Featuring: Ari Seth Cohen, Zelda Kaplan, Ilona Royce Smithkin, Lynn Dell, Tziporah Salamon. Debra Rapoport, Joyce Carpati and Jacquie Tajah Murdock
In theaters beginning September 26, 2014
Runtime: 72 minutes
Street style photographer Ari Seth Cohen and director Lina Plioplyte dive into the personal lives of New York City’s most fashionable seniors. In an industry obsessed with youth, these older women dispel conventional ideas about beauty and aging and prove that with age comes grace, confidence, boldness, flair and new, unimagined opportunities for fame and fortune.
The recent emergence of street style as a cultural phenomenon has changed the way we look at fashion forever. In 2008, Ari Seth Cohen, a recent transplant to New York City, began a journey to document the style and stories of the city’s senior set.
Advanced Style is a documentary that examines the lives of seven unique New Yorkers aged 62 to 95 whose eclectic personal style and vital spirit have guided their approach to aging. Director Lina Plioplyte follows these fashionable ladies’ daily adventures of living in the city, capturing their most entertaining and poignant moments. From the instant that Cohen first meets these vibrant characters on the streets of New York, it is evident that they are destined for fame. From a glamorous 81-year-old dancer from the legendary Apollo theater, to an 80-year-old owner of a storied boutique on the Upper West Side with a penchant for over-the-top accessories, to a 93-year-old West Village artist known for her colorful ensembles and iconic red eyelashes crafted from her own hair, these ladies offer their own unique perspective on overcoming life’s obstacles with style and grace, proving that age is merely a state a mind. Advanced Style paints colorful and intimate portraits of independent, stylish women who are challenging conventional ideas about beauty, growing old, and Western culture’s increasing obsession with youth.
The recent emergence of street style as a cultural phenomenon has changed the way we look at fashion forever. In 2008, Ari Seth Cohen, a recent transplant to New York City, began a blog depicting the style and stories of the city’s senior set. Advanced Style is a documentary that examines the lives of seven unique New Yorkers all featured on Cohen’s blog of the same name, whose eclectic personal style and vital spirit have guided their approach to aging. Filmmaker Lina Plioplyte takes a fresh and casual approach in documenting the lives of the protagonists in her full-length directorial debut. The camera follows these fashionable ladies’ daily adventures of living in the city, capturing their most entertaining and poignant moments. From the instant that Cohen first meets these vibrant characters on the streets of New York, it is evident that they are destined for fame. Meet Jackie “Tajah” Murdock – a glamorous 81-year-old dancer from the legendary Apollo theater, who has harbored dreams of becoming a high-fashion model since she was a girl. Lynn Dell Cohen, the 80-year-old self-proclaimed “Countess of Glamour” with a penchant for over-the-top accessories and owner of a storied boutique on the Upper West Side, is finally achieving her dreams of celebrity while simultaneously facing the reality of her and her husband’s mortality. Ilona Royce Smithkin, a 93-year-old recognized by her colorful ensembles and iconic red eyelashes, established a successful early career as an artist, painting the likes of Ayn Rand, only to fully embrace her potential in her 90s when she understands the value of what she can offer to others. Joyce Carpati is an 80-year-old who embodies elegance with her signature braid and pearls, passing on her fashion secrets (and vintage Chanel bags) to her willing granddaughter. Celebrated fashion icon Zelda Kaplan talks frankly about memory loss with humor on the eve of her 95thbirthday. Deborah Rapoport, age 67, is a performance artist, natural healer and textile designer whose quirky sense of DIY style has gotten in the way of finding love, until now. The youngest of the ladies at 62, Tziporah Salamon rides around NYC on her Bianchi bicycle parading her exquisite collection of vintage items collected over a lifetime, beginning the transition towards understanding what will truly bring her fulfillment. Despite their differences, the women are all united by their love of style and strong sense of self. As Cohen’s blog comes to the attention of the international fashion community, an industry traditionally associated with youth, the ladies find themselves in a position of newfound fame and cultural influence. Each offers their own unique perspective on overcoming life’s obstacles with style and grace, proving that age is merely a state a mind. Advanced Style paints colorful and intimate portraits of stylish older women who are challenging conventional ideas about beauty, growing old, and Western’s culture’s increasing obsession with youth.
A LETTER FROM ARI SETH COHEN
I grew up in San Diego and was best friends with my grandmothers. I have had a special connection to older people ever since I was a child. My grandmother Bluma told me that if I wanted to do something creative I should move to New York. In the 2008 I finally made it NYC after my grandma passed away. I was instantly inspired by the incredibly dressed, vital and active seniors I saw walking around the city. I borrowed my roommate’s camera, having never taken a photo before, and hit the streets to photograph and interview older people.
