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11th September 2012

Age Re-Defining

Less traditional models are becoming more of a feature for top brands, writes Elizabeth Harper

Anyone who is accustomed to glossies will be aware that you have to battle your way through an extraordinary amount of adverts before you reach any actual fashion feature. Flicking through the £4.20 splurge that was my annual Harper’s Bazaar this summer, I was confronted with the usual gaggles of young, airbrushed, skinny beauties laughing and pouting. I was completely unprepared when I locked eyes with Lanvin’s newest campaign star.

Her eyebrows arched in a stern ‘what are you looking at?’ kind of stare and with the impeccable posture that connotes someone extremely comfortable in their own skin, Jacquie ‘Tajah’ Murdock completely stood out from the rest.

After the initial shock of seeing wrinkles and buxom hips inside a high end fashion magazine, most of which are notoriously renowned for their fixation with youth and prepubescent proportions, 82 year old Murdock’s appearance felt incredibly refreshing.

Lanvin’s creative director Alber Elbaz is not alone in using an older model to sell his brand. For the past few seasons, Dolce and Gabbana and Tommy Hilfiger have featured more mature men and women alongside their Monica Belluccis and their all-American whippersnappers.

However, they are part of an ensemble: they are necessary in the creation of a family landscape where a range of generations is required in the campaign narrative. Ultimately, the attention is not reserved for them; not in the same way that Murdock is undeniably the star of the show for Lanvin. However it is a sign that fashion is beginning to face the reality that people get old and being old should not be a stigma.

New designer on the block Joseph Altuzarra is fully aware of the importance of older people being more involved in fashion design and marketing. He recently attested that the high end markets lean towards an older clientele.After all, they are the ones with the money to spend on luxury products, with the perspective and experience to help them invest in fashion and designers.

To pretend that older men and women are not important in the fashion industry is ridiculous. Creatively, designers like Altuzarra are taking into account the recent publication that women become more confident the older they get. As confidence and fashion walk hand in hand, older women are fast becoming an important target market. Maybe one of the reasons Altuzarra has become so successful in such a short space of time is because of this reasoning. He is current because his attitudes and ultimately his designs do not follow a youth exclusivity formula.

In our lifetime, we have grown up with the likes of Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell and Heidi Klum fronting large fashion campaigns. I find it very doubtful that these women are going to just disappear when their crows-feet begin to show or when their complexions aren’t as dewy and fresh. This is because, as much as we talk about fashion being about beauty and youth, it is also about personality.

And as Tarantino teaches us in Pulp Fiction, personality goes a long way. Taut skin and shiny hair may not last forever, however these women have enough personality to mean that the physicality of their job will become irrelevant. So what if Kate Moss needs more support round her bum in a few years: she will still have her rock star fiery attitude which will inevitably sell clothes, like it pretty much already does. Or consider the use of Twiggy in the Marks and Spencer commercials. She is still the embodiment of chic and subtle sex appeal that she was in 1965.

In a year that has been greatly involved in challenging perceptions, with the Paralympic Games at the forefront, it would be a travesty if the use of older models becomes a fashion fad that after a few seasons will be considered uncool and ‘out’. I personally think that now the fashion industry has taken these tiniest of steps in this direction, I don’t think there will be much going back. I think we should look to the next challenge that lies ahead for the industry: if fashion is all about personality, what place could there be for disability on the catwalk or editorials?

Elizabeth Harper

Elizabeth Harper

Fashion Editor

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