Gray market: that’s why all your fashion icons are seniors

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Ms. Ma isn’t a typical Instagram star, but she rose to fame after appearing in a project-turned-book, Chinatown Pretty, by photographer Andria Lo and writer Valerie Luu.

Andria Lo / Chinatown Pretty / Document

The Instagram model poses in a powder blue skirt ensemble and chunky pink orthotic sneakers with a matching backpack hanging from her tiny shoulders. She demonstrates competitive tai chi on a colorful street in Vancouver’s Chinatown.

The model, Ms. Ma, is not your typical Instagram star, but rose to fame after being featured in a project-turned-book, Jolie Chinatown, by photographer Andria Lo and writer Valerie Luu.

At dim sum in Chinatown, the creative duo noticed that the seniors in the neighborhood had a very distinct style: says Luu. “And there were so many unexpected, colorful, beautiful and touching details – maybe they were wearing a sweater hand-knitted by their sister-in-law or a shirt made from leftovers from a sewing factory where they worked. . ” (Ms. Ma inherited her pink Dora the Explorer backpack from her grandchildren).

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The scenes prompted Ms. Lo and Ms. Luu to want to know more about the poh poh (grandmothers) and gung gungs (grandfathers) who rocked these unique looks. And when they started posting their mini-profiles on Instagram, they realized others were doing it too.

Their Instagram account now has 64,000 followers (and more) and their book has so far been featured on CBC, NPR and new York magazine fashion website The cup – and they are not the only ones to turn to seniors for inspiration from fashion.

Luggage company Rimowa just called on 74-year-old punk icon Patti Smith for their latest ad campaign, alongside singer Rihanna and athletes LeBron James and Roger Federer. Model Iman, 66 years old and former Vogue Creative Director André Leon Talley, 72, were the faces of Ugg’s Spring / Summer 2021 campaign. Modeling veteran Sarah Grant, 71, also graced the catwalk at Australian Fashion Week in June.

But nowhere do seniors get as much attention as on social media. To take Advanced styling, the senior-focused street style blog created by photographer, filmmaker and fashion blogger Ari Seth Cohen in 2008, which now has 319,000 Instagram followers. Or I want to show off as a youngster, the Instagram account of Chang Wan-ji and Hsu Sho-er, octogenarians who began styling their hair and posting photos of themselves in clothes left behind by customers at their Taiwanese laundromat last summer. They are now up to 677,000 subscribers.

Lyn Slater, a New York professor whose trendy cuts have earned her 757,000 Instagram followers, has dubbed herself an “accidental icon,” but it is now clear that the popularity of these accounts is no accident. ; the fashion world and ordinary people are obsessed with the elderly.

“Fashion has always existed in cycles. I call it a pendulum – it swings back and forth, ”says Colleen Schindler-Lynch, associate professor in the Ryerson University School of Fashion. “The 1950s and 1960s were more youth-oriented than the 1970s and 1980s, when young professionals came to the fore. [Now], as the Baby Boomers and Generation X have grown, their collective voice has grown louder. I must also say that the push for diversity over the past five to seven years has certainly helped in this regard. Diversity isn’t just about skin color or height differences; it is also a question of sex and age.

Lisa Tant, fashion consultant and former editor-in-chief of To burst magazine, agrees, and believes social media has been essential in helping business decision makers take note.

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“Ten years ago I could have a history with all the young and thin models. Now that would sound weird to me. It would be offensive to me. The idea of ​​different sizes, different ages and different cultures is so much more interesting, ”she says. “And I credit Instagram for that because anyone can really set up an account, post some really great photos and build an audience. And then advertisers and marketers need to listen to that community.”

If there is a flip side to this trend, it is that in the past it was fleeting. In 2012, the New York Times noted the rise of the ‘silver muses’, a group that included models Daphne Selfe and Carmen Dell’Orefice, businesswoman Iris Apfel and actress Meryl Streep – the latter of which became by Vogue the oldest cover girl that year at 62.

Over the next decade, older people regularly scored covers, walked fashion shows, or landed brand ambassador roles, including writer Joan Didion’s iconic turn as a poster girl. by Céline in 2015.

But as with other types of representation, real progress has been gradual. In fact, a 2020 report from the UK-based International Longevity Center found that while older people increased their spending by almost £ 3 billion between 2011 and 2018, they felt so underserved. by clothing retailers that at age 75, many stopped spending on fashion entirely.

It may have to do with who creates fashion content around seniors, says Ms. Lynch of Ryerson.

“It is interesting to note… the age range of authors and photographers who present and organize this material. These comments are not written by old people. It’s still through the prism of youth, ”she said. “I find Senior style bible Where Gray Fox Blog have a different outlook and a different way of presenting and documenting fashion. It feels less like capturing a wacky fashion style or dressing up, aka a costume. “

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Ms. Tant also fears that even this attempt to become more inclusive is leaving some people behind.

“There’s a huge group of people in the middle,” she says. “Sometimes you will get a marketing survey and it will ask you your age and 18 to 35 seems like the place to be. But there are still so many women between 40 and 60 in the workforce. They are the main decision-makers in the family. More and more, they are the main breadwinner. And this age group has been completely ignored.

It’s also important to note that until recently only a certain type of elderly – white, wealthy, privileged – were considered fashion icons. But things are changing, at least in part because there is something joyful about seeing a new type of person, like Ms. Ma or Mr. Wan-ji and Ms. Sho-er, engage in creativity and creativity. fashion fun.

It’s downright inspiring, says Chinese district Ms Lo, who points out that the people she profiles engage in some of the most compelling fashion trends, including green fashion, even though they don’t call it that.

“They think long term, they’re resourceful, they’re industrious – and that’s not a trend. It never was for them. It was just the way they lived their lives.

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