The ma­tur­ing of fash­ion

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - NEWS -

The older I get, the more it be­comes ap­par­ent to me just how much age is not ref lected, or catered to, in our cul­ture. This truth par­tic­u­larly ap­plies to women. It was this knowl­edge that led Linda McDer­mott and Marc O’Rourke, of Peruzzi rep­u­ta­tion, to cre­ate Bel­lenisa, a fash­ion brand specif­i­cally cre­ated for the older woman who has no in­ten­tion of be­ing for­got­ten or writ­ten off. Part of their com­mit­ment was to also al­ways use an age-ap­pro­pri­ate model, such as Bar­bara McMa­hon, a for­mer RTE TV pre­sen­ter, and now an ac­tive sportswoman and RNLI fundraiser.

“We started Bel­lenisa five years ago to sup­port the for­got­ten lady,” Linda, who co-de­signs the brand with their Ital­ian de­sign team, tells me. “With the changes in so many stores — mod­ernising, go­ing more high-fash­ion and young — and the loss of depart­ment stores such as Clerys, that lady is find­ing it harder and harder to find clothes.”

And let’s re­mem­ber just who the peo­ple who now find them­selves in their 60s and 70s are. They are the swing­ing-60s gen­er­a­tion. The one that wore bot­tom-skim­ming mini skirts, burned their bras, wore lash­ings of mas­cara and eye­liner, and in­vented pop mu­sic. Oh yes, and were big ad­vo­cates of sex­ual lib­er­a­tion and the pill.

That gen­er­a­tion is not go­ing to be fobbed off with twin-sets and pearls; they in­vented fash­ion. Even those who lived in con­ser­va­tive, Catholic Ire­land, in the 1960s, are into their style.

“I find the older gen­er­a­tion love their clothes even more than the younger ones,” Linda agrees. “We are al­ways learn­ing about our cus­tomer. Shar­man Scott Macken­zie, who sells the col­lec­tion with us, is on the front line, hear­ing the feed­back, lis­ten­ing and telling us what’s work­ing, what’s not.”

As Bel­lenisa is aimed at women who are 50-plus, the block is softer — less cinched in at the waist, less tight on the hips and legs. Good-qual­ity, nat­u­ral fab­rics such as vis­cose, and cash­mere mixes, and gen­tle fash­ion savvy, are key.

“We have learnt that our lady doesn’t want to stick with the same-old same­old. She wants to try some­thing new — but it must suit her,” Linda ex­plains. “She knows what works for her shape and her lifestyle. She is into fash­ion and trends and likes to have her clothes in­cor­po­rat­ing a nod to them.”

For this au­tumn, Bel­lenisa is a smart­look­ing col­lec­tion, with tops for day and so­phis­ti­cated styles for night, an ar­ray of print dresses, pen­cil skirts, knitwear, straight and cig­a­rette-style trousers, black and navy five-pocket denims, an on-trend, Crom­bie-style, tai­lored blue coat and a cosy, faux-fur style.

“We are ab­so­lutely not an oc­ca­sion­wear brand,” Linda ex­plains. “Bel­lenisa is about smart day and ca­sual wear for women who like to look and feel good, as they go about their busy lives.”

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