Thursday, 29 September 2011

Fashion Grows Up

If there's one thing that will change the fashion industry's obsession with youth, it's money. I'm not talking bungs and bribes - Cash For Wrinkles, anyone? Or the super-rich. Really, who cares if Daphne Guinness would rather binge on couture than eat? No. It's officially time for designers and retailers to wake up and smell the grey pound. All Walks Beyond The Catwalk, whose aim is to increase diversity in fashion and prove that 'real beauty is good for business,' have just told me about some research by Ben Barry a PhD student at Judge Business School, Cambridge University, that supports their philosophy.

'In my research, featuring 300 women in Canada, the US and UK, equally segmented between 14-65 years of age, over 90% of women between 40-65 increased purchase intentions when the advertisement featured models reflecting their age and size,' reports Barry. 'Women over 40 possess more overall spending power than any other age group, and they spend more on women's apparel than younger market segments. Moreover research has demonstrated that ageing does not reduce fashion interest among individuals.'

Women over forty want clothes that fit, flatter and look fashionable. And we want to see them on older models. Time for change, don't you think?

PS Why stop at 65? The fabulous New Yorkers snapped by Ari Seth Cohen for Advanced Style still care about fashion - and Alexis Bittar has been using 67-year-old Lauren Hutton in his ads this year.

All Walks Beyond The Catwalk.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Scandinavian Style: Gudrun Sjodén

Gudrun Sjodén tells me minimalism is boring, as I sit in her office in pared-down denial. It's the Swedish designer's 35th anniversary and I'm in Stockholm to celebrate. Zesty colours, bohemian layering and an emphasis on hand-painted, Scandi-style prints are the brand's signature look. Jeans and a t-shirt, are mine.

Just as the Queen raises a flag when she's in residence, the 70-year-old with a medal for her contribution to fashion, hangs a floral appliqué handbag over the end of her desk to let people know she's in the office:

Gudrun loves gardening and travel and this is reflected in her use of natural fabrics, botanical prints and globally-inspired designs, always shown on a diverse range of models. ' Clothes look nicer on shapely women than 18-year-old girls,' she points out, adding, ' And it can be a problem when young men make things for women, their emphasis becomes young and sexy. They don't understand older women who are more intelligent than them! But it will change.' Glad to hear it.

The open-air catwalk show is at Rosendal's Garden - and I'm beginning to think layering-up is a good idea:

Like a Swedish Marimekko, the label produces fashion and homewares. And as with Scandinavian interiors, a combination of clean simple pieces perked up with a dollop of colour is best. A little really does go a long way. Even Gudrun admits that her personal style has evolved over the years and now she wears bold pattern against a plain background.

How do you wear pattern and print? And is Gudrun right about young male designers?

Friday, 23 September 2011

The perfect autumn jacket

For in-between days, when it's still warm enough to get away without a coat, I like to layer-up in a lightweight jumper (usually John Smedley), jacket and scarf. As I'm always in jeans, this velvet blazer from Boden would make my trademark outfit feel special. It's unexpected and fun and not as formal as plain black.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Wonderful Marcel Wanders

Sigh. It's Marcel Wanders. The charismatic Dutch product designer is in town for London Design Festival, and to launch a range of gifts for M&S - That's Not My Age met him at the preview party last night. Wanders is friendly, funny and very tall (probably around 6' 5, if you must know), and, as you can see, good-looking. Even in my crappy photo. By the end of the evening, a collective middle-aged crush had enveloped the room and a gaggle of forty-something women were planning to move to the Netherlands.

But what about the product? People, this is being hailed as the Democracy of Design. The 48-year-old charmer says, ' It's great to make crazy high end objects but it's good to make stuff that affects the life of many. Things that reach the heart of people, not just the homes.'

And here's a better photo of Wanders, who describes his laid-back, suit-and-trainers style as 'fashionably sophisticated.' I'm liking that concept.

