More women in their 40s and 50s may just get the opportunities that were once only given to the younger lot
Linda Evangelista featured in Fendi’s campaign
Linda Evangelista starred in one of Fendi’s most significant campaigns of 2022. Nicole Kidman walked the ramp at the Paris Couture Week. Gwyneth Paltrow marked her 50th birthday by wearing shimmering gold body paint. Not to mention how good other 50-somethings are looking — be it Jennifer Aniston or Bollywood actress Tabu. It is possibly the dawn of a new era in fashion as it celebrates mature women. While mature women claimed their own ground in 2022, it is still “exceptional” for someone over 40 to be the face of a fashion brand, especially a woman. Magazine covers are a great example of this. When 58-year-old Brad Pitt is on a GQ cover, age is not the first thing that is discussed, but when Linda Evangelista is British Vogue’s September cover girl, you will read, “Even at 57 years old…” in the accompanying article. Youth has always been coveted by the fashion industry.
The reason goes beyond aesthetics, it is also a question of economics. Forty five-year-old Natalia Shustova aka Shoestova (her Instagram name), a well-known Dubai-based fashionista and founder of floral design studio, Gosha, says, “At this time, I have no appetite for anything. I have a huge collection of designer clothes, runway pieces, and designer bags. Fashion needs to seek out the young, those who are starting their designer journey and creating their wardrobe.”
However, the mature consumer is still important to luxury brands. The recent State of Fashion 2023 report stated that it is Gen Z that are “most proactively seeking lower-priced fashion”. When a mature consumer buys, experience has taught her to put quality over quantity, and to think beyond price.
The good news is women are not letting age get in their way. Look at Jennifer Lopez, who seems to be living her best life right now, or 65-year-old makeup guru Bobbi Brown, who started her second beauty brand Jones Road Beauty in 2020, which made $20 million in its first year. Women are proving success has no age limits.
Even here, a region that has the youngest population in the world, women are proving that age is just a number. Nadine Kanso, the founder of jewellery brand Bil Arabi, a trained graphic designer and accomplished photographer started her brand 17 years ago when she was in her late 30s. Today, Bil Arabi is considered a leading Arab jewellery maison and its 50-something founder is seen as a style icon. “Our times are different than our grandmothers’, we are more dynamic. Age has become just a number.”
Shustova started her floral design company Gosha in 2020. The 45-year-old is known for having an aesthetic eye and has collaborated with many fashion brands. Gosha has two studios today and boasts a client list that includes Gucci and Cartier. Its bespoke take on floristry has been covered by international magazines. “I am open and proud of my age. I work on myself every day; I work on my longevity every day. It is never about age; it is about not finding any excuse to be lazy. From the books you read to the music you listen to, it matters.”
A former lawyer, who became a local social media style influencer, Shustova believes this was the right time for her to start her own company. “I have enough knowledge, connections, expertise and ability to put together a good team and to navigate around business decisions. So, I think after 40 is exactly the right time to start your entrepreneurial journey.” Women like Kanso and Shustova are of special interest to fashion, as their stories are about both style and substance. As more women in their 40s and 50s look to start their second acts, you will probably see more older women in fashion campaigns and hopefully on the ramp too.
There is no question that in 2022 fashion ‘wisened-up’ to the need to be pro-age. “We have already seen a shift in recent years, with more older women being celebrated for their style and sophistication,” says Kanso. “I am confident this trend will continue in 2023 and beyond.” It looks like Kanso is right. Vogue Arabia has the only Arab to ever win Miss Universe, 69-year-old Georgina Rizk on their January 2023 cover. She shone a spotlight on the region back in the ’70s and now a whole new generation are able to read about this style icon’s journey. Her grace and poise are a reminder of the beauty that comes with ageing. British Vogue’s first cover girl of the year is 67-year-old Iman. The striking Somali supermodel who made fashion wake up to be more race inclusive now looks set to start the conversation on age inclusivity in 2023.
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