Stylish, chic, iconic: The power of older models

The French used to say (perhaps they still do) that a woman can’t be considered truly chic until she’s 40. Well, this season you can double that and add a few years for good measure.

2015 will go down in history as the year fashion finally woke up to the appeal of the older model. Some of the most talked about ad campaigns have not featured the latest teen sensation but an 80-year-old author (Joan Didion for Celine), a 71-year-old folk singer (Joni Mitchell for Saint Laurent) and a singer and actress just shy of her 70th birthday (Cher for Marc Jacobs).

Grey power: Joni Mitchell for Saint Laurent

Grey power: Joni Mitchell for Saint Laurent

“The internet” (and WGSN – it’s our job, after all) was on it sooner of course. Ari Seth Cohen has been blogging about silver stylistas since 2008 at and made a documentary about it last year. Cohen is still, seven years later, well shy of the age when the French would consider him to be chic, but he’s done wonders for opening the industry’s eyes to the beauty, style, and let’s face it, buying power of the older man and woman.

At WGSN, when we launched our inaugural Global Fashion Awards in New York in 2010, we wanted to choose an icon to be recognised who summed up the city’s unique style. There was only one serious candidate, flamboyant fashionista (and then a mere octogenarian) Iris Apfel.

Simon Doonan of Barney’s presented her with her with her trophy while uttering the legendary line: “Before there was Daphne, before there was Tilda, before there was Lady Gaga, there was Iris Apfel.” The room rose to its feet to honour her as she made her way to the stage to collect her trophy dressed head to foot in black feathers.

Iconic: Joan Didion for Celine

Now at 93, all eyes are on Iris again. She too has appeared in an ad campaign this year for her friend, the jeweller Alexis Bittar, and she’s been in London this week to promote her new film. Iris is a documentary about her life made in collaboration with filmmaker Albert Maysles – who’s in his 80s himself.

London’s bright young things have been flocking to be seen at Iris’s side at the various parties and press calls to promote the film, which launches today (31 July). Many of the screenings of Iris have sold out but it’s also available to buy on iTunes, so fear not.

If you only get past the first line, you’ll know all you need to know about Iris. “I didn’t give a damn about going to the party or being at the party, it was getting dressed for the party. And there’s truth and poetry in that,” she says.

Worth noting though that Iris is not the only chic senior act in town right now. She has competition from British model Daphne Selfe, who a merely stripling relative to Apfel at just 87, is the oldest working model, so says the Guinness Book of Records.

Caryn Franklin with model Daphne Selfe at The Industry's latest panel discussion

Caryn Franklin with model Daphne Selfe at The Industry’s latest panel discussion

Selfe, whose modelling career went stellar when she hit the age of 70, has just published a book The Way We Wore, A Life in Clothes and is all over the media.

I even had the opportunity to interview her myself alongside journalist, broadcaster and diversity campaigner Caryn Franklin.

When asked how long she intended to carry on working, she replied: “As long as the phone keeps ringing, I’ll keep going.”

Fashion, please keep making those calls…

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