Role models

Back in the day, most modelling agencies had one or two older folks on their books. Just in case someone needed to shoot a happy middle aged couple for a superannuation brochure or Viagra commercial. Recently, however, there has been a global movement celebrating the fact that beauty is no longer the preserve of the young. Or, to put it in fashion speak, wrinkles are the new black.

One of the main players in this trend is a New Yorker by the name of Ari Seth Cohen. Inspired by his own fashionable grandmother Bluma, he took to the streets of Manhattan photographing fabulously fashionable senior citizens for his blog Advanced Style - which has since spawned a film, a book and several genuine fashion icons.

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Carmen Dell'Orefice modelling for L'Officiel in 1995 (Image: Facebook / Carmen Dell'Orefice)

 

Following this, the world got to know the likes of Iris Apfel, still turning heads at Fashion Weeks at 95 and the statuesque Carmen Dell’Orefice, pictured left, a svelte 85.

It’s a movement that Brigitte Warne – to use a millennial expression – was “totally across”. She recently founded the first Australian modelling agency, Silverfox Management, for those over 30. Often by several decades.

“The use of older models overseas was being met with such demand and positive responses that we wanted to be part of celebrating that locally. No one was doing that in Australia. Which was strange considering our high number of Baby Boomers. It makes sense that people over 50 should be included in our advertising campaigns because that’s who they’re selling to.”

Interestingly Warne also points to a weakening of the hoary double standard where men of a certain vintage were considered distinguished, but women of the same age were viewed as just plain old. “We are definitely celebrating ageing among women more and the definition of beauty is expanding to encompass things like a sense of character and history,” says Warne.

In addition to the traditional media mature models are used for – think pharmaceuticals and caravans – Warne says, “We are also seeing a new stream of briefs coming through for older talent in areas such as fashion.”

In fact one Silver Fox model recently did a high-fashion shoot with Russh magazine, a bible for the young, groovy and definitely not thinking about their super funds. “When the talent isn’t in their teens, says Warne, “you get a lifetime’s worth of stories, passions and interests. An increasing number of our models are being recruited as spokespeople whom others can relate to because they’ve lived and had careers and families.”

Where Warne and her colleagues would initially approach people in the classic “discovered in a shopping centre” mode, she says open castings in Sydney and Melbourne resulted in hundreds of applications. “As word spread of what we are doing, we get anywhere between 20 and 40 people a day submitting their pictures,” says Warne. “Things like wrinkles and grey hair – which might put other modelling agencies off – are precisely what we are looking for.”

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Mother and daughter, Joyce and Glenys, model for Silverfox Management

One of the stars of the Silver Fox stable is undoubtedly 96-year-old great grandmother Joyce Carey. Better still she was only “discovered” after her daughter Glenys, who is 58 and also on Silver Fox’s books, mentioned that the she had a rather stylish mum. “I took one look at Joyce’s photo and said ‘we need this lady’,” says Warne. “Since we’ve had her on the books, she’s done everything from PR to cool, out-there photoshoots and radio.”

I guess it’s true that beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. Even if that eye just happens to be sitting behind a sturdy pair of bifocals.

Are you keen to see a better depiction of older people in the media? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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