The quest for eternal youth has plagued the human psyche, extending itself beyond popular myths and legends. It’s now a fixture routinely sanctioned by the fashion and beauty industries, which tends to age narcissists with cynicism and doubt. There exists a small troop of senior citizens, however, that use our obsession with age as a way to leave a mark on the world, advocating the idea that we shouldn’t be so appalled by farfetched concepts of normalcy. They’ve lived through loss, illness and health concerns. They’ve accepted their mortality, but they only seem to get better with age. Among them, are photojournalist Ari Seth Cohen’s grandmothers, who’ve been instrumental in the founding of Cohen’s passion project, Advanced Style.
Cohen’s grandmothers were his best friends growing up, which made him more aware of the fact that fashion campaigns seldom featured anyone over the age of fifty. Ageism, or any kind of discrimination for that matter, is amusing in the creative trade where it’s perhaps more useful to diversify (and in today’s market, it’s vital to do so to maintain an edge). It was one of Cohen’s grandmothers that suggested he move to New York, a place where he could let his artistic drive roam free. And so, in 2008, Cohen did just that, hoping to better connect with elders through his photography. He was keen to equip this demographic with a platform they not only deserved, but in which they could articulate their sartorial choices and lust for life on a global scale.
Cohen’s blog, Advanced Style, became a digital picture book of senior citizens whose street style inspires much to learn. One of his most famous subjects is 97-year-old Ilona Royce Smithkin, who regularly performs her “Eyelash Cabaret” around town, and who Cohen describes as having “infinite wisdom.” Other subjects included Ruth Kobin, who recently passed away at the age of 105. Kobin has been a role model to many, attributing her dynamism and vitality to exercising every day, attending Pilates once a week, and not checking the calendar.
Several of Cohen’s subjects have become his dear friends, and his dedication to raising awareness about the treatment of the elderly is admirable. He’s spoken candidly about the abuse they face, noting that the younger generation often take their worth for granted. Those featured in Advanced Style prove they have much more to offer society in their later years.
Advanced Style has become more than just a fashion blog, as Cohen continues to present the women and men that have discovered their own formula for living their best life through a framework of personal style.
Since taking-off, the blog has dreamed up two books, a colouring book and a documentary film. Cut to mainstream fashion and beauty conglomerates where many of Cohen’s leading ladies have landed modelling gigs and magazine covers. We’re witnessing a newfound demand for mature women in ad campaigns. Take, for example, Joan Didion posing for Céline, and Iris Apfel’s collaboration with cosmetics giant, MAC Cosmetics.
Ultimately, the true enchant of Cohen’s venture is his ability to provide an authoritative field guide on what it really takes to age gracefully: the courage of conviction. It’s the most cost-effective anti-wrinkle treatment you can get.