Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Fashion trends for 2018 - where are the older women?

The last couple of weeks have been  fashion  intensive.  First there was London Fashion Week - which ended on 20th February  but  continued till the weekend of the 24th  with the London Fashion Week Festival (LFWF).  Then there was the  live streaming  of the symposium  Fashion and the Physique held in New York at MFit on Friday 23rd February, as part of the events built around their fantastic exhibition. Don't worry if you missed it, just visit the website and soon there will be a video recording of the symposium. I am also waiting eagerly for it because the live streaming  had lots of technical problems and at some point I got completely cut off.
I neither participated in nor was invited to any of the shows of LFW, not this season. The British Fashion Council insists on not admitting to shows people who are neither press nor buyers and only those with an invite can go to a particular designer's show.  Consumers cannot attend LFW but they have the  Festival, where they can go to a few talks, see a couple (depending on how much they have paid) of carefully curated fashion shows and spend till they drop.

Model Sanna from Grey Model Agency for Toogood , LFW18 A/W

I decided to check it out.  Buying a ticket only gives you access to a particular slot, either morning or afternoon, on just one day and that is £20 which gives you entry for some three hours or so. If you want to see at least one catwalk show you have to get a Silver ticket, pushing the admission price to £45. The Gold package at £65, allows you two shows, one designer and one trend, after which you either go back shopping or you leave. With an extra £10 you can  ensure a Frow  - honestly, with hundreds of people attending if you do not get a good seat you don't see much, so you either queue for 40 minutes outside the catwalk area to grab a seat as close as possible to the front row ahead of everyone else or you fork out more money and secure a good seat. Other packages are in the region of £145-£200 and you even get a concierge service and the pleasure of having an - I quote - 'intimate Q&A with a designer', a 'style talk' with an industry expert as well as a prosecco reception (Premium ticket holders only) at which you meet the head of the British Fashion Council.   It is a festival aimed at consumers, no?

Hijabi model for Nicopanda , LFWF

The last time I attended a Fashion Week Weekend, as it was then called, was exactly ten years ago. It took place at the Natural History Museum. I don't remember it being too crowded nor pricey. Curiosity motivated me on this occasion. I really wanted to see what was presented on the catwalk , by whom and how, and what was presented to consumers, since most of the trends had already been seen through media coverage. Mindful of a few comments made on the scarcity of older models at  LFW18, I wanted to know what would be deemed to be appropriate for consumers to see.
Because of the price tag on the event I could not visit the festival on more than one day, one session rather, and I do not know what was presented on the days I did not attend. The shows I saw were conventional  runway shows , no installations - the assumption being that consumers would not appreciate something innovative.
I saw Nicopanda's show  and I noticed that there was an attempt at diversity, he even had a hijabi model ( here I would like to refer you to the article in The Guardian by Iman Amrani on why she is getting a little weary of the 'this hijab fetish').
Overall, my impression is that, as far as consumers go, diversity stops at age 25. Older models are simply not seen, especially if they are non-caucasian. This is bizarre and it points to a very lopsided view of age and of diversity too.

Model Dee from Grey Model Agency in the Toogood presentation at LFW18 A/W

This year at LFW A/W18  the only older models were seen at the Toogood presentation on 16th February and the two models were Sanna and Dee both from Grey Model Agency, which also represents me. La Cri who writes for the blog 50enni in Milan also reported a complete lack of older models at the Milan Fashion Week shows, as brands like Dolce and Gabbana or even Max Mara, earlier open to having their clothes worn by older models, this year only had young ones.
Nor does it makes me feel hopeful to learn that a model agency like Models1 has let off about twenty 'classic' models earlier represented by them, as reported in the Observer last Sunday.
Is there a backlash?

Thursday, 22 February 2018

HuffPost and Medium

I have reactivated my blogging on HuffPost UK and have also joined Medium , I have just published a story "Doing away with ageism in fashion" (cross-linked).
I shall continue to blog on here but will aletrnate with those two platforms.
Visiting London Fashion Week Festival on Saturday 24th so I hope to be able to write about the experience.
Meanwhile go and check out the sites above and do comment, your interaction is always appreciated.

