Coco Chanel once quipped that “after 40 nobody is young, but one can be irresistible at any age.” But, until recently, we weren’t seeing anyone with delicate wrinkles appearing in the media… And certainly no celebration of the fact that older women are cool too. It was almost as if our favourite leading ladies were disappearing off the radar once they hit forty…
But, thankfully, we’ve witnessed the stirrings of change in recent years, with the Chanel’s sentiment finally having caught on (better late than never!), as fashion brands seem to be moving towards a somewhat older group of models. At 80 years old, author Joan Didion was announced as the new face of Céline… And she certainly isn’t the first older woman to have been chosen as a big brand ambassador.
She joins other older models Jane Fonda and Helen Mirren for L’Oreal (despite Helen’s recent admission that their moisturizer “probably does f*** all” but that she wears whatever makes her feel better) , Charlotte Rampling for Nars lipstick, Joni Mitchell for Saint Laurent, Lauren Hutton being revealed as the new face of Calvin Klein lingerie in April this year, and Julia Roberts continuing as the face of Lancôme. But that doesn’t mean these models aren’t feeling the pressure:
The majority of women want to look good, regardless of age… I am 53 and simply want to look healthy, stylish and modern, not younger. And I want to be relevant, even with my wrinkles. We are important role models to younger women, and I love looking to older women who are leading the way. Finally, some brands are talking to me, but it took them a long time to catch on to the power of the silver spend.
With that in mind, and starting with this issue, we are making a resolution to stop using the term “anti-aging.” Whether we know it or not, we’re subtly reinforcing the message that aging is a condition we need to battle — think antianxiety meds, antivirus software, or antifungal spray.
This also brings into question what it means to be beautiful for the modern woman. For older models, it’s still important to have an element of aspiration: they must be exceptional looking – fit and healthy with glossy hair and clear eyes. Brands might not mind wrinkles as much these days, which is great… But if we’re to encourage real beauty perhaps we need to look to even more diversity in models.
I would still like to see advertising and marketing shift towards a proposition built on a wider set of values than purely appearance, particularly in that older market. I am slowly seeing a shift where marketeers are recognising attributes and achievements of individuals rather than just the way they look. By the age of 50, we have lived for a sizeable amount of time and most of us have had some incredible and interesting experiences, which mean so much more than sublimely coiffed grey hair.