Most likely to be seen at London Fashion Week hanging out with street photographers rather than on the show front row, Rebecca Weef Smith, co-founder and Editor of GOLDIE magazine ®, a glossy lifestyle publication for aspirational ageing over forty, is “happy to be 54, except when I’m not, and then you will find me in a dark place with a book for company.“
A woman of style and substance, Rebecca is an entrepreneur with an MSc in Applied Positive Psychology, stylist, positive psychologist, over-50’s influencer and anti-ageism activist. She champions the message that style is ageless and fashion can be a force for good.
Rebecca, you launched your first ever magazine in your 50s. How did you come up with the idea and how much has your eclectic background helped you get to this point?
I was 53 when I made a very rash decision to produce a full-on glossy print magazine with my husband as a co-conspirator. I had been making futile attempts to get a book deal for wearingwellbeing, I had sent out something in the region of 100 job applications and I had received yet another PhD rejection. There was a F**k it moment when we just decided to do something we both knew how to do, love doing, but had never considered doing independently before. We didn’t really have any kind of plan, it was more a case of ‘let’s see if anyone else is interested in viewing the world our way’. It seems they are. My background has indeed been very eclectic – I began working in fashion at age of 14 and have played many roles in the industry. Retraining as a therapist, and then as a positive psychologist, allowed me to develop different aspects of myself. I have always approached life creatively and haven’t stuck to the rule book; in many ways, GOLDIE magazine is the perfect place to put all of my past experiences to good use.
How important are change and evolution within your work?
I don’t think I could ever stick with anything constantly; it’s not necessarily boredom more that I love a new challenge. Nothing holds my attention if it isn’t evolving, that’s why fashion as a business attracted me. It’s an industry where you are encouraged to move forward all the time. My brain responds best to difference, to doing something new or to do the same thing but differently. I love change, I don’t find it intimidating at all but I am aware many others do. I like to show that curiosity keeps us motivated and is good for us. One of my hopes for GOLDIE is that it will encourage flexible thinking and an open mind; a growth mindset never stops at any age. The magazine isn’t consistent in each issue, we are allowing it to evolve and grow in a natural direction in response to feedback from readers.
It’s quite challenging representing and celebrating a new vision of midlife. What is your magazine trying to achieve? And how do you aim to reach this goal?
I don’t personally find life after fifty any more or less challenging than any other time in my life. There has always been twists and turns. However, no one ever accused me of being normal! When I first became seriously interested in positive psychology and was studying for a masters degree I came across the Happiness Curve and was delighted to discover that we are all destined to get happier as we age. Fundamentally we are biologically programmed to have a greater sense of authentic wellbeing past fifty; isn’t that something to shout from the rooftops and celebrate at every opportunity? It’s what we try to show and share in GOLDIE, not only in the print magazine but across all of our social media channels, our events and the manner we conduct ourselves. I have chosen to show how fashion, creativity and wellbeing intersect with sustainability, diversity and inclusivity. But really the ethos of the magazine is simply to use words and pictures to inspire our readers to be their best selves and live life to the full, with love and appreciation for all that is good in the world.
Your magazine also covers arts and culture. Do you think artists and designers can be the ones showing us a better approach towards ageing?
Artists and designers are naturally curious, creativity drives questions. And there is no doubt that flexible thinking coupled with daily creative practice supports wellbeing as we age. We don’t need to consider ourselves artists to make the most of the benefits of a creative life. Even making a cup of tea can be a creative endeavour if we approach it with intention. Getting dressed is a daily practise that we can all use to create wellbeing, just think of the way you used to get so much pleasure from the dressing up box at school, why do we stop taking that approach as grown-ups? Being playful keeps us tuned in to newness, our minds seek variety because we inherently know it is good for us. That’s why a design we haven’t seen before excites. We can learn to look for difference or to deliberately create our daily routine to encompass it – either way we will be mentally more agile.
Is ageism in fashion about to change? And how are you planning to address this important topic with your magazine?
