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The New Face of High Fashion Has Wrinkles

Joan Didion representing Céline is part of a growing trend


I’ve been to hundreds of Fashion Week shows, and no one displays clothes better than 83-year-old model Carmen Dell’Orefice. But her foray was more of a novelty than the norm. What’s typical is teenagers’ ribs thrusting out so you want to throw a fur caplet onto the runway to keep the girls from catching the flu.

But now comes news that esteemed 80-year-old author Joan Didion is the star of luxury line Céline’s ad campaign. We wonder: Will she strut the catwalk during Fashion Week?

Didion’s new role seems part of a growing trend: Everything old is new again.

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Selfridges’ new campaign, “Bright Old Things,” shines the spotlight on those 40 and up, creative types and entrepreneurs who changed career paths and tried new things. The campaign includes octogenarians such as Molly Parkin, 82, former fashion editor of The Sunday Times, and William Forbes Hamilton, also 82, a former artist, among other faces usually forgotten in the realm of fashion.

After years of women of a certain age being ignored, now Dolce & Gabbana’s ad campaign, too, stars nannas festooned with gold tiaras and red carnations.

The Economics Of Attracting An Older Audience

Consumers aged 60 and older spent more than $8 trillion worldwide in 2010, according to consulting firm A.T. Kearney. The firm says retailers should engage aging shoppers representing the “gray dollar,” expected to grow to $15 trillion by decade’s end.

All that money isn’t going to health care or travel.

One woman I know favored a black leather suit until her demise at 103. She was always perfectly attired and relished shopping sprees to freshen her wardrobe.

(MORE: 7 Clothing Items That Flatter Every Body)

At a memorable Lafayette 148 sample sale in New York City, one 80-something fashionista traveled from Texas with her 60-something daughter to nab bargains on jackets, skirt and sweaters. She competed with plenty of other women seeking pieces from the sophisticated line with a relaxed fit.

Do We Want Octogenarian Models?

So we know the older set has the interest in and the cash for fashion. But does that mean they want to see elder people as representatives? I gathered reaction from a range of ages and stages on Didion as the new face of Céline. Here’s what my interviewees had to say:

“If I was 80 or 90, I’d like it, but I’m 62 and it’s a little too much for me. Helen Mirren, yes. Jane Fonda, too beautiful. Diane Keaton, right amount of wrinkles. They should pick an aging baby boomer. I think that’s what the demographics would show.”
–Sandy Charet, executive recruiter

(MORE: Why Renee Zellweger’s Face is an Aging Issue)

“Joan Didion stands for intelligence and introspection. I kind of hope that intelligence will start mattering more than just a pouty young face.”
— Malky Weichbrod, blogger and creator of Mytherapisttoldmetowriteafashionblog.com, age 25

“Isn’t it just a stunt?”
–Joan, a Gex X’er

“Awesome selection.”
–Mary Ellen, marketing consultant, baby boomer
Nancy Brenner blogs on fashion at garmentdistrictdiva.tumblr.com covering fashion from the sample sale bins to the front row. Follow her on Twitter @samplesalediva

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