Ageless Beauty: How the catwalk is conquering ageism

Katie Service

When actress Helen Mirren announced on the cover of the September issue of Allure magazine that she didn’t believe in the phrase ‘anti-ageing’, it sent ripples through the beauty industry. Allure promptly decreed that the term was to banned from their pages for good and called for the beauty world to do the same, challenging the negative connotations that surround the totally natural process of ageing.

Despite the anti-ageing sector being one of the beauty industry’s biggest profit categories (according to Reuters it was worth $250 Billion globally by the end of last year), it’s clear that New York casting agents sat up and paid attention to 72-year-old Mirren’s words as the catwalks this week have been filled with ‘veteran’ models (as they’re called in the biz) and long grey hair has definitely been one of the biggest beauty trends to be gleaned from the SS18 runway. This season beauty clearly has no sell by date.

At the 20th anniversary show for Chilean designer Zero + Maria Cornejo, silver-locked model May Musk, whose career is still booming after her popularity in the 1960s, walked the boards alongside the usual bevy of teenage models. Make-up artist for MAC Cosmetics Dick Page was enhancing not masking her complexion backstage with transparent make-up that he described as ‘not getting in the way’ of her natural beauty. Just a light touch of MAC’s Peachlite Strobe cream and a spot of foundation, nothing that would structurally change the face to make it look younger or more airbrushed.

May Musk backstage at Zero + Maria Cornejo

‘I think we can safely say there is a growing trend for diversity in every sense of the word and there have been plenty of older women walking in New York this season’ confirmed hairstylist Eugene Souleiman, who coiffed models of all ages backstage at The Rowe. ‘We’re at a stage where everything in fashion is about female empowerment. Designers want their women to feel real.’

47-year-old model Kirsten Owen was also a big feature of the week, walking for both Anna Sui and Helmut Lang alongside 1990’s model Danielle Zinach. Designer in residence at Helmut Lang, Shane Oliver is known for his love of street casting certainly had diversity in mind when he cast the show complete with men and women of all shapes and sizes from gap toothed Slick Woods to willowy Owen herself. Over at the Tome presentation, two steely haired older models gazed out at the crowd of fashion editors with attitude and at Calvin Klein, 16 year old Kaia Gerber, Cindy Crawford’s daughter, made her runway debut, proving that age is most definitely just a number this season.

This exciting array of ages on the runway is certainly a progressive step towards the brighter, non-ageist future of beauty. A future in which older women are cast in beauty campaigns as frequently as the selfie-generation. The next step is for this age-diversity trend to stop being a trend and become the norm. A reality that couldn’t come sooner.