There are two reasons I started blogging. The first was that not long after I’d left a job as fashion editor on a glossy magazine, the internet became “a thing”. When most of my freelance work shifted online, I realised there was an opportunity to create an independent space. The second, and possibly the most significant, was the launch of photographer Ari Seth Cohen’s fabulous Advanced Style blog. “I’d never really seen ageing portrayed in a way that inspired me, so I started doing it myself,” says Seth Cohen of his street-style shots of flamboyant women aged 60 and beyond: fashion freedom fighters like Iris Apfel, artist Beatrix Ost (first picture) and beauty entrepreneur and stylist Linda Rodin, women who were styling it out on the streets of New York, not sitting at home in elasticated waist slacks and slippers.
Eight years down the line, the Advanced Style phenomenon has gone global. The proliferation of older-style blogs has resulted in the increased visibility of mature women online and in print. We’ve seen Joan Didion, now 81, modelling for Céline, 94-year-old Apfel as the face of everything from Mac cosmetics to cars, Kate Spade to wearable technology (www.wisewear.com’s line of jewellery that monitors health, movement and has distress messaging in case of emergency) – and the cover star of How To Spend It’s most recent fashion issue. “It’s pretty amazing to see Advanced Style become part of popular culture, to have such a powerful impact,” continues Seth Cohen.
Advanced Style became a book that sold over 100,000 copies and was followed by a film; Seth Cohen’s second book Advanced Style: Older & Wiser(£25, second picture) has just been published. “It’s really incredible to see that the fashion industry is paying attention to ageing.”
One of the newest Advanced Style stars, 61-year-old Sarah Jane Adams (third picture) picks up the phone when I call LA to speak to Seth Cohen. An English jewellery designer living in Australia, she’s in America for the book launch. “I believe Ari is the person who started this change in perception of older people,” she says. “He is the revolutionary leading the way in a movement that is giving a voice and visibility back to elders.”
Adam’s life was thrown into orbit after an appearance on the Advanced Style site. “Through a set of amazing circumstances, Ari featured me on his blog, Adidas then reposted it and things started to go a little crazy!” Grey Model Agency signed Adams and a burgeoning career followed, including a recent appearance on the cover of WWD. With over 56,000 followers on Instagram (@saramaijewels) and the popular hashtag #mywrinklesaremystripes, the designer is now exerting her own influence online. “I have always used my clothes as a form of communication,” she adds. “My protection, armour, camouflage, a daily reflection of my mood. I dress for myself rather than to impress. My followers repeatedly tell me that I inspire them to live a fuller, more courageous life.”
Having moved back to the west coast, Seth Cohen can’t wander the streets as he did in New York, but this hasn’t prevented him finding a new coterie of Advanced Stylistas, “I have a wonderful new crew, people I’ve met through friends and acquaintances. They’ve told me there is even more need for this in LA, where you barely see a wrinkle.”
Older & Wiser includes a series of dapper older men, such as Robert W Richards, a cravat-wearing illustrator in his “Katharine Hepburn years”, and former vice president of men’s tailoring at Neiman Marcus, Derrill Osborn. “These are incredible guys and they have a similar philosophy to the women – which is something I hadn’t realised,” continues Seth Cohen. “I thought it might have been easier, but they all face the same challenges around ageing, the same prejudices. But they maintain an attitude of optimism, a continued sense of purpose.”
Has the Advanced Style phenomenon had an impact on Seth Cohen himself, does the 34-year-old feel older and wiser? “It’s impossible not to gain insight from all the incredible women I’ve met. Seeing how they put things together – the colours and textures – really sharpens your eye.” But it’s not all aesthetics; lifestyle and mindset are of equal importance. “Older women feel empowered, they no longer feel invisible,” adds Seth Cohen. “My intention was to provide stories, role models – and this has given people hope. Lots of young women tell me that Advanced Style has taken away their fear of getting older, shown that you can still have a vibrant life and new adventures.”
Age is all the rage – and we all have Ari Seth Cohen to thank for that.