The Golden Age

 
 

Has being young gone out of style? Bébhinn Campbell investigates the issue of ageism in the fashion industry.


FRENCH fashion house Vetements made the decision this season to use significantly older models in their Autumn/Winter 17 Paris catwalk show. Is this a bold statement or an overdue wake up call to an industry obsessed with youth?

In recent years, the fashion industry has come under scrutiny for the way it portrays women and sells clothes. There has been a universal call for personality and diversity, and to provide a better representation of society. It has always been the case that the clothes are the statement and the models wearing them are merely canvases, but it now seems that the roles are finally being reversed.

Brands are now exhibiting real people in their shows in an effort to relate and appeal to the wider population – and perhaps to avoid the critical backlash from an increasingly socially aware younger generation. Vetements has demonstrated how the model can wear the clothing, and how each piece can be individualized depending on who that model is.

A singular definition of beauty is repeatedly presented to us, and the pressure to fit into an unrealistic mould has dampened the confidence of a universal audience. The world has had enough, and people are finally taking a stand after being told time and time again what an individual should look like.

“Brands are now exhibiting real people in their shows in an effort to relate and appeal to the wider population.”

Lingerie brand Aerie has ditched the supermodel look in recent campaigns, and balanced out their representation of women by including plus-sized models. Such decisions have received an overwhelmingly positive result. Attitudes, however, towards age equally demonstrate the continued exclusivity of the industry.

Modelling slots are repeatedly filled by women under a certain weight – and under a certain age. This leaves little room for aspiring models who narrowly miss these limitations, and even for those who do fulfil them, their working years are cut short once they reach the dreaded age of 30.

While big names such as Kate Moss and Heidi Klum may be exceptions, the vast majority are forced to wave goodbye to their careers at the sudden appearance of their first wrinkle. Many models are scouted at the age of sixteen or younger, and are thrown head-first into a life of glamour and promises of success. How many are warned that this success will be short lived, and that they may be forced to change their paths at a certain age, often turning to acting or presenting as an alternative to their dream careers?

“Why have members of their generation so often been afterthoughts when depicting beauty in the media?”

Vetements is not the first brand to have gone with an older look. In 2014, cosmetics company Nars celebrated its 20th anniversary by appointing 68-year old actress and model Charlotte Rampling the face of their Audacious Lipstick Collection, a choice which led to an undeniably sophisticated ad campaign.

Achieving equal success, 64-year old Jessica Lange represented Marc Jacobs Beauty the same year. Such women perfectly exemplify style and class, and are key influencers in fashion past and present. Why then have members of their generation so often been afterthoughts when depicting beauty in the media?

In an industry dominated by youth, it is refreshing to now see some older and more diverse models come into the spotlight. Their elegance and timelessness is finally being recognised in a commercial way. About time too.

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