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Mature and Fashionable: How Fashion Brands Are Breaking the Age Barrier

Age has been many things. It’s been something we don’t discuss nor ask a woman. It’s also been considered “just a number” and a matter of how someone feels. For years, the concept of age, or aging, and beauty and fashion have been at odds, unfortunately. From the earliest days of strutting down the catwalks of fashion shows and demanding magazine covers, the models have always been young - incredibly young. Cindy Crawford became a model at 16, which is the average age women become models.

But now, there has been a shift in the paradigm. Fashion brands of every level have been expanding what it means to be inclusive, and mature models are now taking center stage.

Fashion is no longer the exclusive club for the under-30 crowd. Whether it’s the ads, the runway, or the fashion itself, the world is waking up to the fact that clothing, fragrance, makeup, and moments of luxury are desired by everyone. Beauty standards are being redefined, companies are expanding and growing revenue, people of all shapes, colors, and walks of life are feeling welcomed and included, and life is more beautiful because of it.

It's not just about the runway or high-fashion magazine covers – inclusivity is making waves in every aspect of the industry, from the design studios to the creatives behind the scenes to mannequin manufacturing. Designers and fashion houses are realizing that their customer base spans generations, and they're finally creating products that cater to everyone. They’re thinking beyond the latest Instagram sensations and acknowledging the diverse beauty that comes with age. Finally, we're seeing brands like Louis Vuitton, Saint Laurent, Zara, and H&M stepping up, offering chic, ageless collections that speak to a broader audience.

Zara made significant headway in age inclusivity. The fashion-forward affordable retailer did something different and refreshing for its fall 2017 online collection. They quietly added a new apparel category entitled Timeless, composed of classic pieces that defied time as much as models who wore them and the women who would soon be wearing them. Malgosia Bela, Yasmin Warsame, and Kristina de Coninck were the featured models for the collection and were all over 40. What made the campaign extra special was the online additional content. The model’s beauty and talent extended beyond merely showcasing the collection. They discussed age, style, and what getting older has meant to them, giving shoppers an intimate and personal experience.

What Zara did was six years ago, and before that, the last major pop cultural moment for age inclusivity was probably Diane Keaton’s risque nude scene in 2003’s Something’s Gotta Give. Fortunately, the direction fashion and advertising are heading is a wonderful one, and women over 50 have taken the floor to shine more brilliantly and beautifully than ever before.

Writer and activist Betty Friedan once said, “Aging is not ‘lost youth’ but a new stage of opportunity and strength.” She was right, and it seems the fashion industry has slowly begun to realize this as well.

Joni Mitchell was the face of Saint Laurent ads at 71. Tom Ford’s Forever Love campaign of 2010 featured something unseen and unheard of - people over a certain age exuding sensuality and passion. MAC had a 2010 campaign All Ages, All Races, All Sexes that, some would say, missed the mark with age, but made up for it with its What’s Your Thing? campaign in 2018. Rihanna went so far as to handpick the then 67-year-old model, JoAni Johnson, for her Fenty ad campaign in 2019 after she made waves online with her stunning luminescent gray hair.

There is definitely a shift, and it’s here to save us all. Much of the public has grown existentially exhausted from the societal pressure to look perpetually young. Brands have taken notice and are moving away from airbrushed, unattainable ideals of beauty and are opting for authenticity. Wrinkles, laugh lines, and silver strands are no longer edited out; they're celebrated. Thankfully, this change is not just a trend; it's a movement toward acknowledging that beauty comes in all shapes, sizes, and ages and that we should embrace ourselves in every moment.

Photo Credit: Iris Apfel - L'oreal New York

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