Is ‘silver’ the new black for luxury?

Dolce & Gabbana's Summer 2015 campagin
Dolce & Gabbana

Older women have become the new face of several fashion houses in recent months, a sign that global luxury retailers are increasingly switching their focus to elderly consumers.

In January, French brand Celine put renowned author 80-year old Joan Didion on their spring 2015 ad and a few days later, 71-year old singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell appeared in a Yves Saint Laurent feature. In February, Kate Spade's spring fashion shoot included 93-year old American style icon Iris Apfel and earlier this month, the world's oldest supermodel, 86-year-old Daphne Selfe, fronted the new campaign for H&M's high-end label "& Other Stories".

The ads celebrating wrinkled faces and grey hair are a concerted effort to target elderly consumers, marking a significant turnaround from traditional marketing to younger, millennial groups.

Brands are waking up to the fact that people over 65 – defined as elderly – make up the one of the fastest growing groups of global consumers. Last year, 5.3 million elderly individuals boasted an annual gross income of at least $150,000, Euromonitor said in a new report Tuesday. $150,000 is widely considered a high income bracket.

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With the global elderly population expected to hit 2 billion by 2050, up from 841 million presently, according to World Health Organization estimates, the wealth of graying consumers is also expected to swell.

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"As the aging trend marches on, we predict that this high-income population will increase by a massive 140 percent to reach a global population of 7.4 million," noted Fflur Roberts, Euromonitor's head of luxury goods research.

"Their high share in the top income bracket indicates great opportunities in a wide range of luxury goods sectors from fine wines, champagne and luxury spirits to art and antiques."

Luxury's recent pivot towards the silver market is still a novelty among broader retailers. A survey by Age UK this month revealed that 39 percent of people aged 65 and over believe businesses have little interest in the consumer needs of older people.

Developed markets like Europe and North America have the wealthiest elderly populations, Euromonitor said. In the U.S., earners aged 65 and over amounted to 40 percent of the high income population while the elderly in Western Europe make up the largest age group with an annual gross income of $150,000.

High-income elderly only account for 5 percent of the emerging markets population, but that's expected to hit 8 percent by 2030, Euromonitor noted. China currently has the greatest elderly high-income population, while Israel, Kazakhstan, Indonesia and Uzbekistan are also seeing robust growth.