Fast-fashion giant Zara has enlisted middle-aged models in its latest collection, as brands try to ditch their reputation for infantilising women.
Malgosia Bela, 40, Yasmin Warsame, 41, and Kristine de Coninck, 53, were recruited for the Spanish brand’s Timeless collection – to be released in the northern hemisphere this coming autumn season.
In campaign videos, the women talked about life experiences and inspirations. Bela said she felt insecure, nervous and self-conscious as a young woman.
“I prefer myself so much better now than 10 years ago, or 20 years ago,” she said in the video.
“Obviously it would be nice not to get old and ugly, but the mental process is only for the better.”
But it’s not just Zara growing up.
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In 2015, then 82-year-old author and essayist Joan Didion became the face of high-fashion label Céline. Shortly after, Saint Laurent revealed ’70s icon Joni Mitchell, then 71, as its cover star with a photo shoot by Hedi Slimane.
Last year, then 81-year-old actress Sophia Loren starred in Dolce and Gabbana’s fragrance campaign.
Other notable moves away from teen models include Vanessa Redgrave, 79, for Gucci; Amber Valleta, 43, for Tom Ford; Stella Tennant, 46, for Ralph Lauren; Carolyn Murphy, 43, for Michael Kors; and 71-year-old Charlotte Rampling for Loewe.
Earlier this year, New Zealand’s Lonely Lingerie brand ran with 56-year-old model Mercy Brewer for its autumn/winter campaign.
What sparked the trend, and where to from here?
The theme was perhaps kicked off in 2007 by Ari Seth Cohen, who is behind the blog, documentary and books by the name Advanced Style. The works follow the defiant fashions of women in their 60s and into their 90s.
In 2013, fashion label Karen Walker collaborated with Cohen for a collection of sunglasses.
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Joyce Carpati, Linda Rodin, Lynn Dell and Ilona Royce Smithkin, aged between 65 and 92, were among the models used in the campaign.
Sydney woman Sara Jane Adams is one of those featured in the Advanced Style documentary. Her Instagram has grown a cult following of 155,000 people.
Professor Anna Hickey-Moody, from RMIT University’s Digital Ethnography Research Centre, said there needed to be a “much richer spread of bodies in fashion”.
“For the most part, catwalk fashion continues to make quite conservative choices,” Prof Hickey-Moody said.
“Young, thin girls remain the model of choice on the runway. However, alternatives to the norm … are catching consumers’ eyes and claiming space in major labels’ marketing campaigns.
“The dollar talks and women are sick of seeing themselves imagined as pre-pubescent girls.”
Prof Hickey-Moody said consumers were becoming more conscious about their choices at the cash register, and brands were working to appeal to that.
“Ethical fashion is becoming increasingly popular and so the global image and impact of brands matters as much as a single garment’s cut,” she said.
Jasmine Fardouly, a postdoctoral research fellow at Macquarie University’s Centre for Emotional Health, said diversifying fashion models was a step in the right direction.
“The models used to advertise products [and] clothes for middle-aged women are often very young and it is good to see women of different ages presented in the media and in advertisements,” Dr Fardouly told The New Daily.
“The models used in the Zara campaign still match the societal beauty ideal in that they are thin and do not appear to have many wrinkles.
“I think it is a step in the right direction but hopefully it isn’t a short-lived campaign.”
The New Daily has contacted Zara and Lonely Lingerie for comment.
For those of you who've wondered, this was the beginning. 8th August 2014. Still no idea how or why things went the way they did….. #Saramai #rolex #sarahjaneadams #mywrinklesaremystripes #adidasoriginals #advancedstyle #redjacket #ootd @adidasoriginals @rolex #originalityistimeless #nytstylenotage
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