March 30, 2023

“Today it makes no sense for a 40-year-old to be considered old”

It was in 1995 that Shirley Mallmann left the place where she lived in the interior of Rio Grande do Sul to enter the bustling world of fashion. Almost thirty years later, one of the first Brazilian top models to join the international high fashion circuit is still active. At 45 years old, Mallmann is part of the growing group of mature models – read 40+.

Shirley Mallman
Shirley Mallman Photo: Will Vendramini

“When I started, a modeling career had an end date, almost like a football player’s, at 30 when I retired,” she recalled in a phone interview with reporter Sofia Patsch. For Shirley, the changes in the fashion world are consequences of a more conscious society. “The consumer wants to be represented in all age groups.” Check out the best quotes from the discussion below.

I will start with a topic that is very popular, which is the fight against “age”. At 45, you’re full of work in fashion, which wasn’t when you started your career in the 1990s. How do you deal with this transformation?

When I started, in 1995, my career as a model had an end date, almost like a football player, at 30 something I retired. I remember when I got to the States, one of the first things the agency said to me was that I would have a spike, a stabilization, and then it would be over. I always had this reality in mind. And today, wow, how much that has all changed. It no longer makes sense to think that a 40-year-old is “old”. Not even.

No one…

The consumer wants to be represented in all age groups. And there’s this whole question of inclusion, which also brought light to age representation. In my case I think it combined the useful with the pleasant. I am very happy and honored to be a part of this change.

And today how is your schedule?

I’m taking more pictures. As for parades, I do less. Here in New York they are very honest, when they call for jobs they always say they are casting older women. There is no such thing as competing against 20-year-old girls. Do not. We are in that age group of older models and the designer calls us if it fits his frame.

But for publicity shots, do you feel that women over 40 are hot there in New York?

Yes. Even the agency I’m at in New York today, Model Coop, is 100% dedicated to women in my age group, something that never existed until recently. Owned by Corinne Nichols, former president of Elite Models, worked for many years with John Casablancas and now opened this agency focused on mature models. The team is well chosen, I think there are twenty of us.

You lived through the most glamorous decades of fashion, do you think those times are really behind you?

Fashion shows haven’t been the same for a long time now, the internet and fast fashion have changed it and the new generation wants different things and I think that’s part of it, but the glamor itself, what we saw in the 1990s , 2000s, is really quite different from what you see today. I was very lucky to live through that time as a model, I feel privileged to have been part of that phase of fashion, because I don’t think it will ever come back. It was good to experience this, but it is also very good to experience this change.

And what are your greatest memories from your 1990s supermodel days?

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Wow, there are so many things. Well, I was very young and very green when I left the interior of Rio Grande do Sul for New York, Paris, Milan and London. It was a time when there was no internet. So I learned it all the hard way. There were several blunders, high perrengues. But it was always this thing, Oh my god, I’m walking on a catwalk in Paris next to Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss, all the designers there… I remember perfectly the first time I saw Karl Lagerfeld, I don’t know what to say , I was shocked. The big parades were the ones that impressed me the most, because they were real spectacles, monumental productions.

How do you see a career in modeling these days?

It’s so different from when I started. When someone asks me what advice I would give to someone starting out now, I don’t even know what to say because everything has changed. There are still things that will always be there, which are fashion shows, photos, but today there is the power of social media. It’s hard work, you have to be dedicated. I think the biggest challenge for these young models is finding the balance between personal and professional life.

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