Old really is gold: Meet the new generation of ‘It Girl’ fashionistas

Style after all has never been about obeying fashion rules, but listening to your inner compass about where your creativity should go

Mimi Raad
Mimi Raad - Special to Al Arabiya English
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Her long legs, killer curves and trademark beauty spot, Cindy Crawford's enviable figure and stunning good looks have made her one of the most successful supermodels in history.

She turned both her name and image into a million dollar 'brand' long before the advent of social media and made covers of every major magazine. But turning 50 sent some uncertainty in her beautiful world. “At times the pressure to live up to the fashion industry's expectations feels overwhelming,” she was recently reported as saying. Fashion is a cruel world inhabited by younger and younger women.

Ready for the weekend.

A photo posted by Cindy Crawford (@cindycrawford) on

But this maybe entirely true if you don’t consider this older generation of incredibly credible fashionistas! Heard about Iris Apfel, Jacqueline Tjah Murdock, Yayoi Kusama, Lynn Yaeger, Carmen Dell’Orefice, Bethann Hardison, Linda Rodin, Michele Lamy or Daphne Selfe? Designers have been using these senior models to represent their brands.

#irisapfeltechwearcollection2016 #techwear #wearabletechnology #forwomen

A photo posted by Iris Apfel (@iris.apfel) on

Jessica Lange, 64, has become the face of Marc Jacobs beauty. Jacky O’Shaughnessy, 62, modeled for American Apparel. Catherine Deneuve, 71, appeared in a campaign for Louis Vuitton. Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen used Linda Rodin, 65, in one of their lookbook for The Row.

One of those days...

A photo posted by Jessica Lange (@jessicalangefanpage) on

This past January, French fashion house Céline set the Internet abuzz with the release of its spring 2015 print campaign. The ads quickly went viral, at the center of all the attention was the face of the campaign: 80-year-old author Joan Didion. French luxury label Saint Laurent debuted another ad featuring 71-year-old Joni Mitchell.

Charlotte Rampling, 69, posed for Nars. L'Oréal signed 65-year-old '60s icon Twiggy as its brand ambassador, joining 69-year-old Helen Mirren. Kate Spade and jewelry designer Alexis Bittar featured 93-year-old style legend Iris Apfel in their campaigns. Apfel, New York’s doyenne of eccentric style, will be the subject of an exhibition at Paris department store Le Bon Marché from Feb. 27 to March 26.

The former interior designer hopes the exhibition will encourage people to branch out of their comfort zone. “I don’t know why people like to dress so much alike. I don’t know whether it’s peer pressure, or it’s the fact that they don’t want to make a mistake, and clothes are so expensive that they want to feel safe,” she said in February.

The nonagenarian is doing her part to change that, with upcoming collaborations including a silver and wood jewelry collection for Mexican house Tane, a capsule for Happy Socks and a small ready-to-wear collection for Home Shopping Network, which sells her Rara Avis jewelry line.

Apfel has also been racking up modeling gigs, with campaigns for carmaker Citroën and Australian fashion brand Blue Illusion.

In 2005, the Metropolitan Museum of Art staged an exhibition of Iris’ closet called "Rare Bird," and it became a runaway success. Last year, Albert Maysles released a documentary about her life titled Iris.

Embracing older women

The trend has led many to wonder whether the notoriously youth-obsessed world of fashion and beauty is finally accepting—even embracing—women of a certain age.

Economically speaking, people over 60 make up the fastest growing group of consumers in the world, according to consultancy A.T. Kearney. Along with age comes buying power. There's a growing awareness of the influence of older women as consumers and the purchasing power that they have.

At the same time, there's been a cultural shift in how society view aging at least in Europe and the US. Even though botox still rules in certain circles and especially in the Arab world, there's a general mood about being comfortable in your own skin.

"Personal style and fearlessness are attractive regardless of age," said Mary Beech, CMO of Kate Spade. The multigenerational approach has become a trend in ads for luxury brands. You can see an equally diverse mix of backgrounds and ages which makes the brand visible for a larger crowd.

This new generation of young and impatient people needs to have reliable trendy references they can look up to and relate to. Style and attitude play a major role in creating these images.

Apfel isn’t a woman who wears elaborated makeup. She allegedly didn’t fall for plastic surgery. Her life’s joys and sorrows and fears are written on her face. Her adventures and memories are contained in her wardrobe.

Iris has previously said: “I don’t see anything so wrong with a wrinkle. It’s kind of a badge of courage.” These words are beautiful and require a lot of courage to embrace them.

Style after all has never been about obeying fashion rules, but listening to your inner compass about where your creativity should go — where you should put your focus.

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