In our “Elastic Generation: The Female Edit” report, we found that 69% of women aged 53-72 feel ignored by the fashion industry. Nayna McIntosh is eager to help remedy this with Hope, an online fashion boutique that stylishly caters to this underserved demographic.

Hope Fashion epitomizes ageless style, not only in the clothing on offer but also in the range of models used in each and every campaign. Women of all ages, sizes and ethnicities are used and real customers are often included in the shoots. Below, founder Nayna McIntosh speaks about perceptions of style as you age and explains why you are never too old to look fabulous.

What does style mean to you?

I think as you get older, your perception around style changes. What style means for me personally is understanding what suits me, what suits my body at this stage of my life, as body shape changes. You have to adapt your style accordingly. If I am honest, that’s the dilemma I was having as a 50-year-old woman—I was looking for clothes that would suit how I wanted to look with my changing body shape.

I want to dress according to my body shape and I want to be comfortable. If you ask our customers about Hope, I love the fact that comfortable comes into their top five words. I genuinely believe that if a woman is dressing for her body shape and is comfortable, with that comes confidence—and when we feel confident we behave differently.

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Hope Fashion
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Why did you set up Hope?

When I got to 50, 51, the thing I really struggled with was that, in my head, I still felt 30, but clearly my body wasn’t 30. That was partly because I was going through the menopause and I really struggled to adapt my sense of style for this changing body shape. I found it harder to put outfits together and to style outfits, which was ridiculous, because I have been in fashion for a long time. My primary focus was: I can’t be the only woman that is feeling this—and I am a woman entrenched in the industry!

I have worked at M&S and have the benefit of 10 years of customer insight presentations. The 50-year-old woman is a core customer and there is intense focus on what she is thinking and what she is feeling. And, of course, there’s nothing like getting to that age yourself and having some empathy with her. What I was hearing was that it was getting increasingly difficult to find clothes that she felt comfortable in, and also increasingly difficult to find places to shop where she felt comfortable. For lots of reasons, women at this juncture may have lost confidence. Their children have flown the nest, and, for the first time in a long time, it is about them again. The way they dressed 10 to 15 years ago isn’t quite right now—they want help putting something together that makes them look fabulous.

Hope Fashion

What retail experience do you want to create for your consumer?

We find our most successful communication, whether it’s via email or social media, is around two things.

One is actually helping to put outfits together—for example, a piece we did on 10 pieces and 25 outfit options. That’s powerful because we are giving women an idea of how to put things together and wear them. This is really engaging for our customers.

The other thing we find our customers love is the idea of using real women. When we put a post out for a model shoot we get very little interest, but if we put a shot out of my mum wearing an outfit, or one of the girls in my office wearing an outfit, people love that. It has to be relatable. Using real women looking real, as opposed to unattainable, really does resonate with our customers. When you have real imagery, warts and all, quite often the fashion press are not interested, because that’s not really what they see as fashion—and yet my customers love it. When we put out an invite asking for people who want to be a model on the next Hope shoot, we are inundated with women who look bloody fabulous.

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Hope Fashion

This woman is worth over 40% of the UK womenswear market. She is at a point in her life where she has more money and time than she might have ever had before. Yet when she goes out onto the high street, is there anyone that actually wants to talk to her? What really frustrates me is that, when you have a brand that is clearly targeting an older customer, they use very young, skinny models. That doesn’t relate to me at all. What we try to do is use a blend of models. We might use someone who looks 25, but, guess what? A 25-year-old can wear Hope—and there are also women in our campaigns who are in their mid 50s. It comes back to body shape.

My best shopping experience is in a nice market town, in a fabulous boutique that’s probably been in the same family for over 20 years. When you go into those stores, you have a fabulous experience in terms of someone who takes the time to put outfits together for you and will critique you in a constructive and honest way. If you have had that kind of experience, you are inclined to go back time and time again. What I wanted to emulate was that kind of experience whereby, without setting ourselves up as stylists, we can help you to coordinate your outfit or coordinate your wardrobe.

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Hope Fashion
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Are there any style brands that are speaking effectively to the over-50 female consumer?

Quite often the place I went for research was the United States. If I wanted imagery showing a really diverse collection of women, nine times out of 10 it was from the United States. Showing women of colour in a beautiful way also quite often came from the United States. When we launched the brand, we had done no marketing overseas, so what we didn’t expect was that 20% of our organic traffic would come from overseas, half of that from the United States alone.

What other responses do your customers give about your clothing?

One of the questions we asked our customers was about their main reason for buying from Hope. The number one answer was quality, then style and then comfort. That is exactly what I would have wanted my customers to say.

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