'Advanced Style': Sorry, Lanvin's Over-40 Models Are Not Revolutionary

Lanvin has been running this fashion shit for 125 years, a milestone creative director Alber Elbaz celebrated this week in Paris with his typical modern silhouettes and elegant power.

There were bonkers silk grecian gowns and layered, lacy frocks. There was draping that looked as though the fabrics were dropped daintily from a cloud in the sky and landed perfectly formed on the models because that is how Elbaz designs. There were also plenty of models in their late 30s and early 40s—Violetta Sanchez, Kirsten Owen, Esther de Jong, Amber Valletta, and more— reflecting both the idea that women are more refined with time and that you basically have to be in that age bracket or above to be able to afford this shit. You know how they do. Of course, in an industry so thirsty to celebrate youth, it was an unusual decision to send middle-aged models down the runway. But it was not so revolutionary as, say, his choice to cast Jacqueline Murdock, then 82, as Lanvin's It Girl and the face of the brand. He was, simply, employing older models. Older supermodels.


But as some headlines would have it, Elbaz is a fucking unicorn for the choice. (Granted, he is a unicorn, but not for this.) "40 is the New 20" declared a Style.com headline; in another Tim Blanks gushed, "Experience is apparently the best maquillage." (And fashion writing is apparently the best way to sound like an a-hole.) Fresh-faced Bustle wrote that "fashion is for everyone" (!), while InStyle was all like, "it's a breath of fresh air!"

Of course it is excellent that Elbaz employed models with history alongside their newer counterparts, but Amber Valletta is still Amber Valletta, one of the most recognizable supes of all time. Fashion has been increasingly open to older faces, not just through Elbaz or The Row but through blogs-turned-movements like Advanced Style, about which a documentary opens today, and which chronicles style icons like Zippy Salamon, 62, and 95-year-old Zelda Kaplan, a true life-idol whose devotion to the clothes was so really-real that she died at fashion week. So it seems like praising a few token 38-year-olds (or so) on the runway as "multigenerational" is faint praise for an industry that has, and is, doing better, no?

In a business that is so plagued with sameness, I'm here for any and all diversity on the runway, and for praising designers like Elbaz. But I do think that we are so fatigued by said sameness that any divergence from it, however slight, excites us a little too much. It is crumbs, and we are starving for it.


Lead image via Getty. Bottom images via AP.

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