Maggie Smith and the belated lure of the much older woman
And what I’ve learnt from interviewing women north of 80
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The fashion world has a new role model and she has a grey blow out and a face alive with wrinkles, experience and legacy. A knowing, slightly jaded look that says, “I see you”. Step up Dame Maggie Smith, age 88, winner of two Oscars, five BAFTAs, four Emmys and ten Evening Standard film and theatre awards. And now the face of luxury fashion house Loewe’s new ad campaign.
Dame Maggie is not the first, of course.
This wave of embracing age and experience to get people talking about your brand, started in 2015 when Phoebe Philo (always ahead of the curve on these things) cast Joan Didion in an ad for Celine sunglasses (below). The internet broke, the £250-ish sunglasses sold out (guilty as charged), the image was my phone screensaver for the best part of a year. Suggestible, maybe, but at least, for a change, the suggestion didn’t involve airbrushing yourself to within an inch of your life.
Didion has since been followed by more of a trickle than a flood. Joni Mitchell for Saint Laurent, Charlotte Rampling for Givenchy, Dame Judi Dench and Miriam Margolyes on the cover of Vogue, Vanessa Redgrave on the cover of the FT’s HTSI magazine, Grace Coddington for Pandora only last month. And, still my personal favourite, the late Angela Lansbury on the cover of The Gentlewoman back in 2012 (below). And then there’s Iris Apfel, 102 and no plans to stop anytime soon. Like I said, it’s not exactly a flood, but it’s not insignificant for one big reason. All these women wear their age with joy and pride. They have lived, they have loved, they have laughed, they have lost and you can see every last bit of it in their faces. Not an airbrush in sight. There’s a saying, I can’t remember where it came from, “Damaged people are dangerous, they know they can survive”. I think the same goes for all of us once we reach middle-age and beyond. We know we can survive because we have. And here we are. That’s what these women wearing their own skins so comfortably saysw to me. Here we are. Take me or leave me, I don’t much care.
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