You may recognise his knotted chair, designed for Droog in 1996. When I asked the internationally-acclaimed designer if he could make a cheaper version for Marks & Spencer, he admitted, 'It was a limited edition - and not that good for the environment.' Fair enough.

Wanders likes to connect the past and the future, hence the Henry VIII cufflink set, 'Choose a different wife every day and a favourite on Sundays!'

The multi-talented Marcel Wanders can turn his hand to anything. From tartan scarves and heavy glass urns, to printed umbrellas and expensive chocolate cakes - there are over 150 gifts in the collection. Here are some of my favourite bits and pieces:

That's Not My Age's verdict: This is the first time M&S has worked with one designer over a range of product areas and it's a brave move. Unlike the Terence Conran collaboration, which sits perfectly with the brand, some of Wanders more Baroque/masculine designs are very un-M&S. The traditional customer might not get it, but you can't keep churning out ditzy floral print mugs and Wallace & Gromit biscuit tins. And according to my sources, the store has a wider customer base and more younger shoppers at Christmas- and they will probably love some of the more kitsch-y stuff.

Wanders has been signed-up for five years. What do you think?

Marcel Wanders for Marks & Spencer is available (online and in 60 stores nationwide) from 12 October 2012.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Style at any age

Fashion has always been fixated with youth. The pressure to stay eternally young is what inspired me to start That's Not My Age in the first place. The need to see more older models, more wrinkles, more diversity and less ageism in fashion. I know I'm not alone, there are tons of fabulous bloggers of a certain age out there (you can find a fair few in my Blog Roll) and by promoting older models and using photos of ourselves and other mid-lifers, I'd like to think we're doing our bit to help shift attitudes.

I love this photo of Joan Burstein by The Sartorialist. Scott Schuman has the ability to beautifully capture stylish people of any age:

And, ta- dah! This morning, I opened the newspaper and found two age-related articles that helped take the edge off my hangover. One on the fact that grey haired, natural chic is on the up - I'm not going to be the one to say I told you so - with a great quote from Caryn Franklin, journalist and co-founder of All Walks on the Catwalk:

"Our culture is fearful of ageing," said Franklin, "and especially ageing women. I say, 'Stop apologising for getting older. Embrace it.' I want young women to see that beauty ages beautifully and there is no need to feel that getting older is something that has to be medicated, managed with surgery or be obsessed about."

And the other on the need to see more middle-aged women on telly. Chairman of the BBC Trust, Chris Patten, says he'd like to see more mature women presenting programmes:

"First of all, I'm 67, for heaven's sake, and I'm married to a charming and beautiful 66-year-old, and I would be delighted if she was the face of anything on television."

And I don't think the former Conservative Party chairman was using his position at the BBC to find his wife a job. There are over 20 million Britons over 50 - let's hope that this is a watershed, not a fad.

Quotes: The Observer

Thursday, 15 September 2011

A model with a conscience

Meet Mak Gilchrist. She's been modelling for over 25 years and has worked with some fabulous people like Peter Lindbergh, Arthur Elgort, Bruce Weber and er, me. Back in my more glamorous fashion editor days, Mak was one of my favourite cover girls. Charming, down-to-earth and intelligent. Not one to be consumed by the more superficial aspects of the fashion world, and like myself, a bit of a hippy at heart. She's appeared in tons of magazines and ad campaigns and was the face of Chanel’s Allure:

And if that doesn't impress you, Mak was one of the supermodels in Robert Palmer’s Addicted to Love video:

Not so long ago, we met up again - this time at a bus stop, not a fashion shoot. Mak has been neglecting her own back yard, of late, to do a spot of Guerilla Gardening. The site near her south London home was bombed during the Second World War, two end-of-terrace houses never replaced. So, with the help of Lambeth council and a group of local volunteers, this strip of bare earth has been turned into The Edible Bus Stop project. An organic community garden. And it's fantastic. Really inspiring. Neighbours stop by for a chat or to help out, there's an elderly man who keeps an accurate record of all the plants and when someone tried to help themselves to the produce, patients from the hospital across the road banged on the windows and scared them off.

