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Health, Beauty & Fashion

Strutting at 80

Brimming with experience, models as old as 83 are taking to the catwalk.
The Straits Times - September 21, 2012
By: Matthew Wee
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Strutting at 80 PHOTO: BULGARI, GETTY IMAGES, LOUIS VUITTON, REUTERS

At 81 years old, Carmen dell'Orefice is living proof that age is just a number.

The American model, who was born before fashion week even existed, was one of three "senior" models at Norisol Ferrari's spring/summer 2013 showcase during New York Fashion Week last week.

The other two, Carol Alt and Karen Bjornson, are 51 and 60 respectively.

In an industry where youth is worshipped, older models such as dell'Orefice, who also walked for Finnish label Marimekko the same day, are breathing new life into the fashion industry.

In July, French fashion house Lanvin unveiled its fall/winter 2012 ad campaign featuring two women, aged 62 and 82, plucked from the streets of New York.

With the increasingly large number of older consumers, fashion companies are starting to target this profitable demographic.

In an online article published in June, trade journal Women's Wear Daily quoted industry analysts as saying that the baby-boomer market, made up of those born between 1946 and 1964, is largely ignored by retailers.

In the United States, for instance, there are more than 77million baby boomers, aged 48 to 66, who are more online-savvy and willing to plan their apparel purchases than five years ago.

Older models appearing in fashion can be traced back to 2008, when TMagazine reported that it was one of the more interesting trends to come about that year. The report cited Hats Off, a documentary about the late model and actress Mimi Weddell released in March 2008 as an example of the trend. (The American died in September 2009 at age 94.)

In June 2008, the menswear shows of Yohji Yamamoto, Ann Demeulemeester and Agnes b. all featured elderly male models.

However, the trend really gained traction only in 2010, when influential designer Marc Jacobs cast Elle MacPherson, then 47, in his fall/winter 2010 show for Louis Vuitton in March.

The former supermodel paved the way for other older faces who proved they still had what it took to represent the biggest names in fashion.

In September that year, German former supermodel Veruschka, who was 71 then, stole the show during London Fashion Week when she walked the runway for British label Giles.

Then French model Ines de la Fressange, 53, took to the runway for Chanel's spring/summer 2011 show in October. In January last year, 1990s supermodel Kristen McMenamy closed the French house's spring/summer 2011 haute couture show.

McMenamy, now 47, went on to star in a Louis Vuitton ad campaign for spring 2011 with two current It models, Freja Beha Erichsen, 24, and Raquel Zimmermann, 29.

The buzz over older models continues, after film-maker Timothy Greenfield-Sanders premiered a documentary in July.

Called About Face: Supermodels Then And Now, it traces the lives and careers of former supermodels such as dell'Orefice and 60-year-old Beverly Johnson, who was the first black model to appear on the cover of Vogue in 1974.

One person at the forefront of the older models trend is Ari Seth Cohen, a New York-based photographer who launched a street-style blog, Advanced Style, in August 2008 focusing on stylish senior citizens.

Cohen, 30, who helped cast the Lanvin campaign and currently has his own documentary about stylish seniors in the works, spoke to leading American fashion website Fashionista.com about the trend: "Older people want to see someone they can relate to and can be inspired by."

Urban rounds up three models over 60 and six over 40.

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