STYLE AT ANY AGE: An Interview with the Founder of The Bias Cut
Since launching as a brand we have been increasingly conscious of the lack of diversity in the fashion industry - diversity of shape, size, skin colour and age. So when we first came across The Bias Cut we loved the idea of what they were setting out to do: celebrating style at any age and building a platform for older women who feel under served by the fashion industry today.
We recently caught up with Jacynth, the Founder of The Bias Cut, to hear more about the platform.
Jacynth and her mum, Marilyn. Photo Credit: The Bias Cut
Firstly, tell us a little bit about you - why did you start The Bias Cut?
I was studying Law at Cambridge when I realised a career in it wasn’t really for me. My role as president of the university law society had led me to the realisation that I wanted to go into business, but I knew it had to be in an area that I loved and cared about. Fashion was the obvious answer given it has been one of my main passions from a young age, and I had a relatively thorough understanding of the Industry. But I also knew the Industry was very saturated and I wanted to make a difference. Quite quickly I started thinking about my mum – a woman who loves style, but feels invisible in the eyes of the Fashion Industry because of her age. We’d go shopping and she’d be sneered at by shopping assistants, or online she would struggle to find pieces that she’d like to wear due to youth based imagery and lack of choice. The only options targeting her tended to be frumpy, dowdy or boring styles.
A love for style doesn’t fade, and seeing my mum treated this way made me sad and angry. And through speaking to lots of other women her age, I realised this was a wide spread problem. I felt I couldn’t’ just ignore it, so I decided that I wanted to create an online fashion boutique that offers beautiful quality, stylish pieces, but also celebrates and empowers women over 40 – from the product selection, to the filters, and to the imagery. So as soon as I graduated I started developing it and, after lots of thorough market research, started a blog and integrating myself into the market. I finally launched The Bias Cut in March 2016!
Tell us about Ageism Is Never In Style.
As well as The Bias Cut being a retailer, I wanted it to be more than that. I wanted to really support and empower women, and be able to cut through ageism in the Fashion Industry once and for all. We are all about proving that women over 40 aren’t invisible, so I wanted to create a space where their voices can be heard, and we can collectively make a point to the Industry.
So I founded the Ageism Is Never In Style forum to bring together women around the world, and unite under a mutual belief that every woman is relevant, regardless of age, shape or size. We both celebrate amazing women and progress, as well as critique issues, and I do a weekly video round up and discussion, in the belief that together we can have a positive impact.
Why do you think older women are so absent from fashion images and advertising?
There are a number of issues, but I think there are two key ones. First, internally in the Fashion Industry there is a lot of bias towards age. There is a view that youth = beauty, and there are a lot of designers who are concerned that older women will taint their brand’s ‘coolness’. But, perhaps even more importantly, despite the Fashion Industry being a female facing one, internally it is dominated by men at the top and sadly they are often imposing what they want to see. A few years ago a major high street brand ran a diversity campaign which was a huge hit publically, but in the boardroom the male directors said they didn’t like it because they didn’t find the women sexy. So they’ve never done a similar campaign again. So unfortunately there is still a case of sexism as much as ageism in Fashion, and men not realising that campaigns are meant to speak to women, not to themselves.
That said, we can’t place all the blame on the Industry itself. We have to look at ourselves. Society is inherently ageist. From pictures in the media, to terminology such as ‘you look good for your age’, we are still programmed to think that aging is undesirable, and sadly that does mean some people don’t like to see it, and find it off putting when it comes to fashion.
Additionally, even if we do want to see older women portrayed, we allow the lack of diversity to continue by purchasing from brands regardless of how prejudiced their imagery is. Ultimately brands only care about the money, and if we’re still buying from them, even if we don’t like their imagery, they don’t need to change. Instead, we should recognise our power as a consumer, and start to support brands that only share our ethics and values. Only then will others be forced to change and we will start to see older women included.
We're seeing more and more diversity in the Fashion Industry, what more can and should we doing to support this?
I think social media has had a huge impact. It’s given a voice to lots of people who didn’t previously have one, and has subsequently put pressure on the Fashion Industry to change. It’s much harder now to get away with failing to recognise diversity without some sort of backlash. Plus social media is also helping to dispel stereotypes – on Instagram in particular there are so many women of all ages, shapes, sizes and ethnicities proving that beauty and style comes in every way. That said, one area that really needs tackling is disability – we are still not seeing much in the way of representing those with disabilities, nor are clothing brands considering these customers.
As I mentioned, we can support this by voting with our wallets. And also by continuing to speak out, whether that’s publically or on social media, and hold the Industry accountable for its actions.
Why is it important to see diverse women (age, shape, size, colour) in fashion images and advertising?
It’s important because we need to be reflecting the world around us. We are all different, and there is so much diversity, it is wrong to suggest there is only one form of beauty. Without celebrating diversity, it emotionally damages those who aren’t represented as it implies they aren’t beautiful and should hide away. And even if you are represented, it encourages ignorance.
We're seeing increasing diversity in the swimwear market in particular, spearheaded by individuals such as Ashley Graham. Do these campaigns go far enough or are we still falling too short in terms of better representation?
Whilst these campaigns have been great, I think we are still falling foul of tokenism. Ashley Graham has become ‘the’ plus sized model, but we aren’t seeing any others in high fashion campaigns. When she was on the cover of Vogue with a lot of models recently, she was the only plus sized. I’d love to see many more plus sized ladies.
Tell us about the models you use.
All our models are 50+ customers. None are professional models, they just applied to model for us. Yes they are made up for the photos, but it makes the images aspirational in a realistic way.
Plus we want to show as many shapes and sizes as possible. So our models vary in shapes and sizes, from 5ft to 5ft 10, to UK size 6 to UK size 16, from pear to petite to apple. And there are still so many more women we want to include. We do sometimes get people who say ‘oh well you just picked tall, slim women’ which just isn’t the case – instead it just goes to show how flattering the clothes are!
Ultimately by using these women as our models our customers can see themselves in the pieces and know that they don’t have to be a professional model to look great in our clothes. They can shop with confidence as they know how the clothes will actually fit, and our customers feel empowered. As a result, we have an exceptionally low return rate for online.
And finally, what's your go to style tip for women of any age when shopping for themselves?
Give anything a go. We can sometimes get stuck in a rut because somehow we have defined our style, we believe certain colours don’t suit us, or we follow so called style rules (which are meant to be broken anyway!). But style is something you should have fun with, and experiment with, so if something catches your eye, even if it isn’t “you” just give it a go! You may be pleasantly surprised. And if not, you just take it off again – no harm done!
Thank you so much Jacynth.
To find out more about The Bias Cut and Ageism is Never In Style visit The Bias Cut online.