Fashion designers 'celebrate' their ageing

A group of leading designers have joined the ranks of the 50-plus. Alber Elbaz of Lanvin has chalked up half a century, joining Tom Ford and Rick Owens in celebrating (or otherwise) their 50th birthdays according to this article in the New York Times.

Meanwhile the maverick Vivienne Westwood is now 70.

Turning 40 in 2011 were the rising star Haider Ackermann, Burberry’s Christopher Bailey, Givenchy’s Nicolas Ghesquière and the onetime ‘‘wild child’’ Stella McCartney.

Coming up in 2012 are yet more big-picture moments: Jean Paul Gaultier will turn 60 and Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons turns 70. And in a signal that fashion’s all-time greats are moving inexorably onward, Rosita Missoni, Oscar de la Renta and Valentino will reach 80.

For Mr. Gaultier 50 ‘‘didn’t do anything and didn’t feel a special milestone,’’ but 60 makes him feel a bit ‘‘mortal.’’ The real issue is that, as in so many areas of creative endeavor, the baby-boom generation has hung in there, while the wider world is getting younger.

For Mr. Elbaz, for whom relevance is a key issue, turning 30 was no problem. ‘‘But 50 is one of those things better kept as a secret,’’ he says. ‘‘Why bother telling the world? Everyone is so ageless, everyone is erasing age, no wrinkles or gray hair. Now you go and announce that you are 50. Why?’’

Today’s designers, set a punishing pace by incessant global travel, face a very different situation to those who rose to fame in the 1960s. They might also fade before they reach the age of today’s great names like Giorgio Armani, 77, Karl Largerfeld, 78, or Ralph Lauren, 72.

It is natural that a landscape rich with mature trees requires shoots and saplings to grow into the future. So the ‘‘big O’’ birthdays in the fashion world are genuinely something to celebrate.

I love this quote from Mr. Elbaz:

‘‘I never felt young and I don’t feel old. It is about being relevant. And it is not about being young or old but about being good or bad at 19 or 90. And good is not about age at all.’’