When it comes to looking fabulous, renowned fashion designer and Vancouver native Simon Chang knows what women want.
Boomers and seniors today are different from previous generations. Women now are fit, body-aware and stay in shape longer. And they are looking for comfortable, casual clothes that fit their active and adventurous lifestyles.
"Older women today are younger," says Simon.
In an industry that idolizes youth, Simon is one designer who explores options for women's changing fashion needs through all stages of their lives. Sixty-somethings don't want to wear what 20-somethings wear, and vice versa. The solution is a designer who talks to and, more importantly, listens to his clients. The result is wearable, washable, workable pieces that women can easily put together to develop their own signature style.
"I try to adapt my collection and it makes total sense," says Simon, who launched Simon Chang Concepts Inc., based in Montreal, in 1983. "As a designer, you have to be out there talking to people." And being in the world, not tucked behind a desk, is why the women who wear his clothes love this successful yet affable designer.
"I like the idea of knowing more about people who have something to say. Women won't buy clothes that aren't wearable," says Simon. "Women are very vocal, especially mature women."
Because of the youthfulness of this generation, it's easy to turn current fashion into more flattering fits – for those armed with the right knowledge. And the most important knowledge: every woman should know her own body. Since women's bodies change as they age, even if they remain slim, knowing what to enhance and what to downplay can make all the difference. (See tips and tricks sidebar)
Simon's older clientele have told him they feel invisible as they age - they feel ignored. "As you get older, you have to make a statement," he says.
To achieve a signature look, go for a fabulous accessory like glasses, jewelry, shoes, handbags or scarves. "You can't be invisible!"
"I love older women in colour," says the designer. “With colour, women display a confidence and it rejuvenates the look of the outfit. Women project a happy mood when they wear a beautiful colour."
Focus on ageless pieces, like colourful scarves and accessories. "You don't want to dress like your granddaughter, but grandma can still be hip." People are not slotted into age categories as much as they used to be. "We don't have to be slotted," says Simon. "Marketers try to group us, but it's just marketing dialogue. It's not real."
"In the fashion industry, boomers are almost the visible minority that nobody wants to talk about, except they are the majority. They still appreciate arts and culture and music and movies (which they pay full price for instead of downloading free online)," says Simon. But the shift hasn't happened in the marketplace. "We need a new marketing company to address this demographic, which is hip, cool, active, in fabulous shape, look great and are not dead!"
Simon believes department stores don't understand their clients. They carry too many products and don't listen to the needs of their shoppers. Consumers are lost because nothing fits properly. "It's frustrating for a lot of women," he says.
Women who want to look professional, sophisticated and well put together need to go for quality. Specialty stores and boutiques carry clothing that is expertly made and conformed to the needs of their clients. Simon suggests buying good quality clothes and making them work. For the budget conscious, stretch dollars by buying separates, perhaps five easy pieces and develop several seasonless outfits. A great look can be achieved without spending a lot of money. Accessories are perfect!
Boomers and seniors have to find fashion lines they identify with. Some lines fit too small; they are for young girls.
“Women in this age group have experimented with style all their lives. They understand themselves more, so they know what flatters,” says Simon. “Don't follow trends. Wear things that look good on you."
For example, skinny jeans are very current, but they don't look good on everyone. So, women need to make adjustments and modifications to work with their body types and style. Heel heights can also be adjusted to be more comfortable and practical to suit one's lifestyle.
"Be memorable," says Simon. Recycle pieces from former decades. "There's a lot to play with in [vintage]." Styles repeat themselves and come back in slightly different forms.
"It's about finding your true self."
And all women want that.
Tips and Tricks:
Neck - With sun damage, crêpe-like skin and creases, many women are conscious of this area of their bodies. They don't want to be totally covered up with tight-fitting turtlenecks, so softer, breathable fabrics that hang beautifully in this area can address those concerns.
Arms - Even while women can maintain a youthful appearance in their faces, parts of their bodies may have sagging skin (raise your arms if this applies to you). Many women don't want to expose their arms, but in warmer weather, it's hard to stay covered up. Simon suggests avoiding sleeveless options, but going for a slightly longer sleeve in a lightweight fabric. Or pairing a cover-up to an outfit that emphasizes bare arms.
Waist - Some women experience a thickening of their waistlines as they age. If that is the case, clothes should not be too tight-fitting. Go for a relaxed rather than cinched shape around the waist. Instead of the chunky tight belts that you may have worn in your youth, a relaxed chain belt might be more flattering.
Knees - Even thin legs can reveal a woman's age. Gravity works on the skin on the knees, dragging the whole leg down and making skirt length more important. But even if you want to wear a shorter skirt, it's possible to still look fabulous if you pair it with leggings. Leggings help to flatter a woman's body, so short skirts or long tunics can keep you looking current and fashionable.
Jeans - Women of all ages love jeans and want to wear them. Options like control-top jeans are flattering, comfortable, and offer a smoother look.
Under-garments - Under-garments like Shapers smooth lines helping women of any age feel more confident and less inhibited by little rolls. Simon recommends them for all women.
Fabrics - When it comes to fabrics, Simon can't say enough about jersey. It is appropriate for older women because it's comfortable, flattering, casual, travels well and isn't fussy. Look for no-nonsense, easy-care fabrics that better suit your lifestyle.
Simon looks for seasonless fabrication. With travel, climate fluctuations and indoor heating and cooling systems, Simon tries to design adaptable clothes. Layers are the way to do this.
"I love stuff you can wear year-round and add to," he says. "It's great to have things that you love to wear. Seasons don't exist anymore, especially for people who travel globally." Layering is a more sensible way to dress. Lighter weight fabrics accommodate the climate and are adaptable to the environment.
Details - Most women don't like pulling tight clothing over their heads. Tiny buttons aren't practical. Some people have difficulty lifting their arms into tight turtlenecks: they find them suffocating. Even arm holes have to be cut precisely and more generously. Beautiful sleeves that are not too short - sometimes three-quarter length - are the way to go. "I don't design garments that need an instruction pamphlet to put the outfit together," says Simon.
Beautiful draping can hide a tummy. Garments have to be cut properly so they hang right and cling in the right places. Women like their bottoms covered, so tops are designed a little longer to make women feel comfortable and confident.
Find Simon Chang online at www.simonchang.com
OCTOBER 2010 SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE VANCOUVER ISLAND
OCTOBER 2010 SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE VANCOUVER & LOWER MAINLAND
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