Revenues and Storytelling Shift Fashion’s Concept of Age


Young and cool is expected.  Achieving enduring cool after midlife is the sort of panache money can’t buy and fashion knows it.

Last month, baby boomers Jeff Goldblum and Kyle MacLachlan rocked the sci-fi catwalk of Prada in silk and mohair with that sort of #nofilter allure budding influencers can only dream of.

The placement of older models on the Prada runway also seemed fitting since the actors’ filmography resume woven well into the ongoing marriage of futuristic aesthetics that has come to fruition between Raf Simmons and Miuccia Prada. It also makes sense since their fellow baby boomers make for loyal, long-term luxury consumers.

The sort of eternal youthful beauty alla Iman, who just released her first ever beauty fragrance in November at age 66, is a symbol of real luxury for vanguard beauty and fashion brands and of her generation. Unlike their parents, baby-boomers worldwide are better at remaining hip and relevant into the twilight of their lives. It comes as no surprise that it has a lot more to do with USDs, GPBs and Chinese Yuan and Japanese Yen than one may think.

According to a consumer insight report released by US-based consumer intelligence and advisory firm Buxton, Not only are Baby Boomers the wealthiest generation, holding 70% of the disposable income in the U.S. and spending over $548 billion a year, but they also they spend more than any other generation, across all categories. This includes spending the most per transaction.

“Gen Z and Millennials should not be disregarded, but even while shrinking in size, the Baby Boomer generation makes up just under the same percentage of the U.S. population as Millennials and a higher percentage than Gen X. They should not, and cannot, be ignored,” the Buxton report elaborated.

And while the industry has invested a lot in enticing millennial consumers with influencer driven marketing, the pandemic has taught us that young consumers – especially in key single markets like China – can be fickle when it comes to brand loyalty.

“Because of its vast cultural and geo-political differences, China can be a risky bet for Western luxury brands,” wrote Daniel Langer, founder of luxury consultancy Équité and contributor to Jing Daily wrote.

“Young and affluent Chinese Gen Z consumers find local brands much more aspirational and desirable than millennials or Gen Xers, Langer said, noting that native Gen Z consumers are exceptionally growing more and more proud of their Chinese culture heritage.

For the editors that embrace the idea of mature cover models (like Judi Dench who became British Vogue’s oldest cover star in 2020) filling the pages with intriguing storytelling is paramount.

“An amazing covers star has no age. In fact, some who have a lifetime of knowledge to share and stories to tell, always make for a fantastic read,” mused Jessica Michault, Deputy Editor of Harper’s Bazaar Arabia. The Dubai-based publication celebrated Iris Apfel’s 100th birthday in their September 2021 issue with a special edition dedicated to her. The century-old fashion icon inspired, styled in fashions by designers like Zaid Farouki, Gemy Maalouf and Ben Chellal.

To her credit, Apfel, the queen of quips who never fails to charm with her vivacious personality and eclectic accessories, has had a lot to do with fashion’s and fashion consumers’ acceptance of older models. Her fame went into overdrive after an exhibit organised by the Costume Institute in the early 00s and her documentary “Iris” which enchanted viewers world-wide in 2015.

“My first big job in beauty and fashion came when I was at the tender age of ninety,” Apfel wrote her autobiography “Accidental Icon”, referencing the 2011 limited-edition collection of make-up for MAC cosmetics. “I’m the oldest living broad that ever graced a major cosmetics campaign,” she says.

In Milan, 25-year-old editor and rising style maven Elisa Carassai founded her own magazine Sali e Tabacchi journal to bring the sort of Italian faces and places one only finds “behinds closed doors” to the fore.

Carassai celebrates the aged-worn faces of lesser-known characters like singer-songwriter Giovanni Lindo Ferretti, as much as she does the latest trends when she freelances for top glossies like Vogue Italia… and so do her younger readers.

“I believe that an aged face tells a story. Actually, it tells so many different stories at once, given that it bears the literal lines of time. That’s what I find so charming about aged faces, the maturity and intrigue that lies beneath the surface. But also, un-retouched, un-airbrushed faces are so beautiful because they are natural,” Carassai notes, adding that the 18 to 32 year-olds who read her magazine are increasingly interested in alternative aesthetics. “They are also the people who are tired of being represented by teenagers on the catwalk and are interested in learning about the life experiences of older people.”