“I think when you turn 60 you get a second youth, because you are not having to look after your children since they are all grown up, so you can do what you want to do. And you can kind of rebel and live a life that is different than the life you lived in your 20s.”
Fanny Karst always has been inspired by the older women in her life. A tailor from France who moved to New York in 2013 via a London art school education, she’s made a name for herself recently through her made-to-order fashion line that promotes being cool at any age. Her collection was featured on the popular blog Advanced Style, which led to a collaboration with the blog’s creator, Ari Seth Cohen, on a line of statement T-shirts. With slogans like “Let’s Begin At The End,” “Old is the New Black” and “Not at Your Age,” these basic Ts let older women feel more confident, Karst says. The shirts have been a huge success and offer attitudinal style to those who can’t afford Karst’s made-to-order silk dresses, a collection that Karst named Old Ladies Rebellion — until the “old ladies” started to rebel.
Karst checked in with us over the phone from her studio in the West Village to talk about what her clients have taught her and how she’s helping to fight ageism one T-shirt at a time.
What made you come up with your line Old Ladies Rebellion?
Well, it’s not called the Old Ladies Rebellion anymore, but the spirit of rebellion is still very there. I always wanted to design for old ladies. Even when I was 18 and studying in college in England, I dedicated all my collections to these ladies, because I felt it gave me a sense of depth — of being more than just a student in fashion school. And I was always around the old people in my family. I think older people are the most important in a family, and I come from a pretty big family.
Was there was a family member in particular who inspired you?
My grandmother and my great aunt, and really everyone who was considered old. They had such strong personalities. They were all about the French style, which is being elegant in manners, and they didn’t really care about clothes. I always admired them and always loved visiting them. So I think it all started with my family, where the oldest person was the most important person — kind of the key to the family history and all the good stories, really.
A lot of fashion campaigns are featuring older women — and even men — as models. What do you think about that trend?
I think things have changed a lot since my grandmother’s generation. She was always considered an old lady. She dressed like an old lady — the way she dressed as she did in the 40s, when she was growing up, with a nice little pencil skirt and a little dress and espadrilles. I don’t think you change that much. So now, with the modern generation, these old ladies grew up in the 60s when everyone was quite cool. It’s my mother’s generation, and actually my mother in her early 70s is pretty rock n’ roll — she is pretty cool.
What’s next for your line?
I want to do another project with Ari [Seth Cohen of Advanced Style]. When we started with the T-shirts, we started a small revolution. And I think the ladies who order the T-shirts really are seeing it as almost a political act, almost like being gangster. I’m still making made-to-order dresses, which is more expensive and time consuming, but it’s making things that people can really walk in and run in. And I am still learning a lot from my clients.
Can you tell us how you meet Ari?
I met Ari a very long time ago. He put a collection of mine on his blog in 2008. It kind of put me out there, whereas before I was just sewing in my apartment. We were friends very early on, because I never had met anyone who liked the same thing as me — talking to old ladies in the street. I really admire Ari, because it’s more then just pictures of people dressing up. He really changed how women think about themselves at that age. When people order the T- shirts, they always tell me how confident they feel. And I really think it’s all thanks to him. It’s also thanks to him that a lot of fashion brands — even high luxury brands — have started using older models, because they realize how glamorous and elegant these women are. And I feel that Ari started all of that. He’s really is an activist for age.
You’ve said that you are inspired by your customers to take risks…
When you make made-to-measure clothing, you learn a lot a about one person and their life. I’m always surprised when a client picks the most unwearable piece in the collection, and I think, Oh my goodness!
What does aging with attitude mean to you?
I think when you turn 60, you get a second youth — you are not having to look after your children because they are all grown up, so you can do what you want to do. And you can kind of rebel and live a life that is different than how you lived in your 20s.
New York women are very modern and very aggressive in a way, and very active, and it’s wonderful living in a city where the generations really mix. I have friends who are in their 80s and friends in their 60s and 40s. In other countries the generations are separate — they are put in separate boxes — but I would much rather go to a party with my parents’ friends than my brothers’ generation.
What statement would you want on your T-shirt?