UK Clothing Brand JD Williams Defies Ageism With Its “Fashion Begins At Fifty” Campaign

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Four fashion experts. All female. All over 50. That’s basically all you need to know about this badass, ageism-defying campaign from UK brand JD Williams. The “Fashion begins at 50” campaign is a big eff you to all the unspoken rules in the fashion world which say only prepubescent size zero models should be seen in beauty and fashion advertising, perpetuating a narrow and in some cases, dangerously negative, body image for women who don’t happen to have those exact specifications (i.e, a large majority of the world).

While the well-loved brand of British women has taken a stand against ageism before, for this particular project, they wanted to up the stakes a little and really put their money where their mouth is both in front of and behind the camera.

Let’s back it up for second so you understand how this campaign came about. JD Williams recently commissioned a YouGov survey of 2,000 women over the age of 50, which found that 58% of women in that age group feel the high street (popular clothing stores) only caters for younger generations and 3 out of 5 women over 50 feel unrepresented in the media. It is the first 50+ female fashion report commissioned in the UK, and if any other brands out there are interested in targeting a bigger consumer base, they’d do well to read the findings.

That’s not the only data which has identified this important market. Recent research by Saga revealed that the over 50s market is one of the most rapidly growing sectors. The ‘Grey Pound’ is worth a staggering £320bn a year and over 50s account for around 47% of all consumer spending.

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With the power to act and change these stats, JD Williams decided to not just use an older model, but employ a mature style team to make it more authentic. “Fashion Begins at Fifty” was created by model Yazemeenah Rossi (60), stylist Caroline Baker (70), photographer Wendy Carrig (50), and hair & make-up artist Charlie Duffy (50).

“We’ve decided that enough is enough. We know fashion has no age limit, and it’s about time everyone else realized it too. So, to take a stand in an industry obsessed with youth, we’ve created fashion’s first 50+ photoshoot. We invited a crew of fashion experts – all female and all over 50 – to showcase our SS16 collection to break the precedent that sees unattainable younger models promote clothes to women over 50,” explained the brand in a blog post on their website.

In a promo video talking about the significance of this campaign, stylist Caroline Baker says there is an increased visibility for older women happening in the media as well as fashion.

“There has been a huge change towards the attitude of the 50 plus woman in fashion because before, nobody wanted to know. Luckily we’re seeing more and more older women on TV shows and other places. We’re beginning to see older women everywhere but I still think we could do with some more,” she said.

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We’d like to think a lot of this has been made possible thanks to women taking a stand and speaking publicly about the damaging narrow standards. In the media, probably the best example we can think of which calls out how women are essentially put out to pasture and not considered good enough to play desirable characters was Amy Schumer’s “Last F**kable Day” sketch from her show ‘Inside Amy Schumer’.

Fashion is changing so fast every day with consumer demand on the increase thanks to major retailers like H&M cornering the “fast fashion” market and pressuring other brands to follow suit to compete. It’s almost as if, in a world dominated by Zara, H&M, Forever 21, etc, if a label is not putting enough skin in the fast fashion, they have to attract consumers another way.

Whether it be eco-conscious fashion, brands that promote body positivity, or which seek to go against the grain like JD Williams to be more inclusive, we’re excited at the way the fashion world is being shaken up.

One woman who is on board with JD Williams’ 50+ campaign is UK Parliamentarian Caroline Nokes, who is the MP for the All Parliamentary Group on Body Image which is currently considering testimonies from fashion industry professionals in order to possibly introduce a new bill to regulate the use of underage models on the runway and in advertising.

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“JD Williams have positioned themselves as leaders in promoting confidence no matter what your age. Helping women to feel positive about their body image is a challenge that spans across all ages and JD Williams are pioneering a number of great methods to show the over 50s that they haven’t been forgotten,” she said in regard to “Fashion Begins At 50”.

French model Yazemeenah, who has had grey hair since she was 12, said she hopes the images will have an impact on older women who see her, as well as the 50+ style crew who made this age-positive campaign possible.

“It’s hard to find the right words to express the beautiful energy which flowed on set between us that day! It was quite magical, and I hope that magic will touch the people who will see the pictures,” she said.

If you are interested in learning more about the movement in fashion embracing age, we’d recommend checking out the ‘Advanced Style’ documentary, as well as ‘Iris’, the story of fashion legend Iris Apfel who, at the age of 93, is at the top of her game and more in demand than ever.

Well done JD Williams, you’ve done women proud! The rest of you brands out there, what are YOU gonna bring to the table?

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