Photo courtesy of Jacynth Bassett,

And while we are talking of ageism and diversity, I am very impressed with @GraziaUK latest cover, featuring supermodel Maye Musk and other atypical models, such as Candice Huffine. Well done, Natasha Pearlman! It is not the usual diversity spread, the subtext is togetherness and friendship. This is indeed what a fashion spread should look like!

Saturday, 10 February 2018

'Timeless' and 'Ageless'

I talked about fashion and the older model in a recent post. I was very struck by the words of Vincent Peter in Paris who thought that older models were not even 'a trend' . Sure, the amazing Maye Musk continues to receive great attention - the entire Musk family is, for one reason or another - but, somewhat reluctantly, I have to agree with Peter. At New York Fashion Week, currently unfolding, there are no older models. The 'models to watch' list published by Vogue UK online shows some ethnic diversity, with a strong Chinese presence,  which is to be welcomed, but all the models  featured are below the age of 25. I am hopeful that London Fashion Week, which is taking place next week, might offer some openings for older models but I feel it might be wishful thinking on my part.
The fashion weeks that took place in September 2017 did seem to embrace diversity and a few older models were seen on runways.  I did a show for Joanne Hynes and it felt good to be included.

In December 2017 Tahmina Begum published in the HuffPostUK, Style section, a post about models to watch in 2018. There were no older models in that list but in fairness to  Tahmina I have to reveal that she had asked me to send her my details, as she wanted to feature me. I was greatly honoured but unfortunately, it was a matter of  bad timing. I never got her message in time so I was too late for the publication deadline.  I am of course really grateful to Tahmina for thinking of me and for trying to be as inclusive as possible in her discussion of diversity in fashion modelling. I generally like Tahmina Begum's incisive comments and the way she pushes for diversity to be embraced as a matter of course, often being critical of the way 'diversity' is currently interpreted.

Yet, as time goes by, I get more and more discouraged by the currently held perception of 'diversity' as a mere trend. It is not and it cannot be just a passing trend. What is wrong? What needs to be done?
In the context of a broader diversity of representation, ageism is, sadly, still rampant. Older models,  are old news at the moment. There are other issues fashion is trying to grapple with and age seems to be of lesser importance.
A generational imbalance and generational conflict is what compounds the issue of ageism. Yes, middle class  baby boomers have greater spending power and can stake a claim to a fashion that does not ignore them, as they are able to buy it. But young people are not happy about the older generation hogging jobs and positions of power. It is this general anxiety that actually fosters discriminatory attitudes towards the older generations. Clearly it is not a problem to be resolved by focussing on an age divide. There is plenty more at stake.
As for magazines, Vogue UK, when Alexandra Shulman was still at the helm, had a few issues devoted to 'Ageless Style', one published in 2015, with models barely in their forties on the cover and plenty of good advice on how to dress to cover 'ageing elbows' and 'nightmare knees', stuff I remember reading in magazines when I was a teen - and that was a long time ago. Nothing has really changed. Older bodies are flawed and shameful.
Will Edward Enninful, new Editor-in chief of Vogue UK, do better? We can only wait and see.
Vogue Italia, currently led by Emanuele Farneti, following Sozzani's  demise - I wonder whether there is a trend here, of men leading the major fashion magazines, whose readership is almost entirely female -  took the plunge last October with a 'Timeless' issue, on whose cover there was the amazing Lauren Hutton. It was a great honour for me to be in one of the editorials, together with Grey fellow model Zvona Vucković, shot by Nacho Allegre and styled by Enrica Ponzellini. 'Old age is having a fashion moment' wrote Farneti, quickly adding that Vogue was not featuring over-60 models for that reason but because of the need for inclusive diversity.

