Being part of the fashion media can make one feel as if one’s age should be counted in dog years. At 35, I am still a long way away from being a cardcarrying senior citizen, but being reminded of the ages of some of fashion’s biggest rising stars can leave one feeling positively wizened.
One of the most prolific models of the moment, for instance, is 18-year-old Lucky Blue Smith, a platinum-haired Mormon who has fronted campaigns for big names like Tom Ford. Lily Rose Depp, the off spring of actor Johnny Depp, started modelling for Chanel last year at the age of 16. And even they don’t seem all that young when compared to Kaia Gerber – the daughter of ’90s supermodel Cindy Crawford – who recently appeared in her first Miu Miu campaign, aged 14.
Fashion has always been aspirational, and youth is one of the industry’s obsessions, but it’s unsettling to think that luxury fashion marketers expect adults – their main consumer base – to aspire to look like pubescent teenagers. Thankfully, a steadily rising phenomenon has, in recent years, helped to up the average age of the faces used to sell clothing – and to better reflect the true diversity of consumers.
As if finally realising that Millennials are not the only demographic group that matters, or more importantly, has the spending power, the fashion world has been embracing the silver-haired set.
Recently, 60-year-old Californian fashion stylist and model Gillean McLeod made headlines as the star of a swimwear campaign by clothing chain H&M. The image, which featured a makeup-free McLeod in a black one-piece swimsuit, received more than 100,000 likes on Instagram.
Her fellow sexagenarian, Paris-based Philippe Dumas, made waves when he started modelling a year ago. Having signed on with several talent and modelling agencies, he partly attributes his success to the luxuriant grey beard he kept after losing his job, when the company he was working at went bankrupt. (“It is very trendy in Europe at the moment,” Dumas has said of his facial foliage.) Recently, he appeared in Billionaire Couture’s Spring 2017 fashion presentation, alongside other male models, all 50 and above.
This penchant for showcasing senior style peaked – age-wise – this May, when upmarket British department store Harvey Nichols featured a fashion-loving 100-year-old in an exclusive campaign for the centennial issue of British Vogue. With silver hair perfectly coiffed, Marjorie “Bo” Gilbert was photographed looking chic in designer pieces like a fuchsia coat by Dries Van Noten.
In an accompanying video, Gilbert says sassily: “I dress to suit myself, I certainly don’t dress up for boys.”
Considering that even typical (read: young) models are often Photoshopped into pore-less perfection, it is bracing to see older models in print and on the runway, looking stylish and confident, lines and all. Cynics might see this as a slick marketing trend, but I’d like to believe that it is part of the evolution of an industry that has been warming up to greater diversity, in terms of race and size. Fashion may be aspirational, but it should provide positive inspiration, not impossible goals.
After all, why fight a pointless battle to cling on to youth, when you can be inspired to look to the future by a feisty, fashionable centenarian instead?