IF there ever was any doubt about fashion making a social and political statement, then a 34-year-old American blogger and photographer is turning that on its head, with his chronicle of people over 60 who take to the streets in the most individual and creative ensembles that give ageing the thumbs up.
Ari Seth Cohen started a blog eight years ago, taking pictures of older people who caught his eye and called it Advanced Style, which later became the name of his first book, selling over 100,000 copies worldwide, followed by a documentary.
Now a second book, just out, called Advanced Style: Older and Wiser, takes a similar format to the original, with inspiring images of creative senior street style from around the globe, but it also includes 22 short essays written by some of the subjects of the book who share their wisdom and lifestyle secrets.
In the meantime, his blog has continued to grow, now with more than 51,000 followers, and the Advanced Style brand, as such, is tapping into the zeitgeist with its positive and inspiring message about ageing, igniting what is now being called a ‘movement’.
So how can a ‘movement’ evolve from pictures of people aged 60 and upwards?
In a sense this is fashion at its best; the individuality, the glamour, the eccentricity, or straight-up classic style of the women and men defies ageism in our society — the sweeping presumption that we lose independence and zest in our elder years, or that we are all one homogenised beige group.
In his introduction to this latest book Cohen says the people he meets on the streets continue to astound him “with their wisdom, creativity and vitality”.
“It’s not one particular style that attracts me — nor am I attempting to judge what is in good or bad taste,” he says.
“Who truly catches my eye are those whose artful and creative dressing is a reflection of their indomitable spirits and the refusal to become invisible.”
By recognising this and being the one to record them back in 2008, he opened the media floodgates: “I started Advanced Style as a personal project after my grandmother who was my best friend, passed away,” he tells Feelgood.
“Almost everyone in the book is someone that I met walking around various city streets.
“The fashion industry is all of a sudden embracing older models after years of treating seniors as if they were invisible.
"It’s been fantastic to see how the men and women I meet have themselves created incredible social media platforms that help inspire people to no longer fear growing older and to embrace ageing with vitality, optimism, and personal expression.”
Indeed if you visit his blog at http://www.advanced.style/ you will see how the tone is set; the links to, and pictures of other vibrant and confident older people means the website offers a positive and encouraging message to its followers.
Though Cohen’s first book focussed mainly on women, the follow-up volume is different: “That was because I felt that the media tended to treat women way more harshly in terms of ageing and beauty, than men,” he says.
“In this new book I feature some of the many men I met photographing and others who have inspired me since I started the project in 2008”.
Cohen says he moved to New York after being encouraged to do so by his maternal grandmother, Bluma, prior to her death in her 90s, that year.
The colour and vivacity of the older people on the bustling pavements there, inspired the setting up of his blog at a time he was mourning her loss.
So there has been a two-way gain?
“Sometimes these short interactions on the street develop into long friendships, and other times I only have a minute or so with each person as they are rushing to an appointment or have somewhere to be,” he says.
And what stops him in his tracks?
“Posture, attitude, personal style — all these things catch my eye, but above all there is a certain spirit of vitality and a life force and expression of a lifetime’s worth of adventures, lessons, successes and failures, all wrapped up in one single moment, when I ask them for their photo,” he reveals.
Though this book includes photographs taken in London, Cape Town, Rome, Florence, Tokyo, Melbourne, Sydney, Amsterdam, Edinburgh, Stockholm and Geneva, did he miss his chance of capturing some wonderful Irish personalities?
“I would love the opportunity to come to Ireland,” he says.
So strut your stuff on the streets, ladies and gentlemen!
- ‘Advanced Style: Older and Wiser’ is published by powerhouse Books, €25.88.
At 88, and still modelling, the author Daphne Selfe is well qualified to presume her life is of interest not only to those who love fashion, who indeed will lap up this book with the clever title, but to others as well.
Despite her great age, she is still one of Britain’s most in-demand supermodels — photographed by the likes of David Bailey and Mario Testino — and an inspiration. The tone of her memoir reveals how she is still a vivacious woman.
Though Selfe came from a privileged background and her story reflects this, she also knew how to ‘make do’; some of her photographs show her sporting beautiful outfits she had made herself.
If you enjoyed the first season of the Netflix original show, Grace and Frankie, featuring two 70-something women forced to live together after their husbands announce they are in love with each other, then there’s a treat in store with its follow-up.
In this season Grace (played by Jane Fonda, right) and Frankie (Lily Tomlin) have put their personality differences behind them, as their friendship grows and they settle into the realisation they are better out of their marriages, while still remaining entwined in their ex-husbands’ and adult children’s lives.
The issues they battle with can act as humorous or poignant reflections on ageing, but the theme of the series acts as a positive message that life is for embracing.
"Sex appeal is 50% what you’ve got and 50% what people think you’ve got."
— Actress Sophia Loren
Research shows how being busy is god for your brain http://bit.ly/244iA8j