With her striking looks, stylish wardrobe and jet set Dubai lifestyle, Caroline Labouchere has all the hallmarks of a successful social influencer. But there is one crucial difference, she is 54.
Despite a few of high profile exceptions (see the unapologetic Iris Apfel and Baddie Winkle), there’s still a huge lack of influencers over the age of 40. Even less with natural grey hair. Yet 32% of the women that use Instagram are over the age of 35. So it’s little wonder that her following and influence is going from strength to strength as she blazes a trail.
Caroline’s Instagram bio reads, ‘Dreams do come true’. It’s a sentiment that sums up her journey since January when she was cast in a campaign that would appear in British Vogue. “My life completely changed” she says. Now Caroline has almost 42k Instagram followers and is a fully fledged influencer with collaborations for brands like Kurt Geiger and a recent appearance at London Fashion Week under her belt.
“So many amazing things have happened in the last 10 months. I still have to pinch myself. Being a model or influencer just wasn’t on my radar.”
Caroline’s success as a style icon is at odds with the criticism often levelled at the fashion and beauty industry for their lack of representation of older women. Caroline admits its a feeling that resonates with her too: “I am disappointed by make up companies that are owned by people of my age. They only use young models when we need to inspire all.
“Some companies are thinking ahead and using models of different sizes, ethnicities and ages, but I think Instagram is still the best for showing a diverse range of faces. I love it for that.”
Vamp’s Co-Founder Aaron Brooks says Caroline’s popularity is part of a much wider movement. “Thanks to social media, we are seeing more diverse standards of beauty. There is still a long way to go, but it’s refreshing to see Instagram users who are breaking traditional beauty taboos – whether that’s showing their pimples, stretch marks or grey hairs – and earning huge followings as a result.”
The effects are slowly rippling through the rest of the fashion world. Older models are appearing on Fashion Week runways and in magazines. But thanks to Instagram, people no longer need to wait for traditional institutions to catch up. They can follow the people they feel represent and inspire them, and get their updates live and direct.
Caroline’s followers regularly leave hundreds of comments on her posts. Reacting to everything from her outfits, confidence, grey hair and fitness regime. “The response so far has been mind blowing. I am truly astounded at how it has taken off” she says.
Despite this – and the interest from brands – Caroline is reluctant to call herself an influencer: “I think it is over used and occasionally abused. I am happy that brands are interested in me, but I only work with companies whose products or services I would use.”
Brand are definitely interested explains Aaron: “Marketers are waking up to the fact that they can reach niche audiences and achieve more diverse and relatable representation through influencers.”
“You don’t have to fit a cultural norm to be beautiful” says Caroline. “I just want to encourage women to be their best selves. I am not saying do as I say. I’m trying to talk the talk, not just walk the walk.”