In a business where it’s out with the old and in with the young (“old” meaning a couple of decades), An Hayward has had a remarkably long career. Born in Belgium, Hayward became a ballerina with the Royal Ballet of Flanders. In the early ’90s, she started walking the runway with top models – including Claudia Schiffer and Cristy Turlington – as well as appearing in prestigious fashion publications, including French Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Marie-Claire and Elle. She went on to contracts with beauty titan Revlon and luxury retailer Saks Fifth Avenue before signing on to become the widely recognized “face of Chico’s.”
We sat down with her near her recent photo shoot in Miami to find out about fashion, beauty and aging gracefully.
You are certainly an inspiration in a business where most models are considered washed-up in their early to mid-20s.
WHO inspires you?
I look up to my mother and grandmother, who are strong confident women. They always told me to work hard and be myself, advice which has given me all the tools I’ve needed to be successful.
Being fashionable is timeless and true style is ageless.
WHICH designers do you most admire for creating relevant clothes that look good on women from different decades?
I would have to say Hubert de Givenchy, for dressing my personal idol, Audrey Hepburn. I love Giorgio Armani and Ralph Lauren for continuous collections that look good on more mature women. Of course Chico’s is also a go-to for me. I love to mix and match their pieces with other designers.
There is most definitely a youth obsession, with lots of women wearing styles that are far more suitable for their daughters.
WHERE do you draw the line?
I definitely draw it in terms of styles that show a lot of skin. That does not mean you have to look frumpy, but I believe that at a certain age, certain parts of your body should be covered.
There seems to be a different perception of beauty, as women grow older, in Europe than there is in America.
WHY do you think European women have a reputation for aging more gracefully?
In Europe, we put the emphasis on style and not so much on trying to look young. We believe it’s OK to have wrinkles at a certain age, it’s just part of getting older. But who says you can’t look fabulous at any age? I have no issue about aging. My focus is on staying in shape and looking healthy.
No matter how politically correct it is to say, ‘it’s great to be 50,’ many women don’t really feel that way.
WHEN do you think women of a certain age can truly feel comfortable in their own skin, or do they ever?
I think it’s different for every woman. To me, you are as old as you want to be, which means it’s a mindset. I own my age and am proud of it.
Having never been more in tune with my mind and body, I feel at my sexiest right now and truly think the best is yet to come!