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Rise of ‘granfluencers’: viral stars model grandson’s punk styles

Last month Jane Fonda set the internet ablaze with her Harper’s Bazaar cover in a sequined body-con Ralph Lauren dress, Dolly Parton inspired a cold-shoulder fashion trend with her vaccination video, and Joan Collins’s Instagram has been instructional on how to do lockdown in fabulous style.

The latest “granfluencers” are Marie-Louise and René Glémarec, 86 and 87 respectively, who went viral after appearing at the last physical Paris fashion week dressed in the punk-inspired, gender-neutral clothes made by their grandson Florentin Glémarec for his label EGONlab, which he runs with partner Kévin Nompeix.

“René, grandpa, always dreamed of being in the spotlight,” said Florentin Glémarec. “They usually come to [our] studio during the creation process and one evening they wanted to try everything on,” which they did, “and that’s how we made them our muses.”

The clothes in the spring/summer collection worn by Glémarec’s grandparents included tartan bondage trousers, a Hellraiser-style, spiked black leather suit and skirts for men. Were they hesitant about trying on any of the outfits?

“Never,” said Glémarec, “they are our biggest fans [and] embrace our modern punk vision. They are always up for experimenting with new looks and new characters.”

The reaction to them wearing the clothes at Paris fashion week was “general hysteria”.

“The photographers shouted and everyone wanted to take a selfie with them,” Nompeix told Vogue. “After Mugler, they stole the show from Bella Hadid, who was leaving the Palais de Tokyo.”

The couple, who are now fronting the autumn/winter 2021 streetwear campaign for the label’s collaboration with Sergio Tacchini, had never modelled before. “Marie-Louise was a newspaper seller and René was a sailor,” said Glémarec. “It’s a whole new experience for them.”

The growing visibility of older faces in fashion such as Grece Ghanem (who has 550,000 Instagram followers) and catwalk models such as Axelle Doué, suggests fashion is no longer the preserve of the young.

“The new wave of feminism has contested the youth and beauty ideas,” says Prof Angela McRobbie. The male model Orlando Hobechi says: “About four years ago I noticed an increase in the use of older models. Suddenly there was interest in older people’s stories.”

Hobechi says longer lifespans mean “people want to see people who look like themselves represented … Age isn’t the turn-off it used to be. Over the last 30 years, we’ve seen cool young people age … you can be older now and still cool and relevant.”