have a self-assuredness and sense of their own style that resonate with brands.

The Row has just used Linda Rodin, 65, in their latest LookBook.  It could be an indication of the timelessness of their aesthetic but maybe, more importantly, being on the cutting edge of everything, they decided to sway from norm and use an older model.

Rodin had a successful career as a model in the 1960’s but it wasn’t until J. Crew offered her a campaign in 2012 that she felt comfortable enough to step back in front of the camera. She said she felt, “that they were not using me just as a model, but as someone with something going on. I’m not just an old lady that looks cute in clothes.”

In a New York Times profile on Linda, the design editor Jeffrey W. Miller, had this to say about her, “Any person with real style… they make you look at the world in a different way… and rethink everything. They know how to create tension.” And tension, he added, “is what creates beauty.”

Perhaps, finally, fashion brands are realising that beauty is not synonymous with youth!

Jacky O’Shaughnessy, 62, is the latest face of American Apparel. She used to be an actor, when her neighbour, who worked for American Apparel, invited her to do a shoot. The first set of images included one of her sitting, fully clothed, with her legs wide open. “A morning talk show said it was distasteful to see a woman of my age – I loved this! – in that position. Here, I thought, was rampant ageism.” At the same time, O’Shaughnessy has found that her popularity on Facebook has massively increased, mainly because of younger woman who found her inspirational. “A lot of them said, ‘I want to look like her when I get older,’ and were encouraged that things don’t have to be a downhill slide”

The simplest and most pragmatic reason for this sudden social shift would be that older woman make up a large part of our market. It doesn’t make commercial sense to not market to them.

But the fact that we now have a generation above us that is happy to shine, is perhaps most heartening and inspirational. We all deserve the opportunity to let go of our youthful competitiveness, and to embrace our wisdom, experience and age and to be appreciated for the depth, beauty and richness that life brings.




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