Walk into most shops or click onto their websites, and the models looking back at you in the glossy campaign images are, overwhelmingly, very young. It has become so much the norm that any exception attracts a frenzied response. When H&M cast the 60-year-old stylist Gillean McLeod to model its swimwear last summer, she became a global news story.
Perhaps it isn’t so strange, then, that the Spanish retailer Mango is this week releasing a campaign starring a diverse cast of women ranging in age from 19 to 63. While Mango’s decision to depart from the adolescent norm may go against the grain, the numbers suggest that it makes perfect economic sense. In the UK, the over-50s hold 68.3 per cent of household wealth, while over-65s spend ??6.7 billion per year on clothes.
The campaign’s oldest star is 63-year-old New Yorker Lyn Slater, a university professor and, of late, a successful fashion blogger, too. “I love that a brand like Mango was willing to take a risk and look at becoming more inclusive,” says the glossy silver-bobbed Slater.
The really clever part is that this isn’t just about appealing to an older demographic.
Characters such as Slater – who has almost 100,000 followers on Instagram, and promotes clothes by young designers – are millennial catnip too. “Everywhere I go now in New York, there will be someone on the subway or in a store asking if they can take a selfie with me. It’s very strange but a lot of fun. A wonderful adventure.”
She had been thinking of starting a blog for some time, but it wasn’t until she unwittingly walked past a fashion show venue and was accosted by street-style photographers at New York Fashion Week in September 2014 that she took the plunge. “I went to meet a friend for lunch and I was wearing a Yohji Yamamoto suit and carrying a Chanel bag. All of a sudden all these photographers starting taking pictures of me because they thought I was some kind of fashion person. Then the tourists saw what was happening so they all began taking pictures, too,” she remembers. “When my friend arrived, there was a huge crowd around me. We were laughing and I said ‘I’m an accidental icon!’ Then she said ‘That’s the name of your blog and you need to start it tomorrow’. So that’s what I did.”
As a professor at Fordham University’s Graduate School of Social Service, Slater has devised a personal style that works for her professionally. “I like to provoke a little bit so when I’m dressing for university, I always think, ‘what can I wear that no one else will be wearing and will make me stand out but at the same time people won’t be able to find anything inappropriate with?'”
Her students adore it, and she aims to show them that they can pursue meaningful careers while still expressing themselves.
On the subject of age, Slater is dismissive, although she acknowledges the power of style confidence. “I’ve always been interested in clothes since I was a small child,” says Slater. “I understood the aspirational nature of them and how they could make you be someone you would like to be, as well as who you are.”
“Age is not a variable I consider when getting dressed. I don’t say I’m an older woman fighting the battle for older women in fashion, because then you’re just making another category. People always ask me, ‘Is there something you shouldn’t wear at your age?’ and that is just the most annoying question. It’s about who you are and what you’re comfortable with.”
The Daily Telegraph
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