Today’s greying Gods and Goddesses are not going gently into that good night. There’s too much life to enjoy. Take Fern Mallis, the founder and face of Fashion Week. She left its helm when she was 61, took a breath and reinvented herself as president of her own fashion and design consultancy, a television and radio fashion personality and general industry representative. She was honored Monday for remaining in the game so long and well, by the Carter Burden Network (CBN), founded by Susan L. Burden, at its (newly named) Silver and White Night gala at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. For 48 years, CBN has taken care of seniors at their centers, that brings them together for a variety of programs and hot meals, staving off the loneliness, isolation and degeration that old age can bring.
“It’s never too late,” Mallis told Hamptons.com about the “golden years.” “It’s time to honor this time of life. Stop worrying about products that are anti-aging! There’s nothing wrong with aging. It’s what we all do. It’s time we acknowledge it, celebrate it and look at the positive benefits of it.”
The evening honored Silver Influencers on Aging: Iris Apfel, businesswoman, interior designer, and fashion icon; award-winning designer Stan Herman; award-winning filmmaker and journalist as well as former editor at large of Allure Joan Kron; and Tony Award-winning producer Fran Weissler. Michele Ateyeh, leading corporate business manager, retail director and licensing expert for fine jewelry and designer accessories; Jeffrey Banks, acclaimed Menswear Designer; and Brett Beldock, interior designer and product designer, were the evening’s Co-Chairs.
“I’ve known founder Susan Burden for a long time and always heard about the Carter Burden Center she founded,” Mallis, told us. “But, when I visited one of their centers, I was blown away. I saw a room filled with older men learning to play the guitar; another with women making beautiful pottery, another, filled with fabrics and trims, where people made dolls. These retired older people want to stay active and keep their minds alert. They have no other place to go during the day. Lunch, a delicious hot cooked meal, is a dollar. Breakfast is 25 cents. If people can’t afford it, they give it to them anyways. Everyone in the building was happy, cheerful and using their minds and hands. For people who don’t have other resources, this is their community center.”
“People are living much longer. Many, especially in New York, can’t afford to retire. But, we still live in a society that, unfortunately, discards a lot of people after 50 or 60. We’re a youth oriented culture. But, in fact, the brains, talent and experience of seniors is valuable, and needed more than ever. This event is to shine a new light on how you can keep reinventing, rebooting, doing things, staying functional and making a contribution to yourself, your family, your community and society.”
Fern brought some of her own role models on vibrant aging to the benefit table.
“Stan Herman is 91 and still designs uniforms, drives to QVC every week to work,” she said of one of her longtime friends who lives nearby in Southampton. “He still plays tennis every week. He just did the uniforms for the TWA hotel in Kennedy, and still designs uniforms for Jet Blue and Fed Ex.”
“I have been friendly with Joan Kron since she covered design for The New York Times, which turned out to be only half way through her career. Instead of retiring, she became a contributing editor at large at Allure for the next 25 years. At age 89, knowing nothing about directing or producing, Joan decided to make a movie. She almost couldn’t get the funding because they thought she’d die before it was finished.” It was so successful, she’s now making a second film.
“Then there’s Producer Fran Weissler, who has Waitress on Broadway now with her husband Barry,” Mallis continued. “They have won seven Tony’s, including for Pippin and Chicago.” At 91, she’s as sprite, funny and clever as ever.
“Last but not least is Iris Apfel, 98 years old. She has more campaigns, jobs and endorsements than you can shake a stick at.
“They’re all inspirational to me.”
For more inspiration – or information – www.carterburdennetwork.org.