New research by the International Longevity Centre-UK, published in December, found that ageism could cost the fashion industry £11 billion (over $14 billion) in the next 20 years, The Guardian reported on January 5.”For too long the fashion and beauty industries have been bewilderingly resistant to recognizing just how fashionable and stylish the generation of older consumers are and want to remain,” Diane Kenwood, an ILC trustee, told the outlet. This study comes amidst brands and retailers increasing their attempts to court Gen Zers, whose shopping habits and expectations differ vastly from previous generations. Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.Fashion, like many industries, has a long history of ageism. However, in turning its attention almost solely toward the younger generations, the fashion industry risks alienating what is a multibillion-dollar industry in its own right. In fact, on January 5, The Guardian’s Amelia Hill reported on a study by the International Longevity Centre-UK that says ageism could cost the fashion industry a staggering £11 billion (over $14 billion) in the next 20 years. “For too long the fashion and beauty industries have been bewilderingly resistant to recognizing just how fashionable and stylish the generation of older consumers are and want to remain,” Diane Kenwood, an ILC trustee, told The Guardian. “The potential of these consumers is huge and it has been shamefully sidelined. I do, though, sense a shift in attitudes starting to stir, and I’m hopeful that change will gather momentum.”Ageism comes with a cost — and a hefty one at thatOlder models have been more present in the fashion and beauty industries the past few years. For example, 72-year old actress Helen Mirren serves as a brand ambassador for beauty brand L’Oreal, and a then-82-year-old author Joan Didion was tapped to star in a 2015 campaign for the French luxury house Celine; there was also 76-year-old singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell who, also in 2015, had a campaign with luxury house Saint Laurent; and in 2019, 92-year-old Iris Apfel signed a modeling contract with IMG. As Hill reported for The Guardian, those considered to be “older people” (Gen Xers and boomers) have increased their spending on fashion by nearly 21% between 2011 and 2018. And though, as the Centre’s research found, women typically stop spending money on fashion once they reach the age 75, they are still interested in looking and feeling stylish. But the increase in advertisements and spending power alone may not be enough to completely sway the fashion industry to not leave older consumers behind. In speaking with The Guardian, Ari Seth Cohen, creator of the blog Advanced Style, said that the fashion industry has a fear of mortality. “Fashion and beauty brands have been ignoring their older customers for ages,” Cohen told The Guardian. “Rather than trying to reach this savvy demographic, they prey on their insecurities and use fear and ageist propaganda to sell beauty products that promise the ridiculous and harmful ideology of ‘anti-ageing.'”What happens to the money left behind?The fashion industry simply doesn’t appear to be focused on courting older buyers. Today, the attention is turned toward Gen Zers, whose tastes and shopping habits differ vastly from older generations — even from millennials.Research has shown (and experts have echoed) that Gen Zers want more of an “experience” when it comes to their shopping; they want brands with messages that champion and support causes that are important to them, ones that are inclusive and diverse in campaigns and advertisements, and ones that can, most importantly, come across as authentic in an age where everything seems staged for social media. In fact, not being able to connect with younger generations has appeared to be more of a detriment to fashion and retail than its exclusion of older buyers. Many iconic retailers, such as Sears, JCPenny, Victoria’s Secret, Henri Bendel, and the once-beloved Barneys New York have filed for bankruptcy or been forced to close a huge number of stores in the last decade due to dwindling sales.If boomers are already considered “older people” and Gen X is on its way there, then disregarding both not only further purports ageism that’s problematic for cultural and societal reasons, but also ignores what combined could be a trillion-dollar market. It seems the real question is not whether retailers and brands can effectively market towards both the “young” and “older” generations — it’s if they want to put in the effort to do so.
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