The maturing of fashion
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.”