Life in the Boomer Lane found Fanny Karst by accident, when she was on one of her favorite sites, Advanced Style. Karst had designed a tee shirt (‘OLD IS THE NEW BLACK’) that LBL had to have, and so she ordered it. It wasn’t until recently that she wanted to know more about Karst, herself. What she found was pretty amazing. First, Karst is 30-years-old. Second, she designs for women over age 50. Most important, her designs are in-your-face statements of powerful women in control of their lives, meant to be worn by women who society deems as the exact opposite.
What inspires one so young to design for older women? And how can one so young have the ability to reach beyond the stereotypes of aging to a place that empowers? Karst is more than a designer. She is a visionary and an inspiration.
If one looks at most of what is written about older boomers and beyond, a common theme is that we are somehow immune to aging. We run marathons, we climb mountains, we have amazing sex. We take on the world, and the world stands in awe. Some of this is true. Most of it isn’t. Boomers, like any other demographic, aren’t immune to the aging process. The heady years we spent in the 60s didn’t give us a pass to remain young forever.
Do we run/hike/climb mountains/have sex/chase grandchildren around? Some of us do, absolutely. And we may pay for it with sore muscles, shin splints, aching backs, and headaches. Whatever we do, we do, not because our bodies are young and resilient, but because we are willing to pay the price for doing what we probably technically shouldn’t.
We may believe we will live forever, or, at least, act like we will. But the clock is ticking for us, just as it does for everyone. Statistically, we are closer to the end of our lives. We may not hear the ticking through the rock music we still listen to or the classes we are always taking or the noise level at the gym or the voices of young grandchildren we are chasing after. But the ticking is there. And it has the patience to outlast whatever activities we focus our attention on.
Enter Fanny Karst, who understands the power of in-your-face aging and the beauty of those who wear their aging with style. My two favorite articles of clothing that Karst designed are a jacket that says, ‘SEE YOU NEXT YEAR PERHAPS’ and a dress that says ‘LET’S BEGIN WITH THE END.’ This is where the power of Fanny’s words lie. It’s an acknowledgement of exactly who we are: We are old or we are about to be old. We are in the final stretch of life. We are here
but and we may not have long to be here. Once we take the fear and the stigma away from our being in the final decades of our lives, there remains only the joy.
When I wear Karst’s tee, proclaming ‘OLD IS THE NEW BLACK,’ virtually every older women who sees me smiles or says, “I love that!” Some stare with surprise that I would wear such a tee in public, but then they say “I want one!” Men look, as well. I not only feel empowered, I feel sexy. It’s as though I am back in the heady days of wearing mini-skirts and platform sandals. For me, it’s about not being invisible.
I made a decision, somewhere around age fifty, that my life would be a statement of the best that I had to give. And the best, for me, included embracing my age. It also included an appreciation for all of the older women in this world who are making a difference, shaking things up, having a voice.
Fanny Karst isn’t an older woman. But she makes a difference for us through the clothing she designs. Not all of Karst’s clothing have words on them. But all of them speak.