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Advanced Style: Celebrating the beauty of older women

New York photographer Ari Seth Cohen's popular street-style blog has been turned into a film by the same name.
Following the work of street style photographer, Ari Seth Cohen the documentary, directed by Lina Plioplyte, observes the lives of seven unique New York women whose personal styles and spirits have guided their attitudes to ageing.
Within the film its stylish subjects, aged between 62 and 95, are challenging Western societies rather orthodox ideas about beauty, aging and its obsession with youth.
Cohen, whose famed blog of the same name has reached cult status, talks about what the journey has been like for him trying to understand these interesting women who belong to New York City's senior set.
You say on the Advanced Style is "about more than just style" – can you elaborate on this sentiment?
I started my blog in 2008 inspired by the style and stories of older people. When Lina approached me about making videos for Advanced Style, we initially thought we would focus on the women's style and fashion choices. As soon as we started to film they really opened up in front of the camera.
Their style is just a reflection of their incredible creativity and vitality and only one small part of their very active lives. They videos and interviews quickly began to reveal how passionate and energetically our subject's approached life.
Cohen: "Their style is just a reflection of their incredible creativity and vitality."
Where did you find the women who feature in the film?
They are all women who I met while walking around the streets of NYC looking for people to photograph. They have all appeared on my blog several times and are featured in my book as well.
Some might assume that to take such an active interest in the way you look you must be self-absorbed or perhaps vein – how did your find subjects?
First of all I think caring about how you look is a sign of vitality and personal expression. These women dress for themselves and they lead very active lives. They don't sit around all day talking about clothes or shopping. They are artists, business women, dancers and performers. I had become close to all the women before we started filming and I have a deep appreciation for how the confront getting older with such Joie de Vivre.
The project is a documentary about these larger than life characters, did you feel like the women were being authentic or do you think they were, to some extent, exaggerating these personas to match their clothes?
They are exactly how they appear… They approach the world in a very confident, bold manner. They dress how they want, even if it means being judged or criticised. There is a certain freedom that comes with aging and these women are a stage that they can finally be fully authentic. Of course they love to dress up and be photographed and be out in the world and live their lives to the fullest.
In the film one of the women says "style is inborn," do you feel this is true? Is chic panache predisposed or can it be cultivated?
They all have different perspectives. I think we discover our style through our experiences. For me, there is no such thing as good taste and bad taste. The women in the film have been dressing up their entire lives and they have changed and perfected their personal styles over years and years.
Cohen: "They get joy, but they are much more than women who just dress."
What do you think is the reason for the fashion world's obsession with coveting youth and disregarding women over a certain age? Do you feel like it’s progressively changing at all?
I think it's fear and ignorance. It's ridiculous to ignore such a huge, powerful segment of the population. It's definitely changing, but it has to start with a shifting society's view of aging. If we only see negative portrayals of aging then we will tend to have negative ideas of growing old. This extends way past the fashion industry.
Cohen says he meets his subjects organically while on the streets of NYC.
The women in the film are all older women, was there any resentment toward younger women at all or were they happy to be their age and pass on wisdom to their youthful counterparts?
No resentment at all. They all have many younger friends. In fact they speak about how these intergenerational relationships are so important in creative a community and conversation about aging.
What do you think these women get out of dressing the way that they do?
They get joy, but they are much more than women who just dress.
What's been the audience reaction to the film? Any surprises?
It's been amazing. It's great to see men being really inspired by the film as well. I think everyone love's how vital and hopeful the women in the film are.
In your opinion, what is best – to be young or to be young-at-heart?
It's best to be exactly where you are in life.
Advanced Style is in select cinemas in Australia from October 2.

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