Currently, older models are on trend for many fashion brands, but is it mere tokenism and one that will be over in a few seasons? And what kind of ageing is being portrayed with the particular vision of OLD that the brands want us to aspire to? It feels to me that we are yet again being offered a narrowly defined view of beauty: tall, thin, silver hair, high cheekbones. Where the nuances are on show that makes up real beauty? I’m not saying we have got the answers at GOLDIE but we attempt to show a wide range of beauty, bear in mind we have only published five issues so we are limited to how much we have been able to show thus far! We do talk about all aspects of discrimination in fashion within the magazine and online, I don’t feel that ageism should be addressed as a single topic – it will actually be the one ism that affects us all whether or not we have been marginalised for other differences in our life. We held an event at London Fashion Week in February to highlight our view that fashion needs to reflect us all and can be a force for joining us together: we are being increasingly separated into identity boxes; ageing and getting dressed every day are two common denominators; Fashion For All aims to promote all aspects of inclusion.
How do you personally feel about ageing?
I was the youngest of five, my brother was thirteen when I was born, and I have always wanted to be older! I aspired to catch up with my sibling as I wanted to be having the fun time I saw them having. I am happy to be almost 55, I have friends who are 10, 20, 30 years older than me and I can’t wait to see what that stage of life brings. Yes, I’d like to have a firmer jawline, a tighter bum and toned arms but that’s not stopping me loving who I am, adoring what I achieve and I living my life on my terms. I do everything I have always done: my brain works just as well, I love equally as prolifically, I make mistakes and I have successes. Another year is neither here nor there.
In your opinion, when getting older, is there a standard of how to dress for your age?
In my opinion, there is only me to please when it comes to getting dressed and rules are there to be ignored. So my answer is the only standards are ones you set for yourself. Anyone doesn’t like what you’re wearing tell them to mind their bloody business.
Where do you find your style inspiration?
Everywhere. It’s an on-going process – I may see a girl in the street and not even be aware that I have taken on board all the elements in her outfit but subconsciously the next day re-appropriate part of her look. I do collect tear sheets and create mood boards just as I have done since I was at art school in the 80s. I am like a magpie gathering shiny stuff and curating it for future reference.
Do you have any signature style piece in your wardrobe?
I am currently writing a book – wearing wellbeing: how to be a happy dresser – and as part of my wardrobe self-reflection, I analysed all the pieces I wear most. I have 18 stripy tee-shirts, so they probably contribute most to what could be deemed a signature style. When I look back at the way I put clothes together I think my signature is more a sentence than a word; a way of assembling a look rather than an individual item.
What is your definition of luxury?
A vintage Ossie Clark dress: pale pink crepe de chine, maxi, with masses of tiny covered buttons, worn with no underwear and tan stacked heels.
Any styling tips for a midlife makeover?
Wear what makes you happy. Only have clothes that bring you joy, make others smile and elicit conversation so you make new friends. Shoes are the best place to start.
Midlife is a time of awakening and transformation, how can we make the most out of it?
Remember what made you happy before you were concerned about prestige, or whether you were behaving respectably, or what you should be doing, and then dig down to see what it was about THAT which gave you an overwhelming sense of joy. Keep asking yourself how you can add that element to your daily routine. I have always loved making things, turning overlooked objects into gold, it’s a kind of collecting, adapting, creating, form of magic; it makes me very happy. I do it in my personal daily life and that skill is what I use to make a beautiful print magazine with no money, which by all rights should be impossible, but with love, generosity, and a creative determination, just works. Don’t let others doom-mongering stop you doing that which you love. So many people told us that print was dead, it’s too hard, too expensive, will never work, don’t bother…there will always be someone who tries to squeeze the joy out of your life. Choose Mid-life to do what you love and do it BIG, then share it so you inspire others to follow their passion. You’re never too old and it’s never too late.
Life’s A Beach: GOLDIE in conversation
Join Rebecca Weef Smith -the 18th of July at the Devonshire Club in London- as she weaves her way through the intricacies of body image, exploring how our physical hang-ups are exploited by beauty, fashion and fitness industries obsessed by slim, youthful perfection.
Special guests for the evening are Clara Holmes, RollinFunky Blog ; David Evans, Grey Fox Blog ; Ava Fay Thompson, Classic Curve Model ; and Pippa Richardson, The Girlness Project . Between them, they’ll steer us towards the holy grail. Learning to love the skin we’re in. Wrinkles, wobbly bits, stretchmarks and all.
Tickets for GOLDIE In Conversation are £25 and available in advance via the following link https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/lifes-a-beach-goldie-in-conversation-tickets-63453007654