A Real Age Old Problem – Review of Anna Perra’s “Real Women Fashion Show”, Charlton House, Shepton Mallet, Somerset. October 2nd.

Here I am once again on the cat walk connecting with real women.

Here I am once again on the cat walk connecting with real women.

A lifetime of poor posture, weight battles, accompanied by a lack of confidence – partly due to being surrounded by constant media reminders of how I should look and don’t – still means that walking down a catwalk is a battle against insecurity for me.

Looking at the positives, what does come with getting older is the realisation that it is impossible to be an ideal woman because she doesn’t exist.

Now I am a maturer woman, I am reminded that age is a signifier. So many interviews with women in the public view ask specific questions on how it feels to be older and female, alluding to fading powers or something.

Find an interview of any 40-to-60-something female in the public eye and check out the predilection for gender questions centring around age. Try reading an interview with Debbie Harry for instance to see how the predominant questions are about her age rather than her music and art.

In an interview with Kate Winslet earlier this year on BBC breakfast  the interviewer asked this actress at the top of her game how she felt with younger actresses breaking through.

The interview says: “You are surrounded by lots of younger actresses, does it take you back?”

And bingo, Kate walks straight into the insecure trap:

“Everyone is really young and I am really old”.  Really?

I prefer actress Helen McCrory’s response to similar questioning, although not quite so clumsy, on Radio Four’s Woman’s Hour.

Asked about how it feels turning 46, Helen launched into:

“I feel at my most powerful now because I know who I am, I know what I want. I feel comfortable in my own skin, although gravity is pulling everything a little south, I don’t really care. You lose the neurosis of youth, the self-importance and the navel gazing and anxiety. It’s lovely you just care less what everyone thinks, including yourself and you just enjoy life”.

Here here Helen!

8 “real women” models, ladies that spanned 50 decades of age and 7 dress sizes.  Anna espouses the idea that age and size do not matter, while personality and individuality - expressed through great looking clothes – do.

8 “real women” models, ladies that spanned 50 decades of age and 7 dress sizes. Anna espouses the idea that age and size do not matter, while personality and individuality – expressed through great looking clothes – do.

Anna Perra’s “Real Women” fashion show was staged at Charlton House, Shepton Mallet, which is owned by Duncan Bannatyne on October 2nd.  Anna was asked back following a show earlier in the year.

With her 8 “real women” models, ladies that spanned 50 decades of age along with 7 dress sizes  Anna espouses the idea that age and size do not matter, while personality and individuality – expressed through great looking clothes – do.

Anna Perra illustrated her concept beautifully by placing her youngest and oldest model in matching outfits. Each lady looked equally stunning and age is certainly not the discussion to be had.

Vibrant colour schemes feature strongly in Anna Perra’s collections  - for those thinking that getting older means seeking safe colours have that sentiment firmly banished.

Anna opened her shop in Shepton Mallet High Street in 2012. I say shop, although I do wonder if that is the right word for the place. In an age of digital Anna has turned her shop space into a meeting place for her ladies to take their time, trust and try on what suits.

Anna is someone who looks further than the clothing.  Shops need to think differently about the “shopping experience” in a digital age where a purchase is in an instance or click away.

Anna says:

“I have a passion for dressing women in a way that makes them look and feel great, no matter their size or age. Many of my ladies I have built up personal friendships with and when they visit the shop we often have cup of tea or coffee and good conversations with no rush. My concept is much more than fashion, it is about lifestyle, health and self-esteem.”

In the audience of this particular fashion show was an up-and-coming teenage model fresh from the catwalks of Paris and London fashion, Rebecca Bailey.  Rebecca rushed to backstage after the show to enthuse about Anna’s concept.  She told us that she “loved how the models connected with their audience, simply having fun”.  And that’s exactly it, we do connect with our audience because our audience is full of real women, like us.

According to the UN, the number of older persons has tripled over the past 50 years and will more than triple again over the next 50.  The global middle class will expand to 3 billion people by the year 2020. Most of this growth will happen in developing economies.  I will let you conclude whether there is’n't a huge opportunity for retail to think differently about dressing older ladies, which is where Anna is leading the way I believe.

 

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