CHICAGO — "For the first time in my life, people are saying I'm doing something good in my ads," says Calvin Klein, long known for his controversial advertising. "Before this happened, people were always screaming about them, talking about how they upset people. Now they're saying my ads are making them happy."
The ads that Mr. Klein and others are chatting up these days are not his usual brand of intertwined bodies and near-naked men in showers or double entendre jeans commercials dating to the early Brooke Shields days.
Mr. Klein's new ads are more provocative than that: They feature a 40-year-old woman.
When Mr. Klein resurrected a face from the past -- a woman named Lisa Taylor who hasn't modeled for 10 years and whose heyday in Vogue was in the '70s -- and featured her in his spring ads, lots of folks took notice.
They'll probably take notice, too, that the 40-year-old Ms. Taylor wasn't a one-time fling. Her pictures appear again in Mr. Klein's fall magazine ads later this month.
While they're at it, the trend watchers might also note that Ms. Taylor is not the only woman old enough to vote who's out there promoting products:
* Lauren Hutton is on the cover of the August J. Crew catalog, her third cover since she started modeling a year ago for the company that specializes in understated casual clothes. In the past few years, sometime-actress Hutton, who started modeling years ago, has appeared in magazine features, has modeled for Barneys New York and Revlon ads, as well as in a Thierry Mugler Paris runway show and says she's "making more money now than I ever did." She's 48.
* Catherine Deneuve, once a favorite in Chanel perfume ads, is now the image and advertising model for a new skin care line from Yves Saint Laurent Parfums Corp. that's selling in Europe and will be introduced in this country in February, four months after actress Deneuve turns 49.
* Cheryl Tiegs, who's modeled glasses for Welling International for five years, just had another five-year contract renewed, pretty reassuring since it will take her almost to her 50th birthday. Ms. Tiegs also does TV and print ads for Kraft's Light n' Lively low-fat dairy products and is the mother of 8-month-old Zack. Ms. Tiegs is 44 "and proud of my age."
* Jaclyn Smith, once a "Charlie's Angel" and now a star on TV specials, has been K mart's fashion spokesperson for seven years and the company estimates that 30 million women are wearing Jaclyn Smith sportswear, hosiery, handbags, lingerie, watches and sunglasses. She's a mother of two and is 44.
* Isabella Rossellini has been the Lancome model for 10 years and continues in what has more recently become an even stronger role as spokesperson, says the company's president Pierre Rogers, noting: "We are aging very well together, don't you think? Our customers see that Isabella has lived, just as they havelived. It shows in her eyes." Ms. Rossellini turned 40 June 18.
Though they're not alone, these women are among the most visible role models for a reality check in fashion advertising.
Does using older models ("When I say 'I'm an older model,' it sounds like I'm a car," says Lisa Taylor) portend the end of an era for the hotshot Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell and Christy Turlington types who start modeling in their teens and often peak in their 20s? Does it -- alas -- mean that aging's "in"?
"We're youth-obsessed," says Allure magazine's editor-in-chief Linda Wells. "And that is probably not going to change for awhile. But, we have come to a time when women are tired of looking at ads for eye creams and seeing models who are still using Clearasil."