Ari Seth Cohen and his blog Advanced Style have been making aging look cool, long before Iris Apfel became the face of M.A.C.'s cosmetic line. Cohen is a 28-year-old fashion photographer who prefers the nonchalance and sense of style of older ladies to trend-chasing twenty-somethings.
We wanted to find out more about the attitudes of both Cohen and his subjects and sat down with him for a talk about the obstacles and amenities of his job, the shopping tips he has gathered and his new book. Check out what he had to say...
Do you want to explain in your own words what Advanced Style is about?
It's about living life to the fullest. It is about personal and creative expression. I photograph older men and women with great personal style and even better wisdom and stories to share.
How did you come up with the idea Advanced Style? Have you had a fascination with stylish geriatric ladies for your entire life?
I grew up being best friends with my grandmother and I was fascinated by the tales of her youth. I would spend hours looking at her scrapbooks filled with images of elegant women always dressed up. I used to draw fancy older ladies when I was a kid, inspired by these photos and my grandmother's spirit. When I moved to New York in May 2008, I noticed so many incredibly dressed older people walking around. I saw a lack of positive images of seniors and I wanted to create a project that showed that you can not only be stylish, but also active and vital in your later years.
What does a first time conversation with an Advanced Style subject on the street usually look like? Is it difficult to explain to them why you want to take their photograph?
I always approach someone and give them a compliment. I explain what drew me to them and explain a little about the blog. Most of the people I photograph aren't used to being approached, so they are a little taken aback, but most are very flattered.
What is it these women have? Is there a recipe for staying young at heart (and fashionable) from what you’ve learned from them?
These women have a confidence and self assurance that can only come with age and experience. They have a sense of freedom and they no longer have to proof themselves to others. I think that the key to staying young at heart is first of all staying active and interested in the world and having a positive attitude.
Where do they get their outfits?
All different places. They recycle what is in their wardrobes and shop in their own closets. Many of them go to thrift and consignment stores.
Do they follow trends and read fashion magazines or are they past that?
Many of the ladies keep up on fashion trends, but they do not follow them. They have seen trends come and go and rely more on their own tastes and instincts in regards to personal style.
Have you talked to them about what has changed for women today and how life was like back when they were young? What do they think is better now and what is worse?
Not specifically in respect to being a woman. They do acknowledge that women don't dress up like they used to, but more importantly they discuss the present in terms of digital communication and how everything nowadays is so fast. Most of them think more about the present and future than the past, but I don't feel that they think any period is better than another - except when it comes to fashion.
Fashion in general celebrates youth, yet the population is growing older and older. Why, in your opinion, are there so little designers who target an older audience, additionally considering their higher purchasing power than people in their twenties?
Good question, this is something I always wonder. I think it's based on peoples' own fears and insecurities about getting older. I think an older woman could sell a product just as much as a younger one could.
What is the most remarkable change in your life since you started the blog?
I have met so many incredible people and have made so many great new friends. The people I photograph have such incredible stories to share. I always think how lucky I am to hear what they have to say.
Your book is coming out soon. What can we expect?
The book will be out May 22. Its full of the photos I have taken in New York, Scandinavia, London, Paris and Italy. There will be street style photos and some features on some of the women that I have have photographed several times with some words of wisdom. There is also a great interview between Dita Von Teese and 91 year old artist and performer Ilona Royce Smithkin. I hope it will change people's view on age and aging.
All photos via Advanced Style by Ari Seth Cohen.