The Fountain of Age

Posted by Meghan
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Joni Mitchell by Hedi Slimae for Saint Laurent Paris S/S 2015.

Last week for Curated I wrote on the announcement of Joan Didion’s campaign for Céline S/S 2015 which burst like a Roman candle throughout the internet. Joan Didion is 80 years old. Similarly, another campaign was dropped in our laps––Joni Mitchell, aged 71, for Saint Laurent S/S 2015. I’m explicitly stating their ages to call attention to a recent phenomenon in fashion, which by all accounts seems to contradict the very fibre of the industry––the celebration of the older woman.

Fashion is nothing if not youth obsessed. Along with the fantasy of glamor (or lack thereof, à la the fantasy of normcore), fashion is steeped in the fantasy of youth. It’s the freshly plucked 14 year old girls who are pruned for fashion week debuts and subsequently tossed at the spent age of 23. It’s the gold lamé mini dresses and the stacked platform heels which scream, “I have a fake ID.” The clothes are made for and worn by those who are legally children or barely otherwise. There is an extreme degree of visibility for the plump and nubile young body, but the acute irony of it all is that these are not the women off whom fashion makes it money. It is, generally, women much older, the ones who’ve put in their time and who have the funds to buy the $38 000 Prada rainbow fur coat from S/S 2014.

So has fashion finally woken up to the fantasy of the older woman? Has it just now realized that it doesn’t need to sell the promise of a superficial and fleeting return to youth to women who have survived to see even better days? Do we have to be manipulated into feeling bad about ourselves in order to buy clothes? Apparently, not anymore. Joan Didion and Joni Mitchell are two very contemporaneous examples of a greater shift that appears to be happening in the world of fashion. Last year, 68 year old actress Charlotte Rampling was selected by Francois Nars as the face of their 20th anniversary campaign, a poignant way to suggest that like Nars, women only improve with age. Jessica Lange was likewise selected to be the face of Marc Jacobs Beauty for it’s debut last year. Madonna, now 56, was topless in her spread for Interview Magazine’s December/January issue. The best part is, who cares about their age? They look amazing despite the assumed conflation of beauty with youth.

Even with younger women we see this shift. Lara Stone, aged 31, is no one’s idea of an old woman, but she’s not 16. Her spread in System Magazine’s recent issue, shot by Jeurgen Teller, was completely unretouched. She sat like some kind of an angel with her bra strap delicately having slipped off her shoulder and the gentle lines on her forehead visible. Daria Werbowy, too, went unretouched for her cover of Interview Magazine’s September 2014 issue. More recently still, Kate Moss was photographed by Peter Lindbergh for Vogue Italia likewise sans photoshop. These women are industry veterans and they are good at their jobs––it seems senseless to erase the marks of the time and experience which has made them so renowned.

Hedi Slimane’s Saint Laurent is vividly enthralled with the youth culture of Los Angeles and all that it entails. So what does it mean to have a woman like Joni Mitchell as the face of a pointedly youth oriented brand? Perhaps it’s a tired cliché, but that might not make it less true––you’re only as young as you feel. Youth, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder, but who needs youth when these women make 70 look this good?

Jessica Lange by David Sims for Marc Jacobs Beauty, 2014.


(L) Joan Didion by Juergen Teller for Céline S/S 2015. (R) Charlotte Rampling by Francois Nars for the release of Nars' 20th Anniversary Audacious Lipstick Collection, 2014.


Kate Moss by Peter Lindsberg for Vogue Italia, January 2015.


(L) Lara Stone by Juergen Teller for System Magazine Issue 4, Fall/Winter 2014-2015. (R) Daria Werbowy by Mikael Jansson for Interview Magazine, September 2014.

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