Ari Seth Cohen has been shooting stylish women of a certain age since starting his blog, Advanced Style, in 2008. This month a book full of Cohen’s signature images of fabulous ladies with plenty of life experience is set to hit stores. Also in the book? An unexpected conversation between Dita Von Teese and 92-year-old cabaret performer and Advanced Style icon, Ilona Royce Smithkin. The (younger) burlesque star reached out to Cohen out of admiration for his project and the women he shoots. In short order she agreed to contribute.
On the phone from New York, the blogger-photographer says that the women “are very excited for me […] I haven’t heard anything negative yet, except maybe, ‘Why aren’t I on the cover?’” He avoided using one of the New York women he regularly photographs, “I had to take an international.” The cover subject that he chose is from London and serves as a very striking medium between the “extremely elegant or expensive” ensembles that he features. It quickly becomes obvious that Cohen has great respect for these women – he wants to “make another book about just the wisdom” – and has developed close friendships with many of them. “People always say, ‘Do you only have older ladies as friends?’” he laughs, “and I say no, but it’s definitely a mix.”
Our beauty ideals may sway towards the very young, but it looks like fashion trends are going in the other direction. When designing his Fall 2012 collection, Advanced Style inspired trend-maker Marc Jacobs, the go-to designer for PYTs rather than the over-eighty set typical of Cohen’s blog. Stealing himself away from the fashion fray during NYFW, Cohen found out about his blog’s style-setting moment when he was in Seattle babysitting for a friend. “I was so flattered that he was influenced by these women who have wonderful personal style.” In fact, Iris Apfel and Cohen’s other eccentric octogenarian subjects could probably teach us all a thing or two about style. Joyce, a 79-year-old New Yorker featured regularly on the blog, says, “Style is about the right jewelry, the right know-how, the right neckline, and above all, the right attitude.” Wisdom, to be sure. There is no doubt that Cohen’s book will be full of women with attitude to spare. In Apfel’s now infamous words, readers will surely find that these women are far from “empty-headed fashionistas.
Advanced Style by Ari Seth Cohen, $40, powerhousebooks.com
Click here to see Ari Seth Cohen’s top five images from the new book.