The fashion industry is both celebrated and criticised for favouring youthful trends exclusive to everyone under the age of 30. However, with the kick-off of London Fashion Week last week, one brand is going all out to change this. On Thursday afternoon, just one day before the launch of LFW, mail-order retailer JD Williams created their own 50+ Fashion Week at the Café Royal in London. The brand asked students from London College of Fashion to design a collection ‘celebrating the modern 50+ woman’, with the aim of proving that fashion is about style, not age. The show opened with the elegant Marie Helvin, aged 63, and closed with the world’s oldest working model Daphne Selfe, aged 87.
The idea for 50+ Fashion Week started when JD Williams commissioned research via YouGov, showing that older women often feel ignored by the fashion industry. In the survey, 58% of the 12 million females over 50 in the UK – with 4 million being between the ages of 50 and 64 – felt underrepresented when it comes to high street clothing. ‘This market is huge, it is under served, and we want to drive the opportunity,’ said Angela Spindler, CEO of JD Williams’ parent company N Brown. ‘Our findings show women over fifty want to be represented by the media. They want beautiful aspirational fashion imagery; they want someone in their age and shape they can relate to. JD Williams is changing all the time to answer that need.’
Models from Mrs Robinson Management took part in the fashion show, including ex-racehorse-trainer Tracey Bailey and actress Tanya Drouginska. The collection was specifically designed for the needs of women over 50, with the survey conducted used as a reference to create the designs. With 72% of over 50s highly valuing comfort, chic and sophisticated elasticated waist trousers were one of the first designs to grace the catwalk. In addition, the survey showed that nine out of ten women in this age bracket preferred arm and leg coverage – therefore, a beautiful full-length bohemian dress became one of the show stoppers of the event.
The show’s stylist Caroline Baker, aged 70, commented ‘I feel very strongly about the lack of fashionable role models for women over 50. Helen Mirren looks great on the red carpet, but what about role models for everyday style? I love to see women looking cool. Where are they?’. Model Marie Helvin, who has worked in the fashion industry since she was 16, agreed: ‘The area where I think women 50+ are most ignored is in fashion magazines and advertising. I buy pencil skirts and well cut trousers from Net and supplement them with high street buys. I get all my tops from H&M. But other high street shops need to re-focus. Who offers bra-fittings these days, for example?’. With the lack of diversity in the fashion industry, it’s only a matter of time before designers will start catering to the needs of women over 50.