So what next? Should I retire from modelling? Or should I wait till my 70th birthday, in a decade or so? I am quite torn. Farneti's words are food for thought. The October 2017 Vogue issue was dedicated to those (older) women who "do not get anguished by the thought of tomorrow, those for whom it is always and forever today".
What an idyllic vision of old age.  I wish it were true.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Remembering the suffragettes

Suffragettes.  Reblogged 
We are celebrating one hundred years since women were given the right to vote in the UK though full voting rights to all women were only granted  in 1928. A timeline of women's vote worldwide makes interesting viewing, as it reflects the prejudices held against non-white women, predictably allowed to exercise their political rights only long after their white counterparts did - see for example South Africa, where 'coloured' women were only allowed to vote in 1984 and 'black' women in 1994.  Women are not just women, they are divided along the axis of race and class.
It is now inconceivable that in a democracy women should not vote. It thus makes odd reading that some women were actually opposed to the vote and actively participated in the National League for Opposing Women's Suffrage (1910). The Anti-Suffragists argued that they wanted women to be women, that women had a different role to fulfil and a different mission in life, which was basically that of providing nurture.

Wikipedia image
So much has changed over the past one hundred years and yet, disconcertingly, so much has not. Women are still earning less then men even though they may be doing the same job, they are sexualised and are subjected to violence on an everyday basis. Women realise from very early on that they are not regarded as being equal to men, even though on paper they may be. There are still places in the world where women are not allowed to study - Malala Yousafzai nearly lost her life when, as a young girl in 2012, she opposed the Taliban's ban on the education of women.  She is  one of the youngest ever Nobel prize recipients for peace.  Fatima Bhutto, reviewing Malala's book, co-written with Christina Lamb, very eloquently says: "Malala's fight should be ours too – more inclusion of women, remembrance of the many voiceless and unsung Malalas, and education for all".

Malala. Wikipedia image
The year 2017 has been a wake up call for women, with all the sexual harassment scandals that have come to light and more news of a pay-gap at leading companies, such as the BBC.
It has led women to reconsidering feminism as a life strategy.
Feminism is coming back but I still remember when in the decades following  the second wave feminism  of the 1960s and 1970s women thought that feminism had no longer a raison d'etre, there was no need whatsoever to be feminist (what, an ugly man hater?). Women were thought to have achieved full equality (to men). It was the era of postfeminism. Girl Power -  an undifferentiated,  ambiguous, fashionable celebration of girlhood and a clever marketing ploy too - was all the rage. Young women did not care about feminism at all, which they saw as terribly passé, they just wanted to be sassy Spice Girls. They, the Spices, were actually rather conservative. In a 1996 interview for The Spectator Geri and Victoria (not yet Beckham) identified themselves as 'anti-Europe and pro-Tory' (hear, hear Mrs May), proclaiming "we Spice Girls are true Thatcherites...Thatcher was the first Spice Girl, the pioneer of our ideology — Girl Power."
Yet through this watered down Girl Power some women began reflecting on what it really meant to be women in today's world and it led them to embracing feminism in order to feel truly empowered.
It's great to celebrate the political achievements of women, the fact that the political rights of women have been fully recognised,  and I am certainly happy to join in. But let it not be lip-service. Let us not become complacent, so much still has to be done to safeguard women's rights and entitlement to true equality.

Chanel models at Paris Fashion week 2014 in 'mock-demo' Photo: Guardian 
We have seen  feminism  being recycled in advertising campaigns or on runways. It is not necessarily something detrimental to it, I have faith in its power to resist the onslaught of commercialisation. But it is not the real thing and it is not enough to wear a t-shirt proclaiming 'We should all be feminists' - even though I own up to having one.  
Still, as Caroline Criado-Perez says: "we have to be positive about people wanting to talk about feminism, which has become such a part of popular culture that we are even seeing it in fashion shows...I think we need to embrace anything that highlights the fact that women should be equal, but they aren’ anything that shows feminism isn’t this scary horrible thing run by man-hating women has to be a positive thing".
Celebrating the vote for women should be yet another moment of reflection and it should stimulate women (and men) to fight for a more just and equal society, which we are far from having achieved.
And perhaps we should start wearing t-shirts saying "I am a contemporary suffragette" because, as Emily Thornberry writes "we owe it to the suffragettes to use the power they fought for".