Everybody has heard the age-old, oft-repeated fashion idiom “Everything old is new again,” though I’m not sure if it has ever been taken so literally. One glance at the recent campaigns of Céline, Saint Laurent, and L’Oreal shows that models are skewing much more to an older demographic than one would typically see in fashion.
As any good cynic would say, this may be fashion marketing’s attempt to stir up some buzz by going outside the usual comfort zone. While late-teen models-of-the-moment like Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner will always be the bread and butter of the industry, it would be a fair assumption to say that the latest campaigns featuring Joan Didion, Joni Mitchell, and Twiggy may just for shock value – a fleeting trend just like any other. Or could it be something more?
The trend of using older women in mainstream fashion campaigns took off in 2014. Spurred on by the popularity of blog/documentary Advanced Style, cosmetics houses Marc Jacobs Beauty, NARS, and L’Oreal featured actresses Jessica Lange, Charlotte Rampling, and Helen Mirren, respectively. Quite frankly, anybody who watched American Horror Story: Coven would tell you that it would be a crime NOT to use Jessica Lange in something fashion-related. On the clothing side, Dolce & Gabbana, often known for their elaborate hyper-sexualized ad campaigns, even featured a trio of Nona-looking Italian ladies for their spring/summer 2015 spread.
Of note is the fact that all of the campaigns in question feature women. Paul Mason, the Canadian male model superstar (colloquially known as “fashion Santa”) who has covered magazines like DTK Men, will be appearing in an upcoming The Kooples look book, and strutted innumerable catwalks at World MasterCard Fashion Week, tells us, “The world is obsessed with women looking younger. Men are not subjected to the same level of scrutiny – we age better in the advertising world.”
However, as Mason says, while standards may be harsher on women’s age, female models also have higher earning potential. Male modelling careers don’t generally become lucrative until the 30 to 40 age bracket, whereas women start much earlier (i.e. late teens) and have the possibility of becoming far wealthier.
Many may also be quick to say that Mason, with his signature white beard, came to popularity on the waves of this older models trend though they would be wrong. “My career, which I’m proud to say hits the 30 year mark in 2016, didn’t start this way. I looked like a different person; the beard, white hair, and being 50 has been like a rebirth to an already successful career. It’s the second phase, chapter 2. It’s funny that my new following think I just came on the scene.”
As I said in my piece “The Rant: In Defence of Fashion”, I believe fashion is both a thermometer of where our culture is at and also a tool for progress. It would be seem logical that as the baby boomers age, so would our society’s tastes. As the largest single age group, they represent a third of the population and approximately 70% of the spending potential. Marketing is supposed to present ideals and it would make sense that people in their 50s and 60s would not be moved to purchase by “Cara Del-who?” in a crop top. Rather, they want to see somebody who has aged beautifully and, more importantly, accomplished something in their lives. It is reflective of changing demographics: with more women in the workplace and less families having children, there are plenty of baby boomers with tons of money and nobody to spend it on.
In many ways, the older models trend has a universalizing quality. Much like the popularity of grey hair in 2014, the one thing that is a true commonality among all peoples is that we age. In this light, it seems almost ludicrous that the fashion industry has taken so long to market older models.
Furthermore, as an agent for progress, fashion is increasingly presenting a variety of beauty ideals. Thanks to the democratization of the industry on social media, mainstream fashion has come to reflect a variety of subcultures and body types, from Winnie Harlow to more full-figured models like Kate Upton.
So, are older models just a trend and flavour of the moment? Probably. But that doesn’t mean that it’s going anywhere fast or that it’s not a beneficial narrative for our society. The baby boomers will be around and actively engaging with the marketplace for at least another 20 years and deserve to be represented accordingly. Fingers crossed for an Alexander Wang X Liza Minnelli campaign, please and thank you.
What are your thoughts on Older Models Taking Over The Fashion Industry? Let us know in the comments below or tweet us @ViewTheVibe.