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Grey Pride

Monocle, Issue 130

Fashion and lifestyle magazines aimed at the over sixties are appearing on newsstands across Japan. And by taking a positive and inclusive approach to a long-neglected demographic, publishers are realising the spending power of the ‘nice generation’.

“From our sixties onwards, let’s enjoy being stylish once again!” proclaimed the launch issue of monthly magazine Suteki na Ano Hito (That Nice Person). Beyond a beaming portrait of 64-year-old cover model Anna Yuki, fashion shoots featured grey-haired women in a range of casual and carefree looks, as well as styling tutorials, nutritional advice and skincare tips. Published by Takarajimasha, the magazine’s humble approach hones in on the fashion tastes of mature women, sending a clear message to fully embrace life after 60 and be true to – and proud of – yourself.

As Japan’s population ages rapidly, addressing the needs of the so-called silver generation has been a topic of widespread discussion. Despite this, fashion magazines – here and around the world – have largely been skewed towards the youthful. Older readers were either catered for with patronising titles or not at all. “Many businesses saw this generation as having little potential, believing that older women wouldn’t be interested in fashion and would only buy essential items,” says Suteki na Ano Hito’s editor in chief, Keiko Kamishita, who launched the magazine last September. “Women in their sixties are healthy and socially active so it’s important for them to be stylish too.” They also have plenty of spending power, which should please advertisers. 

During the magazine’s development, Kamishita and her editorial team began to meet women in this age bracket at gatherings at hotel lounges and cafés. These informal discussions revealed that the women were just as interested in fashion and culture as they had been in their younger years. “These women are different to past generations,” says Kamishita. “From a young age they read fashion magazines and, as western culture was introduced, began thinking about how to look stylish. But on entering their sixties there were no fashion magazines for them. It was a great source of frustration.”

As the publication took shape, these face-to-face conversations informed the content in sectors such as fashion, lifestyle, beauty and health. The decision was made to use models in their sixties, including readers and street-scouted talent, while the readership would be addressed not as seniors or the elderly but as the suteki-sedai (nice generation).

Since the magazine’s launch the communication channels have remained open: regular gatherings continue and reader events provide a platform for further dialogue, while questionnaires in each issue source feedback on favourite looks, topics of interest and in-demand products. This back-to-basics approach has resonated with the readership, an estimated 70 per of whom are over the age of 60.

Suteki na Ano Hito is not alone in catering for Japan’s mature readers. The bimonthly lifestyle magazine Ku:nel, which underwent a renewal in 2016, targets women in their fifties and above through content spanning fashion, food and interiors. Published irregularly since 2014, Tsuru & Hana focuses on the wisdom of the older generation, sharing their stories and life lessons.

“People are our greatest asset,” says Kamishita. “We use a traditional way of making a magazine. At a time when you can find any kind of information online, carefully addressing our readers’ needs and searching for women to feature takes a lot of effort. But it also builds empathy, which has a positive impact on sales.”

Building on the success of the first two issues – all 100,000 copies of each sold swiftly – plans are in place to develop the magazine further in 2020. Highlighting feedback from readers, particularly those in regional areas who are unable to purchase the items featured in the magazine, Kamishita hopes to eventually develop a mail-order catalogue – the next step in publishing a product worthy of the stylish suteki-sedai.

Photographer: Tony Hay

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