Forget the young starlets on the red carpet at Sunday night’s Golden Globe awards. The fashion industry is in an absolute tizzy over the new face of French fashion giant Céline — Joan Didion, the 80-year-old American writer.
Didion was photographed in her New York City apartment dressed simply in a black turtleneck, a large gold pendant and oversized sunglasses, but there’s been nothing simple about the reaction to the ad. Its release launched dozens of glowing articles and blog posts.
Didion is, of course, famed for her literary journalism style and books, including her much beloved collections of magazine pieces, 1968’s “Slouching Towards Bethlehem” and 1979’s “The White Album.” In 2005, she published “The Year of Magical Thinking,” which chronicles the double heartbreak of her daughter Quintana’s life-threatening illness and the sudden death of her husband of 40 years, writer John Gregory Dunne. Quintana would die after the book was published at the age of 39.
Long revered for her candid writing style, Didion is now being lauded for her starring role in this gritty, authentic campaign for Céline’s spring line. In a breathless review, her former employer Vogue (she wrote there for two years after winning an essay contest in college) says:
Did you just feel the collective intake of breath shared by every cool girl you know? Did you feel the pulse-quickening vibrations of every recent college grad and literature fan? Did you sense the earth trembling beneath your feet? …Consider that Joan Didion might be the ultimate Céline woman: brilliant, creative, vaguely recalcitrant.”
Across the pond, the praise continues. The Guardian newspaper wrote of the ad:
“The image encapsulates all that is considered chic right now: the clothes are understated, the colours are muted. Didion’s age is not hidden but celebrated – she’s all sleek grey hair and formidable bone structure.”
The New York Times reached out to Didion to find out what she thought of the sensation, which it described as “the fashion Internet quiver[ing] in a way it hasn’t at least since Kim Kardashian stripped nude for Paper magazine two months ago.”
“I don’t have any clue,” the author told the Times. “I have no idea.”
Well, Ms. Didion, it seems women of a certain age are having what the fashion world calls “a moment.” Heck, it’s a trend we’re proud to be a part of. Check out this month’s cover story for Growing Bolder Magazine:
The issue’s cover story profiles photographer Ari Seth Cohen, who photographs the gorgeous and fashionable older women he sees on the streets of New York.
“I started noticing all these incredibly dressed, creative and vital older people in the city and wondered why our ‘role models’ in the media, in fashion and in general are all younger,” Cohen tells GB. “They were experienced. They were wise. They were cultured. They were gorgeous. Why were older people so invisible?”
His Advanced Style blog, which features his photographs and little blurbs about the subjects, took off, and now many in fashion are crediting him with putting older women back in focus. In fact, his photographs created such a stir that Cohen and some of his muses are the subject of the new, critically acclaimed documentary, Advanced Style, now streaming online on services like Netflix and iTunes.
The Guardian points out that Didion isn’t the only icon from the ’60s and ’70s stepping back into the spotlight. Just last week, the venerated Yves Saint Laurent brand announced that Joni Mitchell, the 71-year-old folk music legend, is the newest face of the Saint Laurent Music Project. Mitchell and Didion join 64-year-old Jessica Lange and 69-year-old Helen Mirren, who now represent Marc Jacobs and L’Oréal Paris respectively, in ad campaigns.
Cohen says he’s thrilled to see more older women being featured but to him it’s about much more than just fashion.
“I think it’s wonderful that the fashion industry is starting to finally wake up to the fact that there’s this huge demographic of people who want to be reached out to, and who have the means to shop. But that’s only one part of what needs to be done to shape our view of older people and how they’re treated.”
Click here to read our cover story on Ari Seth Cohen and find out his exciting plans for his next project.