At this time I was living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and I used to visit the same coffee shop everyday. Lina was working at the coffee shop and I really appreciated her sense of style and incredible energy. One day I came in and said, “I just moved to New York and am looking for friends.” Lina was a bit caught off guard, but I knew we would have something in common. /
I told Lina that I was thinking about starting a blog that would feature my photos and interviews of stylish seniors. She told me that she always felt connected to older people too. A few months later, the blog was up and running and gaining popularity very quickly. Lina, now working as a videographer making fashion videos, contacted me over Facebook asking if she could film some of my subjects.
This is where the idea for the film was born. Lina and I started interviewing some of the ladies from my blog and realized that there was a story to be told. We eventually started a Kickstarter campaign and made the film on under $50,000. I think it’s interesting to note that this was a very organic process and an incredibly small team. It was Lina and I and a camera. We filmed the ladies off and on for over four years and are finally ready to present the film to the world.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS:
Lina Plioplyte is a Lithuanian born filmmaker, living and working in New York. Her movie-making journey began as a journalism student in Lithuania and later at CU Boulder. After moving to NYC in 2007 she incorporated her love of fashion and color in her video work for NYLON magazine. Currently she is creating short films, music videos and documentaries about bright personalities. Advanced Style is her feature directorial debut.
ARI SETH COHEN
Ari Seth Cohen is the creator of Advanced Style, a blog devoted “to capturing the sartorial savvy of the senior set.” He says, “I feature people who live full creative lives. They live life to the fullest, age gracefully and continue to grow and challenge themselves.”
Ari has a longtime interest in clothing and style and a lifelong affinity for his elders. When he was growing up, his late grandmother (a librarian) was his best friend; her “energy and attitude towards life” continue to inspire him. As a result, he couldn’t help but question the absence of mature faces in the fashion world. “I noticed a lack of older people in fashion campaigns and street style sites,” he says. “I wanted to show that you can be stylish, creative and vital at any age.”
At 31, Ari is far from being eligible for a featured spot in Advanced Style. Still, he does have a decade’s worth of professional accomplishments. His first book (now on its 7th printing) was published in 2012 and was quickly followed up by a Coloring Book on the same subject. In addition to developing a blog that’s been touted by the New York Times, the New Yorker, Vogue, and Forbes, Cohen’s photographic work includes the 2013 Summer Eyewear campaign for Karen Walker, a digital campaign for Coach, and fashion editorials for Vogue Australia, Grey Magazine, and German Rolling Stone. Before becoming a blogger, he spent years working in fashion production and retail management. Ari lives in New York City.
DEBRA RAPOPORT (69)
Debra is a textile designer, visual artist and, as she refers to herself, a “manipulator of materials,” who is so accomplished that her work has been exhibited at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Debra is passionate about the infinite possibilities of creating with her hands. She works with color, texture and layering using unusual materials to create hats, headgear, bracelets, cuffs and many other outrageous personal embellishments. She has been featured in many articles and magazines, such as Time Out New York’s ‘Most Stylish New Yorkers,’ and has presented workshops at the Museum of Arts and Design in NYC. Debra believes that you are never too old to dress up and be your most creative self.
ILONA ROYCE SMITHKIN (91)
Petite, vivacious Ilona Royce Smithkin was born in Poland and studied at the Reimann Schule in Berlin and Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Antwerp. She emigrated to the United States in the late 1930s and studied with Robert Brackman at New York City’s Art Students’ League. An Impressionistic painter noted for her life studies and portraits, she captured many of the 20th century’s “greats and non-greats” on canvas, including Ayn Rand, Tennessee Williams and singer Bobby Short. She became a frequent judge at art competitions as well as a popular TV and radio guest. Her landmark television series, Ilona’s Palette, established the instructional painting genre on PBS, and was followed by Painting with Ilona (which spawned a companion book by the same title) and Finishing Touches with Ilona. At 91, she inspires generations with her warm personality, joie de vivre, and the wisdom acquired from having lived her life as a work of art.
