The fashion world is a mirror that reflects the culture of society. But what happens if that mirror neglects anyone over 40?
Recently, fashion has prided itself on its progress towards being more inclusive. There’s positive change with more women of colour on magazine covers and all sizes on the runway. But, the Annual Runway Diversity Report, found that this is not true for age diversity, counting only seven over-50 models at London Fashion Week Spring 2020 showcase.
So, if age is only a number, why do women over the age of 50 become invisible?
Jacynth Basset campaigns for the visibility of women over 50 in fashion. She is the founder of The Bias Cut and nicknamed the ‘Ageism-Fighting Trailblazer’. This is the first age-inclusive online independent fashion boutique.
Whilst studying law at Cambridge, she became passionate about starting a business.
“Diversity is a popular buzzword, but age is often forgotten about. It’s something we need to talk about more.”
Soon after completing her degree, she became aware of the ageism faced by older women in fashion. This sparked her business idea as she wanted to change their discriminatory treatment.
“I started my mission to fight ageism by setting up my business. Following that, I launched the ‘Ageism is Never in Style’ movement. This aimed to discuss and challenge age-diversity in the fashion world. “I saw how the industry tailored itself towards younger women when my mum was often dismissed in shops. She struggled to shop online as there weren’t any clothes modelled by women her age.”
Fashion’s focus is towards the younger generation, which further alienates older people. This risks not profiting from the multi-billion-dollar industry that older people bring.
International Longevity Centre-UK claims there’s a price to pay for dismissing older people. According to their study ageism could cost the fashion industry £11 billion over 20 years. Albeit, there have been progressive changes to ageism in fashion. There is more inclusivity of older models on runways and magazines.
Joan Didion starred in the 2015 campaign for French luxury house, Celine, at 82. Then, 76-year-old singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell was part of Saint Laurent’s 2015 campaign. Yet, for Jacynth, the fashion media continues to promote age-old clichés. Such as older women’s expression of style later in life.
“There’s a lot of fear-mongering of being ‘mutton dressed as lamb’ which become ingrained in us from an early age. And there are not enough older models on our runways to represent that market of fashion lovers.”
Ageism is present in the modelling industry with strong views on older models. However, there have been a few celebratory cases. This includes Iris Apfel, the 92-year-old who signed a modelling contract with IMG.