Is this the visibility age?
Older models and muses are seasoning the catwalks for spring/summer 2019 beautifully (Milan Fashion Week has just ended, Paris is getting started). Last night, Jane Birkin sang Baby Alone in Babylone at the Gucci show, Isabella Rossellini and her gorgeous family appeared on the runway at Dolce & Gabbana, photographer Ellen von Unwerth, actor Helen McCrory and artist Diana Temperley walked at Temperley London. There was a time – just after her 40th birthday – when Rossellini, deemed too old to appear in Lancome adverts was unceremoniously dumped by the beauty brand. Now that companies have finally switched onto silver spending power, older faces are more visible. Lancome saw the error of its ways and reinstated Rossellini in 2016, for the last few years L’Oréal (who own Lancome) have employed older ambassadors such as, Jane Fonda, Helen Mirren and Julianne Moore to represent their beauty ranges. John Lewis & Partners recently used 60-year-old prop stylist and model Jocelyne Beaudoin in its autumn campaign and Winser London launched a collaboration with Gillian Anderson (50). I’m wondering if this (slightly) more diverse situation is the new normal? Have we entered the visibility age?
The visibility of older women is a conversation that I’ve been involved in for years. As a fashion editor in the 1990s, finding suitable images of models who didn’t look like teenagers was tricky, to say the least. When I left to go freelance, the prevalence of ageism within the fashion industry became even more apparent. Ahem. The lack of representation was one of the reasons I started That’s Not My Age in the first place. The aim of this site has always been to kick invisibility into touch, and to celebrate and empower women of all ages. And, over the last decade, we’ve certainly made progress. Social media has revolutionised the fashion industry and we regularly see models and muses beyond-a-certain-age on catwalks and in glossy magazines.
Last week, Charlotte Tilbury posted a picture of a 40+ model on her Instagram feed and almost broke the internet. Personally, I prefer MAC Cosmetic’s take on beauty at all ages. The Pool discussed the phenomenon in an article Are beauty brands finally tackling the ‘Invisible Middle’? (check out the Neal’s Yard ‘Age Well’ film starring women between 45 and 80-years-old). Meanwhile, Grazia dedicated its Big Fashion Issue to diversity and ‘women changing the face of fashion’. The Big Fashion Issue included fashion shoots (and two different covers) featuring a range of disabled women and older models; I was pleased to see Mouchette Bell whose return to modelling was first reported on That’s Not My Age…
In The Pool article, writer Elle Turner concludes, ‘These are the brands investing, quite literally in the future, whose efforts are not about tokenism, but individualism and genuine representation across the board. Of course, we won’t be where we need to be until campaigns like these are the norm. Hopefully, this is just the start.’
I love the idea of individualism – this is why we’re all hooked to the Instagram feeds of 50-plus influencers. Relatively speaking, older women are still underrepresented in the media but we have started the conversation and are slowly shifting beyond an outmoded obsession with appearance and how we look. Increasing inclusivity and diversity, as in Grazia magazine and the various beauty campaigns, definitely helps move things on.