JACQUIE TAJAH MURDOCK (84)
Jacquie Tajah Murdock grew up in Harlem and is well known for her lifelong career as a dancer. At 17, Murdock appeared onstage at the legendary Apollo Theatre for the first time, in a troupe called Norma Miller’s Jazz Dancers, and has been dancing ever since. She is an expert in Russian ballet, was a belly dancer at Manhattan’s Istanbul Club in the 1960s, which brought her to Egypt, and was one of the first black typists at Universal Films in 1948. She has earned three degrees, including a master’s in “Media Ecology” at NYU, where she was an administrative assistant to a research professor for 30 years. She currently is a lecturer and performer at the Jazz Museum in Harlem, has been honored at the Apollo Theatre, and has performed at Frederick Douglass Academy and the Harlem School of the Arts. She is now working on a book about her life. She currently is retired and living on a fixed income in New York University faculty housing in Greenwich Village.
JOYCE CARPATI (82)
Joyce, who splits her time between Paris and New York and still works as a beauty consultant, is glamorous, witty, and, not surprisingly, given her 82 years, full of sage advice. At 16, Carpati studied singing in Milan, Italy. After singing in the opera and living in Europe, Carpati joined Cosmopolitan magazine when she was about 40 and stayed 27 years, most as marketing manager for beauty advertising. Carpati has been turning heads ever since. A friend recently called her the goddess of her Manhattan street. These days she enjoys her opera subscription, visiting museums, dining out with friends and her first love, singing, which she has returned to in recent years. “I don’t think I’ve ever lost my style,” she said. “I don’t even go outside in the morning unless I make sure that I look presentable. This is the way I am. I love clothes. I wear a lot of lovely slacks, because I find them comfortable, lovely jackets, beautiful sweaters, scarves.”
LYNN DELL (81)
Lynn is the owner of “Off Broadway,” New York’s most glamorous trend-setting boutique for 40 years. In addition to hosting a successful television show for 10 years (called “Positively Lynn”), she produced and directed weekly fashion shows at New York’s fabulous Tavern on the Green and Grand Hyatt Hotel. Millions also saw her on top-rated nationally syndicated TV shows such as Oprah and Regis and Kelly Live, and heard her inspirational lectures on the radio and on luxury cruise ships. For Lynn, it is her relentless focus on the unwavering aspects of womanhood that have allowed her to avoid passing trends and create stunning design concepts for women over 50 just like [her] who gain and lose weight regularly. It is this rare and innovative mentality that lent itself to her original creation, the “One Size Fits All Collection”. Lynn believes that all women, regardless of size or age, should not only feel confident in their clothes but also in their bodies and she strives to create a look and feel that accomplishes such a feat.
TZIPORAH SALAMON (64)
Tziporah is a stylist, performance artist, model, and legendary style icon. A favorite subject of acclaimed photographers and artists such as The New York Times’ Bill Cunningham, Iké Udé and Ari Seth Cohen, Tziporah elevates the act of dressing to an art form. She has a wide range of experience in NYC’s fashion scene, including styling both male and female clients; teaching design students at Parsons The New School for Design; styling TV commercials and shows such as “The Carrie Diaries”; acting as a designer assistant at an antique clothing store, and as a buying agent; and in sales at high end stores like Bergdorf Goodman’s. In addition to styling for media outlets and individuals, Tziporah teaches her intimate “Art of Dressing” seminars in NYC, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and beyond. Tziporah earned her MA in education, and studied psychology at the California Graduate School of Marital and Family Therapy, which honed the skills of empathy and consultation key to her work as a stylist and style educator.
ZELDA KAPLAN (1916-2012)
Zelda Kaplan exited this world much as she had lived in it for the last four decades or so of her 95 years — as an inimitable fixture on fashion’s front lines and an inveterate clubgoer in Manhattan. She was featured in the release of “Her Name Is Zelda,” a 2003 documentary that introduced her to a national audience on HBO, generated a raft of profiles in newspapers and magazines, and elevated her to a celebrity, if a minor one. The film, by Nicole Sampogna and Mona Eldaief, charted her transformation from homemaker to social gadabout flitting from party to party, sometimes alone, sometimes with art and fashion world friends like Grace Edwards, a designer who once asked Ms. Kaplan to model in a runway show. “Her life was like an ongoing photo shoot,” fashion publicist Kelly Cutrone said.
ARI SETH COHEN
LYNN DELL COHEN
ILONA ROYCE SMITHKIN
JACQUIE TAJAH MURDOCK
WITH APPEARANCES BY
ARI SETH COHEN
DITA VON TEESE
ERIC J. FEIG
DAVID AND SHARON WAX
CHARLES AND RANDI WAX
BEC & BRIDGE
HYE MEE NA
ARI SETH COHEN
SOUND DESIGN AND MIX
TOM JOYCE AT SOUND CANVAS
NESLI KAPLAN AND BYRON PARR
ORIGINAL MUSIC COMPOSED BY