Older Women We Should Really Look Up To

So Naomi Campbell turned 40 last month? Well done her. She partied in Cannes where they were so kind as to put on a whole film festival replete with red carpets and pap’s just for her. As her hangover subsided, women around the world were given a slice of the birthday cake in the form of photographs of a stunning Campbell with captions and articles that generally ran along the lines of “she’s 40 but don’t look a day over 20. Can you believe it!?!” Frankly, yes. First, she is model, and was far more beautiful than the rest of us even when she was half her age now, so it figures it holds true two decades down the line. Second, she’s never had kids. Third, she has been in mega-bucks since she was a teenager, and can thus get all the lastest luxuries in skin therapies, beauty regimes, dieticians, exercise gurus, you name it; when looking good is your line of profession it should come as little wonder you do it damn well. Here she is with 21-year-old Chanel Iman. 

Photo: thelustandenvy.com

There are more and more slebs looking younger and younger; think Kylie Minogue, the SATC girls, Gwen Stefani, Madonna, et cetera, and it’s due to a stealthy combination of high pressure from full-coverage media and the latest advances in science and technology. That said, it comes at a cost most of us don’t have that includes what you won on the genetic lottery. Will this become simply expected of women, that they look younger for longer? And is there more to life? We think there is and thus present a whip-around of ladies whose style keeps them fabulous-fantastic after the dreaded thirties have been and gone. They show us that no matter how much physique can impress the drones who read heat, an eye for style is the thinking girl’s charm and will keep her warm at night well into her 90s. 


Photo: oignonsetail.wordpress.com

Anna Piaggi, journalist, stylist and muse, has been at the centre of the fashion publishing world since the 1960s; she worked at Italian Vogue, reporting new trends including those from Britain and creating her famous Doppie Pagine (Double Pages) since 1988, and through that decade was editor-in-cheif of the now cult Vanity magazine. Her personal style, of mad hats perched precariously on one side of her head, canes and blue curled hair, was captured by Karl Lagerfeld in sketches over about 15 years and appeared in his tome Lagerfeld’s Sketchbook. Her way with words is as legendary as her influential style, and she worked on the press releases of fashion houses Prada and Missoni. We had the amazing good fortune to bump into her at Paris Fashion Week SS 2009 and got her autograph – super-sycophantic fan behaviour normally not played out at fashion week, but when you actually want to be someone one day, why not?? 

Photo: Getty

Kim Hastreiter is another one in publishing world, but rather than the upper echelons of Italian high fashion, has edited New York’s indie magazine Paper for the past 20 years and in that time been an important social connector on the Stateside fashion capital’s radar. At her parties, Madonna and Penelope Cruz rub shoulders with caberet act Joey Arias or a female drag queen Ladyfag. Her instinct for talent rather than money robs these events of the usual hierarchy and snobbery. The result? Kim is one of the few who isn’t lamenting the passing of the “good old days” of NYC (remember Marc Jacobs AW 2009 collection? They all said it re-captured something lost) because her open-mindedness keeps her instincts sharp for new, exciting young things. Her simple style of huge cherry red specs and colourful smocks matches this democratic editor, a real rarity in an idustry rampant with elitism and red ropes in front of doors. 


Photo: hookedonhouses.net

Betsey Johnson is a poster girl for how to be, nay, why to be a hot ass mess right into your 60s, with her love of fierce and fabulous details and platinum blonde locks. Can you believe this woman was born in 1942?? She landed on the New York fashion scene in 1965 landing top designer position for boutique Paraphernalia, which stocked now-icons of the era, Mary Quant and Paco Rabanne. She fell in with the Warhol scene, using Edie Sedgewick as model and dressing the Velvet Underground’s John Cale for performances. By the 70s she was head designer at Alleycat, cornerstone of the rock ‘n’ roll style. In the 80s, her boutique for new own brand Betsey Johnson was the first to open on LA’s Melrose Avenue, helping establish the street as the cult shopping area of the day. As the brand expanded, she launched a London store in 1998 and hit the Japanese market in 2003, sealing her status as world-class designer. What’s more, as a survivor of breast cancer, has become something of a militant campaigner to raise money for cancer research. She’s won countless fashion awards but continues to be fresh and innovative in the style stakes and in no way lets age dictate her dress code.  

Photo: contactmusic.com

Zandra Rhodes is a cornerstone on the British Fashion scene, receiving a CBE for her work all the way back in 1997. Her rise to fashion fame was grounded in solid roots; her mother was a fitter for Paris fashion House of Worth and lectured at Medway College of Art where Rhodes studied, before going on to London’s Royal College of Art. In 1967 she opened her first store The Fulham Road Clothes Shop, and by ’74 was made Royal designer of the year, having opened a shop across the pond in New York and got herself a section in London’s Fortnum & Mason; her glamorous rise is reflected in her clientele and has dressed slebs from Diana, Princess of Wales to Freddie Mercury to the late Isabella Blow. Unlike the “classic” crap we keep hearing about in boring tailoring and demure colours, Zandra has produced timeless fashion through extravagant colours in swathes of her couture textile print designs. Her own style is the embodiment of that, a kind of hippy vibe but with glamorous jewellery and always in full-force Technicolor. And pink hair at the age of 70? Hope we end up like that, bitches. 


Photo: Dafydd Jones / Purple PR

Daphne Guinness may be thin as a whippet like the rest of ’em and has appeared on catwalks in her 40s, but we feel girlfriend has serious style and would look twice as good even at twice the size. Shazam! The ultimate bird of paradise in the fashion world, Daphne’s charm, nay, mystère, revolves around the fact that no one quite knows what it is she does; her resumé includes styling, artwork, designing now and then, and she once almost became an opera singer; other times she is simply socialite, heiress and muse. Her personal taste is just extraordinary – tottering about in the highest shoes imaginable, with her two-tone hair-do, couture outfits are day-to-day wardrobe options, earning her the admiration of Karl Lagerfeld, Valentino and the late Alexander McQueen. She’s had a fascinating life, spending 15 years married to Spyros Niarchos, son of shipping magnate Stavros, during which she was wrapped like a Fabergé egg in impossible luxury, yet it cut her of from the rest of the world. Since their divorce in 1999, she’s discovered fashion as an extension of being, dressing in and designing the most exquisitely imaginative pieces, and making her presence felt at all the best parties and shows of the fashion world. And at only 40 years old, she will no doubt continue to do so for many years to come; noone can ever really take the place of such unique woman.

Photo: alt.coxnewsweb.com

Iris Apfel is a self-professed “geriatric starlet” and was discovered as the icon she is five years ago when the New York Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute wanted to borrow some of her accessories for an exhibition. They thought a few of her clothes would be nice to put it into context but were bowled away by the enormous warbrobe that filled rooms and rooms they discovered at her house. Since then, there’s been a Bruce Weber photoshoot, features in The New York Times, Paper and Vogue. She has fans including designers Isaac Mizrahi and Duro Olowu and was the subject of a larger-than-life window display at Barney’s. She is a pin-up of kooky style, wearing necklaces made out of toy calculators and always with her signature big round specs. Now a lady of lesuire and pleasure, she made her mark at Old World Weavers, a company she founded with husband Carl Apfel,  that restored fabrics including those at the White House over the administrations of several presidents. Its an ethos she applies to her personal style; as well as treasured vintage designer finds, she regularly makes her mark in raiding thrift stores for gems, with the motto “what the hell – if they don’t fit, I’ll turn them into pillows”. A bona fide white witch of the wardrobe.


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