Fashion modelling has always been an industry dominated by the young, with most models having to retire around the age of 30. One Russian modeling agency is going against the norm by working exclusively with models aged 45 and. The oldest model on their roster is 85.
Moscow-based modelling agency Oldushka was founded by former street photographer Igor Gavar last year. He used to document the street style of retirees on his blog, and the agency was just a natural evolution of his hobby. As the name implies, Oldushka is committed to finding work for older models and broadening their professional opportunities. 18 models are currently represented by the agency, ages 45 to 85, and based in cities across Russia. With the exception of Sergey, a 45-year-old model whom Gavar hired because he “looks older than he is”, the agency’s youngest model is 60.
Photo: Oldushka Models
“Beauty — it’s a quality that becomes more valued with years,” Gavar told Vogue. “I met some very interesting faces, and I wanted to do a separate project with them. A modeling agency became that sort of project.”
In addition to expanding opportunities for older models, the agency is also giving them the chance to try new things, according to 62-year-old Oldushka model Valentina Yassen.
“I was a professional actress, and for many years I worked in the theater, but now I’m not onstage,” Yassen said. “I was nervous about entering modeling. But my son convinced me, saying, ‘Mama, you aren’t so popular that you would ruin your reputation as an actress by being photographed in an advertisement. You’re not going to lose anything, but it is possible to open something new for yourself.’”
Gavar’s project is timely, as the fashion industry’s traditionally narrow definition of beauty – young, white, tall, thin, and cisgender – has begun to expand in recent years. The 2017 Fashion Month saw models in their 40s, 50s, and 60s on the runways. Designers Dries Van Noten, Dolce & Gabbana, Simone Rocha, Guo Pei, Gareth Pugh, Tome and more celebrated older women’s beauty on their fall runways. 56-year-old Mercy Brewer was the face of Lonely Clothing’s Spring 2017 line, and Sports Illustrated featured Christie Brinkley, aged 63, for its latest Swimsuit Issue.
Likewise, Russian brands have an expanding interest in older models like those represented by Gavar. Oldushka models have gone mainstream in Russia, appearing in a Saint Laurent Russia campaign, as well as local magazine Afisha, and featuring in Russian department store TSUM’s Fall 2017 lookbook.
Fashion labels worldwide are beginning to realize that their models should reflect the women who, for the most part, financially support their businesses.
Oldushka is only one of an ever-increasing number of fringe agencies popping up worldwide that are helping to diversify the industry. Some other notable agencies include JAG Models, Trans Models, and Slay Model management. These agencies are helping to dismantle stereotypes and dispel the out-of-date definition of beauty as being young, thin, white, and cisgendered.
“Appearing as themselves is an instrument to fight stereotypes,” Gavar says about his models. “They are an inspiring example to show that it is possible to look beautiful and be your age.”