Why we need older models like 62-year-old Mouchette Bell
The lack of diversity in the fashion industry is hardly breaking news. For years we have been fed a very narrow view of what is beautiful (young, thin, Caucasian models). But the situation is evolving. We are seeing change. And this is largely down to social media. Midlife and beyond is visible daily when we scroll through our Instagram feeds, or read our favourite websites and blogs. Women are sending out a powerful message: this is what we look like, this is what we wear, get over it. Increased democracy and the sheer size of the older demographic has disrupted the fashion industry. Last week I went to see Caryn Franklin talk about her career and she said, ‘ What is happening right now is truly exciting. The causes people are mobilising behind, such as diversity and sustainability…where you choose to place your money and who you support is very powerful.’
The ageful message is finally trickling into the mainstream. Older women are visible in some fashion magazines and advertisements, diversity and representation are being championed. But we don’t want to be patronised and so we do need to keep pushing. ‘We are conditioned to think ageing is a state that must be arrested,’ continued Franklin, ‘ But what if young women are surrounded by images of older models? There is a pleasure in seeing such diversity – and this can impact on the fashion and beauty industries.’
Enter these beautiful pictures from Toast’s latest lookbook of 62-year-old model Mouchette Bell.
In her twenties, Mouchette modelled for Italian Vogue under editor Franca Sozzani but then stepped behind the camera to become a freelance stylist for British Vogue, Mademoiselle and Elle. A couple of years ago, she returned to modelling in her late fifties – and I ran a feature on That’s Not My Age. I’ve enjoyed following Mouchette’s second coming, her image has popped up everywhere from M&S and Harvey Nichols, to Clarins and these autumn/winter 2019 images for Toast. At 62, she is enjoying this stage of her modelling career and has found a renewed sense of confidence. ‘People’s concepts of beauty are changing. [Clients] know I have a few wrinkles and creases, which I’ve earned and they like it. Now I don’t have to be perfect’ Mouchette told Grazia, ‘Things change all the time. [Hopefully] it will all become balanced and hopefully get to the point where we just cast all different people and ages and genders just because we see their beauty and appeal.’
When we get to the point when a more inclusive representation is the norm, then I think we will have achieved something.