There's a committee who meet regularly to develop the garden and discuss plans, to negotiate with the local authority and neighbours. I asked the forty-something model if she'd thought of a career in politics, ' Oh I'd sooner be the one who whispers in the politician's ear. I've never sought the spotlight. As a model you're not promoting yourself, you're shining a light on the product. I've always seen myself in a promotional role.'

So, tomorrow instead of going to London Fashion Week, I'm off to The Edible Bus Stop's Green Carpet Catwalk Show, organised as part of International Park(ing) Day.

Fashion shows start at 13:15 and 14:00 on the Concert Hall Approach, South Bank, London SE1. If you're in the area, please come along.

Mak Gilchrist photos: Premier Models

Monday, 12 September 2011

Port, Rum and Johnny Depp

Well, can you believe it? This is 48-year-old Johnny Depp's first appearance on That's Not My Age. I've just been reading about his latest film The Rum Diary, based on a book by Hunter S. Thompson, in this month's Port magazine. Port is a newish magazine for grown-up men, which I like very much. See, I told you I was a tomboy. There's an interview with director Bruce Robinson and some exclusive photos from the film, including - brace yourselves - one of Depp ransacking a minibar in his underpants. Sorry to disappoint you but he's wearing black nylon socks and patterned boxer shorts and I'm not going to publish it. Well, maybe if you ask nicely...

Anyhow. I much prefer these images by photographer Mischa Richter who was born in England but grew up in New York and Cape Cod. They're from his book Saudade, out now. Saudade is a Portugese word which apparently translates as a longing or yearning for something, kind of like feeling homesick.

'Bob and Ernest lived on Anthony Street. When I was a child this was the street my friend and I took to the beach. I must have walked past Bob & Ernest hundreds of times. One summer, I returned to where I grew up and noticed how much it had changed. I took a portrait of Bob & Ernest because to me they had not changed one bit. The next summer I went to see them, Ernest had died. The following summer, I went to see Bob but he had died. I guess you can't stop change.'

The Rum Diary is out in the US on 28 October and the UK on 4 November 2011.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Androgynous Style

I've always been a bit of a tomboy. That's what happens when you have two brothers, and like riding a bike. So, I'm happy when women's fashion takes a masculine turn. When Tilda Swinton shows up on the red carpet in a suit, or Catherine Deneuve in a YSL tuxedo. These images are from the final J+ Uniqlo collection. Good, aren't they? And here's the designer Jil Sander:

Another woman with trend-defying style, here's what Sander told the Guardian this week, 'My personal style has stayed pretty much the same over the years. For work, I like a perfect pair of trousers and a white shirt, designed according to the spirit of the moment.'

And there's a great interview with Jane Birkin in this month's Vogue, sadly the accompanying photo has been airbrushed to the max. I know I've met Jane Birkin! Anyhow, her advice for looking sexy is to, ' Wear men's clothes and smile. Old stuff is grand, especially men's trousers. I feel very sexy when I'm wearing those.'

Personally when I think of old men's trousers, I feel very sick. The thought of a pair of smelly tweed pants with a stained crotch is enough to make me throw up all over my keyboard. Sorry, Jane but I wouldn't be found dead in a pair. Anyhow. This is what I love about Tomboy Style:

1. Tailoring is an easy way to smarten up, and sculpt the figure - always a flattering option when the flesh starts to get a bit wobbly.
2. Comfy shoes rule. I wear heels on special occasions. I have a job where I'm on my feet a lot. And I ride a bike, unlike Kelly Brook, I prefer to cycle in flats. Which is why I wear classic brogues and loafers.
3. Minimalism looks sharper than maximalism. End of.

And here are some of my favourite looks. The top picture is Hobbs NW3 and the overcoat and casual outfit are from Toast:

Oh and there's a fabulous blog called Tomboy Style. You should check it out.

Jil Sander photo: Getty