Talk The Future of Ageing

Designing for Your Future Self: A Lifetime of Style

Join the debate about the future of ageing in the latest session in the Designing for Your Future Self talks series, curated by Design Age Institute.

What to expect

What does it mean to dress your age and can you ever be too old for a miniskirt?

In this session, hear from a panel of expert researchers, designers and ageing advocates on designing fashion that suits everybody and every body, at every age.

Two recent u3a surveys revealed a sharp divide between what younger people think their grandparents should be wearing and what over-55s want to wear. With younger people thinking on the whole that older adults are best suited to socks and sandals (53%), cardigans (58%) and elastic-waist trousers (54%). The second poll of nearly 6,500 people over 55, showed that 4 out 5 older adults don’t want society to dictate what they should and shouldn't wear.

“People seem to think that once you reach 40, you’re not interested in clothes and you don’t buy anything – but that’s simply not true. A huge percentage of clothes are bought by older women – so fashion is making a huge mistake by ignoring that grey pound.”

At the same time, research by the International Longevity Centre reveals that older consumers represent an increasingly lucrative segment of the fashion market, with older adults increasing their spending on clothes and shoes by £2.9 bn (21%) between 2011 and 2018. The failure of the fashion and beauty industry to meet the needs and aspirations of older consumers could cost over £11bn over the next 20 years

The business opportunity is huge, yet ageism is deeply rooted in all aspects of fashion — the clothes themselves, how they are marketed, the models which are used and the design of the shops and online platforms where they are bought. By conforming to stereotypes the fashion industry is missing a trick. As Julia Twigg, Professor of Social Policy and Sociology at the University of Kent said, “Ageism means that the fashion industry still struggles to engage successfully with the older market, though it is worth many millions.

Book online

Booking information

Adult: £8
Student/Concession: £5
Members: Free

Tickets are non-refundable and non-exchangeable. Visit our terms & conditions page for further information.


Caryn Franklin MBE

Franklin is a fashion and identity commentator and visiting professor of diverse selfhood at Kingston School of Art. An i-D magazine fashion editor for 6 years, she moved into television where she authored and co-produced numerous fashion programmes including the BBC’s Clothes Show. She is co-founder of the award-winning campaign 'All Walks Beyond The Catwalk' and collected an MBE for services to Positive Body Image and Diversity in Fashion in 2013. She's also a member of FACE: Fashion Academics Creating Equality.

Colum Lowe

Lowe is a senior design leader with a significant track record of developing inclusive products and services in the private, public and charitable sectors. In 2020 Colum joined the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design at the Royal College of Art as Director for Design Age Institute. He has been Head of Design at the Ministry of Justice, Sainsbury’s, Homebase and the NHS National Patient Safety Agency, and has run design firms Crabtree Hall, CaulderMoore as well as his own consultancy.

George Lee

In her role as Community Lead for the Design Age Institute, Lee launched This Age Thing in 2021 to build a diverse community of age activists, storytellers, creatives, designers and change-makers. A respected disrupter, innovator, and leader with 25+ years of experience, Lee is Director of the design studio This is Real Art, co-founder of The Age of No Retirement and specialist consultancy The Common Land, championing cross-generational thinking as a key for social and economic impact.

Sarah Davies

Davies is Chief Product Officer for Unbound Group with a 20-year career in the fashion retail industry. As part of the team at Jones Bootmaker, Davies led the brand and product strategy, elevating the brand through improved quality, design & supply partnerships. Davies was part of a team that successfully kept the 160- year-old brand on the UK high street has recently worked internationally for UAE based Landmark Group, leading the product function for Shoemart.

This Age Thing

This Age Thing was launched in April 2021, with support from the Design Age Institute as a space for everyone to share stories, to be listened to, and to take positive collective action.

Design Age Institute

The Design Age Institute is the UK’s national strategic unit for design and the healthy ageing economy. The Institute works with designers, businesses, researchers and communities to help address the challenges and opportunities of an ageing society through the transformative power of design.

Background image: Design Museum Archives / Women Fashion Power exhibition.