New York City is home to many stylish women, and Ari Cohen has made it his mission to photograph them. But his subjects aren’t high-fashion models, they’re well-dressed senior citizens.
What began as a blog documenting the street style of women aged 50 and older has become a best-selling book and now a documentary of the same name, Advanced Style. By sharing photographs and stories of these vibrant older women, Cohen hopes to change perspectives on aging.
Cohen, 28, has always had a connection with older people. Growing up, he was best friends with his grandmothers, Bluma and Helen, whom he credits with giving him a positive image of aging.
Aging stylishly at any age with Advanced StyleWhat began as a blog documenting the street style of women aged 50 and older has become a best-selling book and now a documentary of the same name, Advanced Style. By sharing photographs and stories of these vibrant older women, Ari Cohen hopes to change perspectives on aging.
“I never thought that aging was a negative thing because I had these incredible role models: They were fashionable, creative, intelligent, and so much fun, so I’ve always spent time with older people,” said Cohen.
Now, one of Cohen’s muses is 95-year-old Ilona Royce Smithkin, petite and effervescent, with a shock of red hair and eyelashes to match. Smithkin is an artist whose career has included portraits of Ayn Rand and Tennessee Williams.
But despite her success, Smithkin says it wasn’t really until ten years ago that she truly came into her own. That renewed self-confidence prompted a change in outlook; a freedom from worrying what others think.
“I am a person who’s come out of all the many experiences, but my mind has become clearer because I don’t have the burden anymore, Will somebody like me? Or Do I do the right thing? So that’s like a whole baggage which you left away,” said Smithkin.
Women young and old have been inspired by the ladies of Advanced Style to dress creatively, and more importantly, to not be afraid of aging.
“Right when I started the blog I started hearing from young women saying, I’m no longer afraid of aging after seeing these women. I want to be like these women. And older women started to come up to me and say that they felt the permission to dress up.” said Cohen. “So it’s a really incredible part of this whole project is the feedback that we’ve gotten from people who see these women who are so active and engaged with life that they change their own attitudes towards aging and life.”
Cohen and Smithkin joined Mike Walter in New York this week to discuss aging gracefully and fashionably.
Follow Ari Seth Cohen on Twitter: @AriSethCohen