Lois Joy Johnson’s Message to Marketers: Stop Ignoring Women Over 50

The roster of media mavens, moguls and boldface names spotted today at Michael's.

DianeClehaneLunch_FeaturedToday’s Lunch was one for the books. When PR princess (really, that hair is to die for!) Maury Rogoff invited me to join her and her good friend Lois Joy Johnson at Michael’s, it occurred to me I hadn’t had the occasion to chat with Lois since she was the fashion editor at Ladies’ Home Journal and I was working in the PR department at Anne Klein. That was 27 years ago. We were both teenagers at the time. We got together today to talk about Lois’ new book, The Woman’s Wakeup: How to Shake Up Your Looks, Life and Love After 50 (Running Press) published earlier this year and her gig as columnist for AARP. I love it when my Lunch dates aren’t afraid to offer up more than a press release disguised as conversation. Lois did all that and more. Buckle up, it’s going to be a bumpy column.

Dorinda Medley and Diane Clehane
Lois Joy Johnson, Diane Clehane and Maury Rogoff

She really let it fly as she lambasted plenty of heavy hitters in fashion, beauty and the media for ignoring women over 50. Among those in her cross hairs: Anna Wintour (“She is pandering to the youth market”), Saks Fifth Avenue (“I look at the clothes in their catalogues and think, ‘Who is buying these?'”), J.Crew CEO Mickey Drexler (“I emailed him and asked: Have you noticed if women in their 50s and 60s are shopping in your stores? He told me ‘That’s not our target audience.’ Really?”), footwear designer Stuart Weitzman (“When I told him most dresses are too short he told me to wear over the knee boots. Sorry, but no.”) and the beauty industry (“I called CEW [Cosmetic Executive Women] about doing a symposium about the buying power of women over 50 — Christie Brinkley was willing to do it — and I got no response!”) She also called out fellow boomers Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb for opting not to have Lois on the fourth hour of Today to talk about AARP’s new Beauty and Style Guide available as an app. “Who do they think is watching their show?”

“Race is not an issue anymore in the fashion and beauty industries, apparently gender isn’t either; size isn’t an issue. Apparently the one issue that won’t go away is age,” said Lois. Companies have turned their backs on female baby boomers in hopes of capturing the hearts, minds and wallets of — yup, you guessed it — millennials. “Everyone jumped on [that market] when the truth is we [women over 50] have the money. We’re the ones buying cars and are fueling the travel business with trips and hotel stays. We outspend millennials 2-to-1 and have three quarters of the [country’s] wealth. Shame on you fashion and beauty industries!”

A passionate, longtime advocate for this all-too-ignored demo, Lois was one of the founding editors of More, whose warts-and-all fashion spread in the mid-90s featuring a make-up free, stripped down to her underwear Jamie Lee Curtis set off an avalanche of coverage for the then-hot magazine and positioned the title as the authority which spoke to and for women of a certain age. Editor in chief Myrna Blyth and her team — Lois among them — launched More in 1997 with a fearless mindset. “We didn’t give a damn what anyone thought. We felt empowered. We were feminists and we wanted a magazine for us.” When I asked Lois what she thought about the magazine’s shuttering [this month’s issue was its last] she didn’t hold back. “When Myrna left and then I left and the heartbeat was gone. Advertisers began running the magazine.”

The rare companies that aren’t afraid to buck the youth-obsessed trend are few and far between, said Lois. When the conversation turned to the country’s obsession with the Kardashians, we all agreed we’ve seen about enough of Vogue’s darling of the moment Kendall Jenner, currently shilling for too many companies to count. Lois gives high marks to L’Oreal Paris. “They got it and they still do. Diane Keaton and Susan Sarandon are in the ads and they know there are a lot more women walking around who look like Helen Mirren [than younger models.]”