All Photos: Richard Kaby
In 2018 there are approximately 20 million over-55s in the UK, making up one-third of the population and accounting for roughly 47 per cent of all UK consumer spending.
The over-65s spend £6.7bn a year on clothes in Britain, yet it is only recently that this age group has appeared in fashion campaigns, and even then there is an element of (unrealistic) aspiration; even older models must be exceptional looking, tall, fit and, well, perfect. It may be ok to have grey hair and wrinkles as long as you are over 5’8” and thin!
Do you want to see clothes worn by models who reflect the real world, the world that you see around you when you go about your day to day business? According to Jamie Mills at Datamonitor, ‘the stereotype that all mature consumers want to look and feel young is changing. Consumers are accepting and embracing the age they are and are not looking necessarily for products which will change this. This is evident in that 55 per cent of consumers aged over 55 said that they want their looks to reflect their age.’
“Some of us may need a bit of support to reclaim our wardrobes from the dictates of the taste-makers, but when we do the freedom feels glorious.”
So where do us mere mortals find a place to discover how to be fabulous? A space where there are no rules about what to wear over 50 and where no one is making us feel inappropriate ( ‘oh well, if you think it looks good…’), or where our love of dressing up will be ‘allowed’ to continue to add wellbeing to our lives (‘but it makes me happy…’).
Coco Chanel famously stated that ‘after 40 nobody is young, but one can be irresistible at any age’. I believe that when we reach a certain age we have all developed our own way of being beautiful, we know what to wear to be our very best selves, and with a bit of encouragement, can wear our Sunday Best every day. But where do we find brands or shops that reflect our needs?
Positively Ageless Fashion
I believe that fashion can empower us, that clothes can add to a positive sense of self and, that in doing so, fashion can rediscover its place in the world as a factor of positive change. Some shops inform you about your own needs and educate you into a new way of creating rather than consuming. You can leave feeling better about yourself, not just temporarily from a spending hit, but with a renewed sense of self-awareness. Of course, this is ageless and timeless; I’m not saying that over-40s have special access to this way of relating to fashion. But there is the possibility that with such a large market share of clothes consumption, we can make a difference to the way the industry operates. When we reclaim the fun that fashion can be about, when we make the decision to be beautiful on our own terms, and when we stop paying attention to the rules, we can gain a hell of a wellbeing kick from fashion.
The fashion industry often makes excuses for its inability to be a place where models are treated as real people; how difficult can it be for a photo shoot to reflect the values that the rest of the world deems important? GOLDIEmagazine® fashion pages share the meaning and purpose that the rest of the magazine holds dear: people matter, making others feel that life offers endless possibility is at the heart of our content and profiting from spreading gloom is not a good look.
The shoot that these photos came from took place in February at Gigi’s Dressing Room. The models are real Gigi customers who turned up on a Sunday to play dress-up. I didn’t want to dictate what anyone should wear, instead, I asked the models to begin with an outfit that appealed to them; from that starting point, I added, tweaked and suggested. I wanted the clothes to be a reflection of how my models express themselves, believing that when we dress in a way that makes us feel happy we will always look our best. There was much laughter, lots of surprises – “I would never have tried that left to my own devices” – and the process of discovery created a party atmosphere.
What can Fashion do to entice the Silver Spenders?
Many fashion retailers are realising that it isn’t just millennials who wish to have fun when they clothes-shop, but what do the over 50s want that is specific to their demographic?
Is it about time fashion retailers started to focus on the experience of savoring when we shop for clothes; less grab-and-run and more curiosity? What would it take to create stores which shared a love of dressing with encouraging wellbeing and supported the values of 20 million over-55s? With the best intention in the world, I don’t think they would all fit in Gigi’s.
Thank you, Galina Sherri, and the customers at Gigi’s for modelling wearingwellbeing
Photos: Richard Kaby and Helena Dornellas
Location: Gigi’s Dressing Room, Wood Street, Walthamstow.