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Fashion and Beauty Shifting for Older Americans

Stria Staff March 18, 2019
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An aging America is changing the business of fashion and beauty.

Industries of all kinds are starting to respond to the changing face of our country’s demographics. Even the fashion and beauty folks are making small shifts: from magazines changing their word choices, to clothing being made specifically with older consumers in mind.Ageism still strong in these fields, but incremental change has begun.

Highlights & Insights: Curated excerpts from though-provoking articles

Is Fashion Missing the Aging Consumer Opportunity?
Business of Fashion | Lauren Sherman

“I would like to provide the older adult perspective that you’re missing,” Sarah Thomas, executive-in-residence at community network Aging 2.0 and head of global innovations for Genesis Rehabilitation Services and Genesis Healthcare, told the audience at VOICES, BoF’s gathering…. “To help to design with—and not just for—the older adult consumer.”

According to Thomas… companies can only capitalise on the opportunity at hand with greater insight into what really matter for older consumers.

“We must keep the voice of the older adult at the centre of the conversation,” she said… “When we’re designing for the older adult and the aging experience, there are many brands that only think of function. Technology is allowing us to design in ways we’ve never thought about before.” (Including 3D printing and personalised and custom design.)

Stop Telling Me What To Do With My Gray Hair
Refinery29 | Rachel Lubtiz

When Lashawnda Becoats turned 40, she went on a two-week trip to Europe. At the time, she typically frequented the salon once a week to get her gray roots touched up, so she knew that by the end of the vacation, her silvery hairs would be more visible than ever…

Seven years later, Becoats now sports gray and white locs that twist like coral down the middle of her back. To her, they represent strength and freedom, and she’s not alone. In a time when women are still expected to cover up their grays, there are many who are happily ditching the dye and accepting their hair exactly as it grows out of their head. To them, it’s more than just hair, but a testament to self-love and a celebration of getting older.

Fashion Industry and Advertisers Adjust To Reality Of Senior Buying Power With Older Models
Forbes | Robin Seaton Jefferson

“One of the most heartening changes we notice in culture today is the freedom to express yourself however you want, and we’re celebrating that reality in the most authentic, constructive way we know how,” said Zandwagon [a new model management and talent casting company founded by Kayvon Zand] Communications Director Steven Ramotar…

Zand and his team are, simply put, recognizing the value of older models to the fashion, beauty and media industry and “the crucial role they are playing in supporting Zandwagon’s core mission of fighting against ageism, changing perceptions of what it means to age and promoting genuine inclusivity in our youth-obsessed society.”

Why Anti-Ageing Is out in the Beauty Industry
The Guardian | Zoe Williams

It is no longer fashionable to be anti-ageing: it has been rebadged as “pro-skin”, by the founder of American skincare brand Drunk Elephant and “anti-wrinkles” by Neutrogena. A new vocabulary of renewal, regeneration, plumpness and “glow” now dominates the language of the beauty industry, the ethos of body-positivity finally inching its way up to the top.

It falls into a familiar category: stuff you know is basically tripe, but you can’t really object to because what went before it was worse. Still, the principle is that any visible sign of ageing is a disgusting thing in a woman, whether that is a wrinkle or the overall dulling effect of having seen too much life. But it is no longer acceptable to age-shame a woman, since time marches past us all. Instead, she must be draped in diaphanous euphemism. 

Allure Magazine Will No Longer Use the Term “Anti-Aging”
Allure Magazine | Michelle Lee

Whether we know it or not, we’re subtly reinforcing the message that aging is a condition we need to battle—think antianxiety meds, antivirus software, or antifungal spray… Repeat after me: Growing older is a wonderful thing because it means that we get a chance, every day, to live a full, happy life.

The Hospital Gown Gets a Modest Redesign
New York Times | Valeriya Safronova

“The current patient gown, with the ties in the back, reinforces a power imbalance between patients and caregivers,” said Dr. Mark Smith, the chief innovation officer of MedStar Health and the director of the MedStar Institute for Innovation. “Patients get stripped of their sense of personhood, of their privacy.”

Fashion Design With an Eye Toward Aging
Next Avenue | Shayla Stern

“Disability overlaps with aging and universal design,” Grace Jun, the executive director of the program, told the Times. “We need to see it as part of our life cycle. It’s something that we need to not only see from a human rights standpoint, but also for its economic value.”

A version of this post was published in March 2018.