Finally! Fashion woos the grey pound

Alyson Walsh / 19 November 2014 ( 20 May 2016 )

Older models are this season’s hottest fashion trend, says Alyson Walsh.

From American Apparel to M&S, women of all ages are now popping up in ad campaigns – and from September, 68-year-old Charlotte Rampling is the new face of cosmetics brand Nars.

For some time I’ve been wondering if this might be a paradigm shift (I’ve never used that phrase before but even David Brent-style management speak can be useful at times). Could brands finally be realising that customers want to see clothes and cosmetics on mature women, not teenagers?

My suspicions were confirmed when I caught up with Rebi Merilion, who together with business partner and model booker Fleur Brady has launched a new model agency, Mrs Robinson Management. The aim – as the name suggests – is to satisfy the demand for women of a certain vintage. Having known each other for more than a decade, the duo decided to go into business at the end of last year.  

Rebi was a regular Good Housekeeping cover girl back in the days when I was fashion editor of the magazine, and she has also graced the style pages of Saga Magazine.

Demand for older models

‘We’ve had a fantastic response from our clients,’ she says. ‘There’s a demand for older models – shoppers can relate to images of aspirational women their own age.’And it’s true, this phenomenon has been backed up by research from Cambridge University, which confirms that when women see adverts featuring models who look similar to themselves, they buy.

Now 47, Rebi still appears in front of the camera from time to time. ‘There has been a dramatic change in attitude,’ she confirms. ‘When I started out in 1986, I could never have imagined being a model over the age of 30.’ 

Old is the new young

The youngest models at Mrs Robinson are aged 25-35 (‘They’re the future,’ laughs Rebi), but it’s the agency’s Retro Woman category that’s attracting all the attention. All silver hair and beautiful bone structure – Jean Woods from the Channel 4 documentary Fabulous Fashionistas is one of their latest signings – these women are successfully proving that old is the new young. 

Related: Gray hair care

I ask about airbrushing and Botox and industry pressure to remain young-looking.

‘I feel quite strongly about Botox,’ Rebi says. ‘I would never go there. It can’t stop the ageing process – we’ll all be old eventually – and I’d rather not be panicking about my wrinkles every three months!’

This company ethos is passed down from the management to the models. Looks like it’s out with the injectables and in with the wrinkles. Here’s to you, Mrs Robinson!

This article was first published in the June 2014 issue of Saga Magazine, in which we also asked for 'Saga Fashionistas' to come forward. Subscribe to Saga Magazine's December 2014 issue to see the wonderfully stylish women who answered our call, or download the digital edition of the December 2014 issue.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

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