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    Age is just a number: older models and influencers are showing a new way forward

    Older models and influencers are increasingly garnering the attention they deserve in culture. But is there still work to do – in fashion and beyond? Sue Fernando-Solini, commercial director at media agency JAA, investigates.

    For media agencies, it has long been established that you can no longer rely on simple demographics when targeting.

    In the last decade, it has become impossible to target an ‘older woman’ by identifying the fashion brands they wear. Although not necessarily featured in the images or the models used by the fashion brands, older women often have quite an eclectic mix in their repertoire. Top Shop, H&M, And Other Stories, Zara, ME + EM, Hush or Anthropologie: anyone from 25 to 75 (and beyond) may be wearing their apparel. 

    Retailers are wary of alienating the younger element of their audience by showing older women wearing their brand. I’ve experienced first-hand, attending focus groups, that while older women will buy and support retailers showing very youthful models in their campaigns, younger women do not respond favorably to seeing someone their mother’s age (or older) wearing the same attire.

    Women are also appearing younger, healthier and fitter. 50+ women are not all wearing pleated skirts and soft sole shoes aging gracefully. Just think of Jennifer Lopez (53), Jennifer Aniston (53), and Cameron Diaz (50): all beautiful, talented, midriff-baring actresses. In the UK, Tess Daly (53), Emilia Fox (48) and Claudia Winkleman (50) are stiletto-sporting vixens with enviable media carers. Kate Moss, in her late forties, features in high-end fashion and FMCG campaigns. 

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    A model workforce

    Using older models in high-end fashion campaigns is not a new concept. Tom Ford’s Forever Love campaign (first featured in Vogue Paris, December 2010, when Ford was guest editor) included ‘scandalous’ images of an older couple in the throes of passion. 

    In 2015, the iconic Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell, then 71, led an impactful campaign for Saint Laurent. The same year, literary star Joan Didion became the face of French fashion giant Celine at 80, shot by Juergen Teller. More recently, Camilla and Marc’s 2020/21 campaign featured Heather Inwood, 65 at the time. The list goes on; American photographer, filmmaker and fashion blogger Ari Seth Cohen is known for promoting age diversity in fashion and beauty.

    Cher (76) joining designer Olivier Rousteing on the runway to close Balmain’s Spring-Summer show is further testament to the 50+ movement.

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    What is perhaps telling is that these stars were used as a tool to elevate their campaign, focusing on their age as a point of diversity. There are exceptions to the rule, though: Monica Bellucci has regularly modelled for Dolce & Gabbana and still does at almost 60.

    In an aging population, more mature adults are a consideration. Key industries are still seeing value in an older, more stable workforce; mortgage lenders are now offering mortgages that will compete when the recipients are 75.

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    It’s not just in the workforce. Influencers are not all 20-something girls in a posting frenzy. 65 year-old Ins de La Fressange (former muse to Karl Largerfeld), regularly cited as one of the most stylish women in France, is a major fashion influencer. Grece Ghanem’s Montreal-based personal trainer set up her account after daughter persuaded her to share her cool style; she’s now closing in on a million followers

    I would stress, however, that until such time as brands incorporate older women not as a diversity tool but as a reflection of their brand affiliation (especially in fashion), it will remain a taboo subject.

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