Wearing a bright floral ensemble with her short hair dyed blonde, Chinese model Ma Yinhong struts a ShanghaiÂ catwalkÂ with a style and swagger that belie her 56 years.
She made her modelling debut just two years ago and is already in demand, working for leading fashion brands such as Dolce & Gabbana.
Ma is one of a growing number of olderÂ modelsÂ sought after by Chinese and international labels trying to court the countryâs growing faction of âsilver spenders.â
She seems to embody this target market of older Chinese who are spending more on themselves.
âI never go out without dressing up and getting made up. I never let myself look like an old granny,â Ma told AFP at a recent show for Uooyaa, which used a mix of younger Chinese and foreignÂ models, as well asÂ seniors.
With her bleach blonde cropped hair and punk-inspired style, 56-year-old fashion model Ma Yinhong is defying stereotypes of an age group commonly referred to in China as ‘aunties’
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Once confined largely to life insurance and healthcare ads, today glamourous ChineseÂ seniorsÂ are in demand for high fashion.
âThey save me as âbest for lastâ in fashion shows after youngÂ models, so I am quite visible,â Ma said.
By 2050, one in three people inÂ China, or 487 million people, will be over theÂ ageÂ of 60 â more than the population of the United States â according to the official Xinhua news agency.
This greying population, combined with rising incomes and living standards, means an explosion in consumption byÂ Chinaâs elderly is forecast in coming decades.
Once expected to selflessly stay home and mind the grandchildren,Â seniorsÂ â particularly women â have become a coveted market for products like clothing, fashion accessories, cosmetics and travel, according to consumer research firm Mintel.
Portraying olderÂ modelsÂ in active, youthful lifestyles sells well in a culture with a strong tradition of respect and deference toward elders, part-time model Liu Wei said.
âA sense of sophistication can show in the facial expressions ofÂ seniors,â explained the 52-year-old.
He added: âHandsome young men, even with their good bodies, cannot convey maturity.â
Liu only began modelling two months ago and does it as a hobby. The owner of two listed companies, he typically appears in adverts as a successful businessman.
âThe market forÂ seniorÂ modelsÂ inÂ ChinaÂ is not huge yet but it is growing,â said Michelle Chien, a modelling agent with ESEE Model Management, one of the cityâs largest agencies.
This echoes a trend now well established in Western markets, where brands have been keen to tap the pockets of the affluent baby boomer generation.
In the past five years, catwalks globally have seen greaterÂ ageÂ diversity andÂ models such as Jacky OâShaughnessy, Jan de Villeneuve, and Elon Muskâs mother Maye Musk, making names for themselves as fashion stars in their 60s and 70s.
In her youth, Ma had hoped for a career in fashion design. She moved to Japan to study in the 1980s but did not graduate as she could not afford the fashion fees.
But she did not start modelling until getting her first gig two years ago after sending her photo to a Shanghai fashion house.
Despite fashion brands embracing the grey hair and wrinkles that come with olderÂ models, Ma said it was still important to stay stylish and in shape.
She gets her hair done every three weeks, and stays fit with daily breathing exercises and regular workouts at the gym.
Ma explained: âKeeping in good health keeps me on theÂ catwalk. There isÂ noÂ ageÂ limit in fashion, so hopefully my dream can continue.â