Fighting ageism in fashion with Jacynth Bassett
Updated: Dec 26, 2019
The week I chatted with Jacynth Bassett founder of The-Bias-Cut.com. We find out why at 26 years old Jacynth is so passionate about fighting ageism in the fashion industry alongside some tips on how to take steps to regain your fashion confidence.
Where did the idea come from Jacynth?
I was at university, studying Law but I realised it wasn't really for me. I wanted to do something that I found I cared about and I'd always loved the fashion industry, not just the clothes but the industry as a whole. I quickly got to thinking about my mum and how we'd go shopping a lot when I was a teenager. She had me at 40 so she was already experiencing ageing quite quickly when I was young. She loves clothes and she was really struggling to find beautiful things that she loved to wear.We'd go in to shops and shop assistants would be quite dismissive of her and she would often say 'Oh this isn't for me and then bought me things because she felt she couldn't wear them. It was really from that I gained the inspiration, I wanted to give back her confidence through style and fashion.
During your period of research into how older women felt about fashion what surprised you the most?
I think what surprised me the most was the split view of what I wanted to do. I did a survey and one of the questions was about using women over forty as models of all shapes and sizes, all the people I surveyed were late forties, fifties and about half said they didn't like the idea. That really surprised me but what I realised was a lot of the women comments were based on their own pre-judged biased. It's what they have been used to seeing and then can't imagine what I was thinking of. A website that would really empower women they thought it would be really dowdy and frumpy. After I initially launched the blog a couple of those women then emailed me saying ,'If this is what you meant, I really like this'.
Have you come across that ageist attitude because you are younger in an older category, have peoples attitudes been different towards you?
Not really, I found people have really responded well to that, a lot of people have commented that they really like that I'm younger. Women seem to think I can bring an objective perspective in to it and I'm not just going to choose clothes that I would wear, although I do love all the clothes. I've had the odd patronising person but most people have been very positive and I've been welcomed with open arms. Just because I'm not directly affected by ageism doesn't mean I shouldn't care about it.
What is your age demographic for The-Bias-Cut.com?
Mainly forties to late sixties, but actually we have customers of all ages, because the brands we sell don't specifically target that bracket. The idea is everything is ageless. It's nice that I get so many women sending me messages and photos in the clothes, saying its given them loads of confidence from wearing their outfits.
You must see a difference in women's confidence when they are buying clothes that they feel really good in.
It's really interesting because when it first started people went with really safe options and as the business as gone on those customers have really started to step out of their comfort zone. We have an exceptionally low return rate on line shopping because women are having fun experimenting. When I do events I can guess which pieces they will gravitate towards and it's about saying why don't you try this but in a different colour because a lot of women put themselves in a box about what they can wear.
What about internet shopping for this particular age group, that's another challenge isn't it, to ask them to buy on line with confidence, how have you found that?
Challenging! I do have people that say to me surely that demographic don't buy on line but that's just not true, it's the fastest growing demographic for online shopping. There is still a lack of confidence there, mainly down to previous experience of shopping online where there's been lack of quality and fit, I do events which help show the customers our pieces directly. It's about building a good reputation based on the quality of service.
I like buying online because you have the luxury of having your wardrobe there to try with different shoes, your accessories.
Exactly you can see how it's going to fit in to your wardrobe there. I think you have less buyers remorse too.
Why do you think it is that women in their forties and fifties often lose their fashion confidence, what do you think the industry does wrong?
Well first of all its about the imagery. I think the stats are something like we see between 3000-5000 images a day so the majority of those adverts feature women that are younger. It takes someone with a very thick skin to somehow not be affected by that, even sub-consciously. When you have the likes off Cara Delevingne, whose my age, the face of an anti-ageing product, it's not great!
It's an interesting thing with ageism I've found through different discussions with people. There are people who say they are pro-ageing but they still have a very restricted idea of how we should age.I've had someone say to me that after the age of 50 you shouldn't care about looking sexy.
I don't get that. I've never felt more sexy than in my forties.
A lot of women have said they've been a mother, career orientated and then lost a sense of self and stuck in practical clothes or office wear all the time. Women have told me that want to be stylish again but they don't know how to get back there.
I really like the fact that you use non-model women, of all shapes and sizes who we can all relate to. I hate the term 'real women' because we are all real.
People can just apply to model for us and the number of women applying have really gone up since the beginning. It's really lovely to see that they are confident enough and willing to do that and try something different.
What I also love about you is aside from the-bias-cut.com you are also really proactive within the industry about fighting ageism. Can you tell us a little bit more about the kind of things you have been involved in?
So I started this campaign movement called 'Ageism is never in style' back in 2016.
It started as an online community on facebook, a group where people came together to share their thoughts and ideas. I share what's going on the industry, different articles and people can have their voice heard by leaving comments. It's an interesting thing ageism , because its about choice and I still don't think we're there yet with everyones understanding of that.I write a lot of articles for magazines, forty plus communities and speak at events. In February 2018 I had this eleventh hour brainwave that I wanted to create these 'Ageism is never in style' badges just before fashion week. I thought to myself this is either going to be a really big hit or let's just pretend that never happened, but yeah it took off massively. They're free and people were ordering them in batches to give to there friends and it really sparked off conversations. *these badges are still available to order free https://www.facebook.com/commerce/products/2006883626047089/
What piece of advice could you give to a woman that has that craving to get back to feeling good in their clothes?
The thing I always say to people is just give it a go. If it doesn't work on you can just take it off. I see customers more at our pop up events and I get such a lovely reaction to clothes and then they say but I couldn't wear that. It's not until they try things on and see for themselves and hear other peoples reactions to them. Just try it you might be surprised.
Last three questions I ask every guest
Do you have a favourite song that motivates you?
I do but its so embarrassing!! 'All I do is Win' which is a hiphop rap song by DJ Khaled, don't judge me!
A Favourite book
I'm going to be completely honest with you I don't read a lot of books even though I love them. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte and I recently read Amy Poehler's autobiography, Yes Please, which was really interested, I liked how candid and honest she was.
Who Inspires you?
My mum is a big inspiration in my life.
Women like Natalie Massenet with the career she's had inspire me, there are lots of women that inspire by the things they've done.
To listen to the full interview-
In the meantime .....keep being fabulous!