Talking to Ari Seth Cohen about Advanced Style and pensioner chic

Jun 28, 2012 at 9:00am | Leave a comment

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Advanced Style by Ari Seth Cohen

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.

Jenny Joseph’s poem, Warning, sums up for me the spirit of Advanced Style – Ari Seth Cohen’s blog and now book about the inspiring and colourful fashion choices of older people. Ari was in London for the launch of his book and we caught up with him to find out exactly why he prefers photographing mature fashionistas.

Could you first just fill us in on your background and how you came to start Advanced Style? What is it about older women that you find so inspiring?
I grew up in San Diego and was best friends with my grandma Bluma. I have always had a deep respect for older people because of her. Bluma and I spent many hours reading books and watching old movies together. I was inspired by her wisdom and sense of elegance. As I grew up I noticed that older people were often overlooked and ignored. I started Advanced Style to bring visibility to older people and show a positive and inspiring image of aging.

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Does it work in the same way as a traditional street style blog - do you literally find these amazing ladies on the street?
Yes!!! I always have my camera and am always on the search for older ladies and gentleman with great style and spirit. It's a bit different because the people I approach arent as used to being photograph and I have to take the time to explain my project to them.

Is there a specific New York focus or do you find your subjects around the US/world?
I am based in New York, but travel anytime I have the opportunity. My book includes photos from New York, London,Paris,Milan,and Scandinavia.

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It seems like you develop quite strong relationships with your subjects, rather than a quick anonymous encounter in the street - would that be accurate?
Yes, I become friends with almost all of them. We have parties, go to museums and movies and have a great time being creative together.

I get the impression that the ladies you photograph tend to be fairly affluent society dames - would that be fair or do your subjects come from a more diverse range of backgrounds?
The women are definitely not society dames. Most of them have worked hard and are still working. They are experts at putting themselves together. They message is definitely not about money, its about vitality, spirit, and growing old gracefully.

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Do you have a minimum age for your subjects?
It's more about attitude than age. Most of them are between 60 and 100 years ol.

Have you found in your experience that women with great advanced style have always been stylish throughout their whole lives, or is it something they've acquired with age, experience and growing confidence?
They have been stylish all their lives, but have become bolder and braver with age. They are more confident and sure of themselves.

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How are plans for the Advances Style film going?
We started a kickstarter for the film and have raised over $50,000. We hope to finish post-production and editing by the end of Summer to have the film ready for festivals next year!

Do you find as many stylish older men as women to photograph, and do you plan on becoming an example of a stylish older gentleman in the years to come?!
I am definitely inspired by stylish older gentleman. I used to wear my grandfather's old hats and coats. I hope to have as much style as the men and women I photograph some day, or at least the confidence to wear whatever I like.

All images from Advanced Style by Ari Seth Cohen, £25, published by powerHouse Books.