Every summer as a child, my cousins and I (23 of us!) would be dropped off for some time in the French countryside. My grandparents were the most important people in our family — like royals — and we tried to behave very well. The activities were, for example: pick prunes, set the table, fold giant sheets, hide from the horses, and toast the tartines in the fire (an important ritual).
My grandmother Francoise was never interested in style or fashion, but she taught us how to have grace in the way we walked and talked and thought.
I was never her favorite, but she grew interested in me later because I learned to sew and she found that useful. (She modeled for me a couple of times; I made her a crossword-print skirt.)
Her sister, Tante Helene, also had surprisingly high standards for etiquette and attitude considering she was the most eccentric person I knew, a vision of undescribable hats to match questionable sportswear. I come from a family where women are strong, no nonsense, funny and practical, and not generous in compliments.
Later, when I was in college and determined to dedicate my studies and career to the “Silver Rage,” I came across some other wild birds, the artists I admired: Louise Bourgeois, Jane Fonda, The Duchess of Devonshire — rebellious, revolutionaries, and funny. They sat on a throne in my dreams and started a quiet movement. I called the project the Old Ladies Rebellion, but the old ladies rebelled at being called old. To me, old rhymes with cold rhymes with cool — I will bring it back.
My models for the final show at Saint Martins were a chic, unbehaved gang who refused to follow rules and walk like young models. We played The Rolling Stones — “what a drag it is getting old” — and they showed everyone how it’s done.
My models for the final show at Saint Martins — and many more shows — were a chic, unbehaved gang who refused to follow rules and walk like young models. We played The Rolling Stones — “what a drag it is getting old” — and they showed everyone how it’s done.
After 11 years in London, many dresses made for fantastic British ladies, all of whom I love and whose measurements I strangely remember, I moved to New York City. Here, the buildings are as well-dressed as the ladies, with their night lights that sparkle. It’s inspiring every day. But I think about the lives of all the other women, from Amarillo to Palm Springs to Dallas.
I imagine that my models, my clients form some kind of mafia and that I work for them. They will get away with murder if they are well-dressed. In a dream world, I would travel to meet and fit them. (I sometimes do.)
With my friend Ari Cohen, I sometimes go Uptown to hunt. It’s exciting and scary, but we love discussing “our type.” In this spirit, we made a T-shirt together and still now it gets ordered by women all around the world. It’s a thrill to receive photos for our Hall of Fame, an army of fabulous ladies doing their thing. I learn so much from the ladies. We have so much in common as post-teenagers.
I aspire to be commissioned by a lady to make her dress for her 100th birthday, to design cool sportswear for women in an elderly home.
I believe we can be young all our lives, that we age how we live. I find it reassuring to know that I’ll become like the women in my family, like the women I work for.
Jean Cocteau said “Youth comes with age.” I believe we can be young all our lives, that we age how we live. I find it reassuring to know that I’ll become like the women in my family, like the women I work for. It’s not about the clothes. It’s about the freedom, the message, the resistance. I love the idea of intergeneration. Life after 60 is like a second youth — but better.
These days, my brothers and nieces and nephews fight to get my mother’s attention. We follow her everywhere, ask advice — because she is extremely cool, collected, independent but generous.
I look up to her and I see the future, and it’s bright and sporty and chic. And hopefully I’ll be 100 or beyond on the glittery escalator up to Paradise.
Designer Fanny Karst invites you to join the Old Ladies Rebellion at fannykarst.com.