Channel 4's Fabulous Fashionistas talk to LCF's Amber Butchart

When you think about a conference hosted by a university, you might imagine the opening to be an introductory speech by the Dean, or the one of the research staff. Not so at London College of Fashion, where last week’s Mirror Mirror conference was opened by octogenarian supermodel (and All Walks model) Daphne Selfe leading an aerobic warm up. The conference started as it meant to go on, with a mix of academic presentations, live performance and opinion panels, all energised by unpredictable, spontaneous cameos from both speakers and audience members.

The opening evening saw London fashion blogger Alyson Walsh of That’s Not my Age in conversation with international power blogger Ari Seth Cohen, the man behind Advanced Style, a street style blog that exclusively features older women; fabulous, glamourous creatures on the iconic streets of New York. Advanced Style was perhaps the very first street style blog to focus on a group so often excluded by the mainstream fashion media and even the blogosphere. What it has done to show the creativity and value of older women to a predominantly youth-focused industry is perhaps immeasurably great.

Alyson Walsh of blog That's Not My Age, speaks to Ari Seth Cohen of Advanced Style

Cohen spoke of the influence that both of his grandmothers had on his life, his view of older women and his decision to move to New York. He also showed us an exclusive snippet of the upcoming Advanced Style film, as well as the general release trailer:

The second day started with a series of academic presentations, but far from being dry or boring they were on topics like Joan Rivers body of work, her body as integral to her work and her body as a work of art, and women in the music industry and later-life style, with a focus on Sixties singer Petula Clarke. We were then treated to a live performance piece, where a group of older people from Manchester answered questions about their life and interests to dispel lazy assumptions about ‘old people’.

The day closed with LCF Fashion Historian Amber Butchart interviewing the stars of Channel 4′s Fabulous Fashionistas, Jean Woods, Sue Kreitzman, Bridget Sojourner and Daphne Selfe.  With characters who are themselves as colourful as their wardrobes, it was bound to be a riot of honest opinions and style tips (“Don’t wear beige; it might kill you!” – Sue), but it was also interesting to hear debate among the panel over issues such as plastic surgery and employment prospects for the young.  The issues that provoked real debate were interesting not only for their subject matter, but also to emphasise the point that ‘older women’ should not be lumped into one homogenous grouping – as they often are – whether they look like ‘typical grey grannies’ or birds of paradise. Everyone, regardless of their age, ethnicty, size or style should be valued as an individual; beyond our message of visual diversity in the media, this is key to the All Walks philosophy.

“Why has the question of the representation of older people in society and the media become such a hot topic now?” A question from the audience that might have found an array of possible guess-answers; however, Jean and Sue were clear: it’s the baby boomers, born into relative privilege with government subsidies on housing and education. The first generation to have really been “teenagers” with a backdrop of popular culture in the modern sense. In a way, everyone who came before this generation lived an old-fashioned life.  These women may be ‘old’ in numbers, but their lives have not been old-fashioned.

A young fan, who visited Jean at the boutique where she works in Bath, told her: “I don’t just want to be like you when I’m old, I want to be like you now!” We couldn’t have put it better ourselves.

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Charlotte Gush is a fashion writer and editor, working at London College of Fashion as Web Coordinator and as the Online Editor for All Walks.

She initially joined All Walks on a 6 month internship as a social media, marketing and production intern.

Charlotte has a website CAVACOMA.com and can be found on Twitter @CavaCharlotte