Inspired by the elegance and style of many mature women, Ari Seth Cohen created Advanced Style, a movie, a blog, and social media feed, which rocketed him, and many of the subjects he photographed, to fame. Colleen Heidemann is one of these women: Her signature bouffant grey hair, beautiful fine body, her age and her inimitable style have made Colleen an instant attraction. She chats to Verve about beauty, fashion, her family and her enthusiasm for life and love.
Thank you, Colleen, for being so gracious and accepting our invitation to speak with Verve. We love your style. You were discovered in your vintage clothing store, please tell us a little about the encounter?
On a lovely Saturday afternoon in November a young man by the name of Ari Seth Cohen entered my store and asked if he could take my photo, and this was the beginning of the beginning.
You have raised two sons. They must be incredibly proud of their mum?
Indeed, I have raised two wonderful sons. They are immensely pleased that I am steadfastly working on behalf of a cause in which I believe so strongly, so adamantly, attaining a relevant, prominent place for the older woman front and centre upon the world stage. But at the end of the day, I am simply still ‘just Mum’.
Tell us a little about your love of fashion. You have a lovely sense of style, was this passed down from your mother?
Thank you for your lovely compliments. My earliest recollection of fashion stems from the beautifully made doll clothes my mother created to outfit my Terri Lee. Also, I spent endless hours playing with paper dolls, cutting, gluing, assembling, creating, changing looks which I preferred to those shown on the pages of paper doll books. Having lived in Asia as a child and having travelled somewhat extensively all of my life I have always been exceedingly interested in that which people choose to wear on the many different streets throughout the world. Style for myself—though I have many designers I dearly love to follow—is intensely personal. Usually when I first see a design I instantly form a visual of how I wish to wear it and exactly where it must be worn.
I am sure you will agree with Fran and I that age is purely a number and it is the wealth of knowledge, the positiveness that we all need as we age gracefully. Tell us how you age gracefully?
Everyday I want so much to learn something which is new. One can never be bored if this might become one’s daily goal! Now at the age of 70 I am most definitely realising that this is not only dire as it relates to the mental sensibilities but equally imperative and critical as it applies to myriad physical activities.
Never must we allow ourselves to stop reading, writing, or listening to music. Study something which has always interested you, play cards, solve puzzles—I love crosswords—write a children’s book or put your life story on paper. Get off the sofa and walk, ride a bicycle, hike, visit your local gym, be active! Someone once said to me, “You’ll be in as much pain from working or using your body as you will from struggling to get out of a chair, to find your balance.” Aches, pain, and discomfort are all normal within ageing, so make them a positive part of your life! Also might I stress, how very vital it is to remain interactive with people, whether family, and old as well as new friends. Engage in thought-provoking, wonderful conversation and marvellous laughter.
Many of us older women are deeply inspired by your unique sense of style and attitude towards life. Is there anyone in particular that inspires you?
People who choose to push the limits of their capabilities are those whom I find so inspiring. Those who find a remarkable way to get up each day putting one foot in front of the other and getting on with the discovery of life. Don’t count on time which may not avail itself to you. Every day must be an adventure!
What three words do you think best describe your attitude to life?
Not, now, when?!
How did appearing in Advanced Style change your life?
Advanced Style has changed my life in ways unimaginable. A photo was seen here which prompted a letter sent to me from a young woman living in Germany, whose name is Antonia Hemgesberg. We started an Instagram page together which due to her steadfast tenacity has allowed me a worldwide campaign with UGG as well as a modelling contract with NEXT Los Angeles. Neither of these extraordinary happenings was ever a consideration, nor did I think would ever become an actuality. A wonderful new purpose has been gifted to my life, so many wonderful women and men who reach out so positively on a daily basis. Seeing ourselves at this later stage in life in ad campaigns, magazines and television commercials will thus allow us to realise life is not slowing down, nor will it cease, but wonderfully, continue on!
What does beauty mean to you?
Beauty is that which elevates my spirit to a place of sheer joy. Any of its myriad forms: literature, music, art, design, theatre, dance, nature, and love. By all means, love! I can’t imagine trying to get through this life without some form of its uplifting presence experienced each and every day.
When not working—what is your favourite way to relax?
I have recently discovered the joy of hiking on the deserts many magnificent paths. Too, I simply adore coffee with friends!
Any special message for the women of New Zealand?
I have always wanted to visit this magnificent country which I have heard many times in my life is quite possibly the most splendid place on Earth. I am thrilled in whatever way it might be to be a part, to hold a place within your day! My love and hugs to one and all, gorgeous New Zealand!