Market Opportunities: The Older Consumer

A Reappraisal of Ageing

Photo: WiseWear

Older people are increasingly setting the agenda when it comes to defining and shaping trends, and this is set to grow and grow.

Gerontopobia, the fear of growing old, is rife in the West. As the cult of youth and its persuasive power to sell has grown ever stronger, old age has been increasingly reframed as a problem for science and the cosmetics industry to tackle, and, in consequence, the segregation and discrimination of old people has grown.  All the more surprising then that the fashion industry is quietly conducting a reappraisal of ageing. For the poster girl for this reappraisal, look no further than 94-year old style icon Iris Apfel; after stints working with Mac Cosmetics and launching her own fitness wearable for Wisewear (pictured), this year Apfel even performed in a TV car commercial for the French car DS3.

The reason for this reappraisal may well be financial; global management consulting firm AT Kearney reported that, worldwide, 60 plus consumers spent more than $8 trillion in 2010, set to rise to $15 trillion by the end of the decade. And this is not just a spending trend in the US, the grey pound in the UK has been credited with lifting the country out of recession in 2014 while in Germany and Japan, two countries with high proportions of old people, commerce is increasingly targeting this demographic with everything from pension day discounts to wider aisles in supermarkets.

All this is very interesting indeed for trend forecasters. The proscribed thinking of youth culture as the only predictor of future directions now seems increasingly out of touch as older people start to make a mark beyond stair lifts and retirement homes. After all, rebellion and individualism is in the DNA of people who have lived through the seismic social changes of the 60’s and 70’s. It’s telling that the 2016 Pirelli calendar, shot by Annie Leibovitz, features Patti Smith (69), Yoko Ono (82) and Iranian visual artist Shirin Neshat (58).

So, looking forward, it seems likely then that the increased visibility of older role models isn’t just a short-lived shock and awe gimmick. Not for Marc Jacobs or Dolce & Gabbana anyway; both feature older models stealing the limelight from their younger counterparts. In our own trend Punk, we question the narrow view of old people as an irrelevance in the shaping of trends and predict that increasingly this age group will be setting the agenda. Their influence should be ignored at the style forecaster’s peril.