"We kept hearing women say, 'I'm not 25. I can't wear your clothes,' " says the preppy retailer's creative director, Jenna Lyons. "We did it for the women who wanted to see someone they relate to." J.Crew's mature model, a Danish stunner with a 27-inch waist, returned to modeling full time four years ago with L.A. Models as her booking agency. She had been working as a successful interior designer, collaborating with Julia Louis-Dreyfus and other notables. "I was seeing girls that I used to work with, and so I got back into it," says Gronning, who was discovered by Eileen Ford in 1974. "I am much more relaxed about it now, and I am doing amazingly well." Using models with some existential mileage makes sense for a few reasons. Baby boomers and thirtysomething Gen Xers see the best physical examples of their peers and glean hope that they, too, can age as well. They also covet the good life experiences that often come with good looks. "The aspiration in these ads has shifted to having a full, rich life. Open up any Vogue and you'll see models over 35," says John Caplan, president of Ford Models. "In the Rolex ad, you have Carmen Dell'Orefice, and she's in her 70s."
Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times