“These are women that have felt invisible, ignored and not at all catered for. They feel almost talked down to. It’s a much bigger story than just makeup.”
Grace Fodor, Founder of Studio 10
This week on the SuperHuman blog we continue our discussion on the beauty industry and the perception of women and ageing.
Last week we had the pleasure of speaking with Jo Elvin, Founding Editor of Glamour Magazine, about the role the media plays in shaping our attitudes towards mid-life women.
This week we caught up with a true disruptor of the beauty industry, Grace Fodor. Grace founded innovative pro age makeup range, Studio 10, when she saw a gap in the market for makeup designed specifically for women as they age.
Listen to the full interview on our podcast, or read what Grace had to say below.
Hi Grace. Tell us a little about your story. How did you end up focussing on mature women and creating Studio 10?
I set up Studio 10 in my late 40s because I felt there was a need. I felt let down and frustrated by the beauty industry on a couple of levels. There was no makeup brand out there aimed at me that did the job, or really understood me as a mature woman. We don’t use the same skincare that we did in our 20s as we get older. And this is recognised by the great skincare brands, products and technology available specifically for older women. But I didn’t want to use same make up either. It’s not just about the ingredients, but the texture, finish and how the makeup interacts with ageing skin. I created Studio 10 not to make women look younger but to help them put their best face forward because there is so much negativity around ageing for women.
Was there a particular catalyst that led to the inception of Studio 10?
I had just finished working for a makeup brand and after analysing what products and brands were available, and looking at all of the sales, I began to see a pattern. Women invest more in makeup as they age. And they pay more attention to reviews because they are frustrated that most of what is available doesn’t meet their needs, for example setting in fine lines, or not giving enough coverage.
I saw that no other makeup brand was catering properly for ageing skin. Yes, lots of current brands were paying lip service and adding in anti-ageing products and marketing them for older women, but they hadn’t done their research. If they had, they would have realised that as they age, women in their 40s, 50s, they want a bit more coverage. And how they interact with make-up changes. They either do their make up in the same way as they did 20 years ago, or they don’t put on make-up at all because the market is overcomplicated. They need a make-up routine simplified into a few products that do the jobs they need. No brands or products were catering properly for this group of women.
And what has been the reaction to Studio 10?
We’ve had the most amazing response. From the press, celebrities, make-up artists and especially from women. They say we understand how they feel emotionally and psychologically.
There is so much negativity towards women and ageing in the Western World. For me, it’s about self-care, wellbeing and using the medium of make-up to make yourself feel better. If you look good, you feel good. It comes down not just to ageing but to self-esteem, independence and confidence. Make-up is so easy and so accessible and can make the biggest difference.
I’ve received emails from ladies who have said our make-up range has changed their life, that they have not looked or felt as good since their wedding day and who have thanked us for truly understanding them.
These are women that have felt invisible, ignored and not at all catered for. They feel almost talked down to. It’s a much bigger story than just makeup.
What impact do you think society’s attitudes to women getting older have had on women?
I’m not opposed to the word middle-aged, it’s a fact. But it’s dressed in so much negativity. The assumptions and stereotypes of middle-aged women and ageing are really negative. I’ve felt it.
It needs to change. We need to take a stand and show that we are not going to be invisible.
But doing that needs a big trigger from the media, film, music, fashion, beauty and lifestyle industries. Huge brands and companies have a responsibility to shift these perceptions.
It’s so interesting that the story is completely different for men. Take the workplace, for example. In the workplace, a mature man is associated positively, with kudos, wisdom, and gravitas. But with women the perception is negative. And it’s not just about how we look. Often, older women in the workplace are perceived as not being as capable of doing their job as someone who is younger. It’s almost offensive.
We have started to see some evolution in the public domain, through film and TV (for example Nicole Kidman in Big Little Lies). The conversation is beginning to bubble to the surface. Have you noticed any positive impact of this?
Yes, I’ve started to see this influence come through. Music is now much more blended as is fashion. In my opinion, Zara is at the forefront – it’s a brand for the modern age.
Women today are more independent and much more opinionated. We have our own sense of agency. Our expectations are higher and we fundamentally feel that we matter.
