It's August and New Yorkers know that means two things: First, if you need a shrink you'll find it, as Woody Allen once quipped, in the Hamptons. Second the opening of New York Fashion Week is just around the corner and with it the opening of the global season from Milan and Tel Aviv to London, Paris and, yes, also Johannesburg, South Africa. There are hundreds of these shows globally, week after week, and even one for kids . Yet in our era of the baby boomers exploding into their 7th decade, when, by 2020, there will be a billion of us over 60, where is the fashion for the post 60 demo?
New York's Fashion Week at the Tents at Lincoln Center ought to be one that has features for our global aging population, if only because that's where the money is. Are there such fashions for those who are not as young or as skinny, but never-the-less as interested as the twenty and thirty somethings? Even the prominent, genius and courageous Muccia Prada, herself "older," demurs on this one, "I'm not brave enough to use older models." Miuccia Prada, one of fashion's most powerful figures, won't stand up to ageism.
Last year did see at least one such brave sole, the beautiful and elegant Carmen Dell'Orefice who, at 81, was still modeling. Dell'Orefice correctly noted the self-interest for those actually selling the stuff, "I think America may be growing up and accepting the fact that the bulk of life exists beyond 50. Because demographically... the vast population is over 60."
And she's right that soon, around the globe, there will be more of us over 60 than under 14, a fact which is having as much impact on public policy as markets. This is particularly true in those countries across Europe and developed Asia where ratio of old to young is already disproportionately high. Norway is not untypical where those aged 67+ will roughly double by 2035, to one million seniors -- a huge proportion of Norway's tiny population of roughly 5 million who will need products and services.
Fashion ought to realize this is simply responding to the economic lure of the most rapidly growing demographic across America and globally. If you're not certain, just take a gander at the ages of Fashion's icons themselves: Betsey Johnson- 71, Donatella Versace- 58, Ralph Lauren- 73, Valentino Garavani- 81, Donna Karan- 64, Kenzo Takada- 74, Jean Paul Gautier- 61, Diane Von Furstenberg- 66, Carolina Herrera 74, Giorgio Armani 79, Calvin Klein 70, Tommy Hilfiger 62, Vera Wang 64, Vivienne Westwood 72. The vast majority of whom will be showing at The Tents in a few weeks.
But, my dear aging designers, if you don't want to create for your demographic peers for pure business then do it for your social conscience. Abandon the environment, education, the poor and the homeless for a service to global population aging around which it is increasingly understood that social participation and engagement is as good for our health as it is for economic growth. If people feel good about themselves, which fashion can accommodate, they are more likely to engage socially and economically. And like the travel, healthcare technology and financial services sectors, if you can create products that enable an active aging you will also be advancing a healthy aging. Just consider two areas of travel and dermatology, which are unexpected links to active and healthy aging.
So Donna, Besty, Calvin and Tommy, there are over a billion of us out there whom you will be helping. Keeping us feeling good about ourselves leads to greater activity which keeps us healthy and also then spending money itself spiraling happily to economic growth. Who would've thought that a dress for my mother would be a boon to Medicare?