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Age no matter: Iris Apfel, Maye Musk, Linda Rodin, older models are new stars of fashion

Initiatives seeking to shake up the fashion codes and put an end to ageism have been multiplying at a brisk pace for the last two years

Published: Jan 31, 2023 11:48:59 AM IST
Updated: Jan 31, 2023 05:29:02 PM IST

Age no matter: Iris Apfel, Maye Musk, Linda Rodin, older models are new stars of fashion (File) New York - September 09: Iris Apfel sits for a portrait during her 100th Birthday Party at Central Park Tower on September 09, 2021 in New York City. Image: Noam Galai / Getty Images North America / Getty Images via AFP

Their names are Iris Apfel, Maye Musk, Linda Rodin and Carmen Dell'Orefice, and they're on a mission to shake up the codes of fashion. Whether long-time icons or newcomers, these models are gracing magazine covers, have up to several million followers on social networks, and walk the runways of the biggest luxury labels. And the one thing they all have in common is that they're over 70 years old, and they don't care one jot about criticism or what people might say.

In May 2022, Kim Kardashian, Ciara and Yumi Nu were among the models chosen to appear on the cover of the coveted 2022 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, along with Maye Musk. The 74-year-old Canadian-South African dietician, who has been modeling for nearly five decades, stunned in a one-piece swimsuit, further shattering the norms and preconceived ideas that have dominated the fashion and beauty industries for all too long.

Role models shaking up the norms

While the businesswoman is known for being the mother of a certain Elon, it is nevertheless her looks, her charisma, her energy and her self-confidence that appeal to women's magazines and fashion brands. The proof can be seen in the number of covers and editorials featuring the fashion icon in 2022 alone, including appearances in Harper's Bazaar Bulgaria, L'Officiel, Grazia UK, Vogue Arabia and V Magazine. And that's without counting her campaigns for the CoverGirl brand. All of which could be enough to stir envy in many of the 20-, 30- or 40-year-old models who are trying to break through, or to stay in the game, in what's still a very exclusive field.

These kinds of initiatives, seeking to shake up the codes and put an end to ageism, have been multiplying at a brisk pace for the last two years. "Maye Musk embodies the idea that aging shouldn’t hold you back from pursuing your dreams. Don’t believe us? Head to the link in bio to see industry standards being shattered," explained Sports Illustrated Swimsuit in an Instagram post sharing the magazine cover. Maye Musk added: "Thank you Sports Illustrated for showing that women of all ages should feel confident in a swimsuit. Men certainly are. What’s that about?"

And the 70-something is far from being the only one working to change mentalities, whether in fashion or more broadly in society. Iris Apfel, who celebrated her 100th birthday in 2021, is also making an important contribution to showing that age is not synonymous with apathy, passivity or complacency, and even less with invisibility. Followed by some 2.5 million users on Instagram, Iris Apfel proudly shows off her vibrancy and vitality, as well as her wrinkles, in campaigns as diverse as they are varied. Ciate, H&M and Hugo Boss are among the brands with which the centenarian has partnered in 2022.

It's a veritable silver wave that's currently sweeping the fashion world, with iconic models being stopped in the middle of Fashion Week to pose for streetstyle shots or sign autographs. Carmen Dell'Orefice, Beverly Johnson, Nicole Jordi, Linda Rodin and fashion legend Lauren Hutton stand out as the new idols of the fashion world—and of young people.

Also read: Workplace equality for all (unless they're old)

Timeless beauty

And the phenomenon is not limited to magazine covers or fashion campaigns. On the catwalk too, these models are disrupting certain standards. This was seen during the recent Paris Fashion Week, with Charlotte Rampling and Marie Sophie Wilson walking the runway for AMI Paris, and the latter also modeling in the Marine Serre show. Still, models aged 50 and over are still largely a minority on the catwalk, representing between 0.52% and 0.78% of all castings, according to a report published by The Fashion Spot. That's a very small proportion, but one that is helping to change the way women of this demographic are viewed, whether in fashion and beauty, at work, or any other field of activity.

Of course, these changes are still in their early stages, but there's no doubt that 2023 will mark the end, if not the beginning of the end, of the invisibility of these women, who are as vibrant as they are beautiful, charismatic, and more than ever willing to make a place for themselves in this system. And it's not just about posing for photographers or parading in front of fashionistas, but playing an active role in advancing the wider movement, and getting more people on board. Caroline Ida Ours, for example, is a 62-year-old self-employed model, whose second career started as she approached her 60s. Similarly, the Brazilian model, Helena Schargel is over 80 years old and poses in lingerie for creations she designs herself, on the condition of never being airbrushed or post-edited. And, considering the proliferation of model agencies for the over-50s, there's no doubt that this revolution has only just begun.

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