On the other side of the coin, the forty plus woman is still not comfortable in her own skin as it is today. Our research showed that women consider themselves at their most beautiful and attractive during the decade before their current age.
That’s interesting. Is that how they see themselves, or is that what society has determined they should see? In Eastern cultures, lines and wrinkles are part of your history. They are laughter lines. They part of who you are. Your journey. We need to get to that stage.
At Studio 10 we are pro age. Why do we use make up or die our hair? Is it because we want to look younger? And if so, are we just playing to society and not helping the cause? I don’t think so. I do those things not because I want to look younger, but because I want to look the very best version of myself. And that’s the key I think.
What role do you think big brands play in this evolution? We mentioned that women see themselves at their most attractive during the decade before their current age, so big brands say they are just playing back the attitudes of this generation. Do you think these brands have a responsibility?
I do. Big brands have a social responsibility to society. They are the biggest influencers and have the biggest audiences.
The beauty industry comes under fire a lot for its marketing. Dior recently did an advertising campaign for an anti-wrinkle product and used Cara Delevingne as the model. We ran a poll and 97% of respondents agreed that Dior should have used a model with wrinkles. So, there is a big disconnect between marketing and advertising and what the end user wants to see.
For me it’s all about authenticity and respecting the audience. With social media, women now have a platform to speak out and they are really vocal. The Dior campaign had no authenticity. No lotion or potion is going to make us look like Cara. There was a disconnect, which I found mindless and patronising. It actually made me quite angry. Do they think we are not going to engage our brains? That we won’t realise looking like Cara is unachievable? There was a huge backlash.
But that’s not to say you have to use an older woman in every ad. Cara in a fashion ad works, the lines are more blurred, I can still resonate. After the Dior campaign we saw beauty industry say, “we have to use an ageing woman in an ad because were being attacked”…and then they pull out Helen Mirren. Helen is amazing and inspirational but she doesn’t necessarily resonate with me either. It’s about being authentic and understanding modern women today and their views, emotions and lifestyles. That’s where the disconnect lies.
Our research also showed that 80% of 40+ women said they rarely or never see women of their age in advertising.
That’s just not acceptable. What you are trying to do with an advertising or marketing campaign is connect. Build a relationship. Build trust with your audience. You have to understand and respect them to do that. It has to be authentic or it doesn’t have the desired effect. If it’s not authentic there will be a backlash now we have a platform to voice our opinion.
The 40+ audience are such an important financial powerhouse for brands and in many cases, they are being ignored. Their needs and wants are not met and they are not recognised. But women over 40 now have such a voice coming from their place of confidence. How do you think this generation has evolved over time?
At the core is an independence. Women are having children later in life, establishing themselves more in their career and seeking financial independence. They don’t want to give that up. We are also much more emotionally independent than our mothers. We believe fundamentally that we matter. The traditional role of a women is as a carer, to create the home and serve everyone around us. We still want to do that, but at the heart of it we matter as well and want our own independence.
We also have incredibly high expectations of ourselves, our role and how we live our lives. We have fought hard to get to where we are and to be successful. Brands don’t reflect those expectations in the same way. They don’t reflect the confidence of that woman. That’s the next step.
I totally agree. It comes across to women as condescending and patronising. Brands have to be careful now. Love or hate digital and social media there is a platform for women to be vocal.
I hope we start to make a difference. There is a social responsibility of media, fashion, big companies and brands that have touchpoints with society at every level, to embrace women as they age. And embrace the beauty of ageing.
Finally, how do you see this debate continuing? How would you like to see the narrative for these women change?
It’s beginning to change, as you mentioned earlier with certain TV programmes, movies etc recognising older women. That said, I’m impatient and don’t think it’s happening quickly enough.
I have a friend in her 40s who is an actress and she is considered too old to play someone in their 40s. So, they use someone in their 30s instead. It’s bonkers!
I’d love for the debate to continue and to visibly see it pull through into advertising and marketing.
Thank you to Grace Fodor for sharing her Studio 10 story and her experience of the perceptions of beauty and ageing with us. You can read more about Grace’s take on the beauty industry over on her blog ‘Ageing with Grace’.
Find out more about our work in disrupting the way brands and society think about women at www.wearesuperhuman.co.uk.
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