It’s official: mature women are back in vogue and veteran models are dominating fashion campaigns across the globe. So why are designers courting older women and will their attentions last?
We’re often overeager to applaud the fashion industry’s most timid efforts to deviate from its standard waif-like models, but when a handful of heavyweight international designers simultaneously change direction, bringing 40- and 50-something supermodels out of semi-retirement, it signals a somewhat seismic shift that deserves some attention.
Case in point: during the recent Paris couture week, Giorgio Armani launched the New Normal, his capsule collection of the kinds of classic pieces that, according to the octogenarian designer, modern women should be wearing in their daily lives (think beautifully cut, timeless basics in neutral hues). To advertise the collection, he recruited Yasmin Le Bon (51), Nadja Auermann (44), Stella Tennant (45) and Eva Herzigová (42) – all presented in black and white with only the minutest amount of retouching.
“I am interested by women whose lives are not dictated by trends, but by an attitude,” Armani explained to The New York Times. “Women who are natural, who truly live in and react to the world around them… These women are both the inspiration and customer for these clothes.”
At around the same time, on Instagram, (where else?), Balmain creative director Olivier Rousteing previewed a more risqué campaign for spring/summer 2016, featuring Cindy Crawford (49), Naomi Campbell (45), and Claudia Schiffer (45). A quick flick through any recent glossy fashion magazine will reveal Lisa Bonet (48) frolicking on a beach with daughter Zoe Kravitz (27) for Calvin Klein’s latest watches and jewellery campaign.
Slightly further down the fashion totem pole, Caroline de Maigret (40) – Lancôme muse and author of How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are: Love, Style, and Bad Habits – stars alongside model Angela Lindvall (37) in Karen Millen’s new campaign. “A garment worn well by a woman with a degree of maturity naturally complements the essence of that woman – the depth of life’s experience radiates from her,” says Lizzie Leuchars (mid-50s), the stylish corporate events manager of Auckland-based SKYCITY Entertainment Group. “For me that is empowering.”
@bettemidler stars in the Marc Jacobs Spring/Summer 2016 ad campaign. Photographed by David Sims, styled by @kegrand, casting by @bitton, hair by @robertramosprod, makeup by @oslynholder, nails by @jinsoonchoi & set design by @stefanbeckman #marcjacobspremiere
A photo posted by Marc Jacobs (@marcjacobs) on
We won’t blame you if you’re scratching your head slightly at this point, wondering at the true ‘newness’ of this mature model trend. Take, for example, the fact that Louis Vuitton has had Uma Thurman (45) as its face for some years, and Dior has had enduring success with Charlize Theron (40). Not to mention the fashion industry’s love affair last year with singer Cher (69), who modelled for Marc Jacobs, Joni Mitchell (72) for Saint Laurent, and author Joan Didion (81) who starred in ads for Céline.
“Seeing clothing on more mature models is authentic in the eye of the beholder,” says Elisabeth Findlay (67), founder and designer of New Zealand fashion brand Zambesi. “I personally am inspired by the characters I admire or respect or feel a connection with whatever age they are.” Zambesi used Clementine Seton (34) for its campaign last summer, a model the brand first used fifteen years ago when Seton was in her late teens.
Rhana Devenport (50-something) – the chicly flamboyant director of Auckland Art Gallery, who favours labels like Nomd, Akira Isogawa, Issey Miyake, Zambesi and Comme des Garçons, and who is a regular on best-dressed lists – agrees. “I am certainly more interested in the Iris Apfels and Daphne Selfes of the world, who are rocking it in their eighties.”
It goes without saying, when it comes to fashion campaigns, that older female consumers have for too long been confronted by models who could be their hollow-cheeked teenage daughters. But blogs-turned-books like The Satorialist and Advanced Style as well as tastemakers like street style sensation Anna Dello Russo (53), who uses Instagram as her platform to address her 1 million-plus followers, have been powerful catalysts contributing to a rise in the cachet of personal style, a concept that privileges experience over youth and courage over conformity.
To read the full article check out the latest issue of Simply You, on sale now.