Ageism is rampant

Ageism is a HUGE problem in the fashion industry, both in retail & wholesale. It is so frustrating to have such extensive experience and not be able to land an interview. The preconceptions prospective employers have about mature candidates are simply not true of the majority of people in this category. My hope is that with the significant number of mature workers needing jobs now, companies will see the value in hiring someone with experience - there is simply no substitute for it.


A lot of companies use third-party recruitment agencies to get around ageism issues. The idea is, if the agency doesn’t present older candidates, it’s not the hiring company’s fault.


I’ve abandoned all hope of returning to my former days of Fashion & Trend Director. All, and I do mean ALL, of my friends in my age group have done the same. None of us work in fashion anymore, but we all want to. I’m now stuck working p/t retail with a group of people who know nothing about the product development and a company that will not update their merchandise. Yes, I’ve tried to appeal to the corporate side of the company regarding rampant duplication in their line plans and cost cutting solutions, but it fell on deaf ears.


Shame on them!!

I knew when I lost my last job @ 55 that was it for me


There are a few tricks that can help getting around this issue, here’s what I do:

  • no graduation or any schools dates on resumé
  • removed jobs that are older than 12-15 years
  • if you land an in-person interview, appearance is key and there are smart ways to look younger that I’m sure we all know. This includes the way you dress. I’ve seen people interviewing with the worse blazers and button-ups, or even ties sometimes, that made them look much older than they were. Instead, maybe you can wear a sport coat and a clean t-shirt, for instance. Shoes are also important, a nice sneaker may be better than a Nordstrom Rack black loafer or random leather shoes :smile:
  • be careful of sharing too much of your personal life or passions/interests: these are also key age indicators!

These advices may seem obvious and generic, but based on what I’ve seen most people are not following any of those tips.


I also got a tip about your email address giving your age away as well. Such as AOL or sbcglobal…just wanted to pass that along too. :slight_smile:


With the advances in technology, fashion employees age out faster these days than they did pre the 2008 recession. Many entry level students have the same or better computer skills as someone with ten years of experience. Company owners and managers, who do not understand the value of experience, see this as an opportunity to pay someone less to do the same job. Their focus is on the money that they will be able to save in salaries, not on the sacrifice in the quality of work that will be done.


Do you find it happens more in Design; Product development or Sales? Or is it equal across all parts of the industry?

I find that this doesn’t happen quite as much in sales especially on the high luxury end. My older coworkers both current and past are all heavy hitters in sales with massive client books ($3M+). As long as you can bring in the $$$, prove your sales worth, and not have a bad rep in the network…typically money talks. A second or third language skill might actually carry heavier weight than age in luxury retail stores.

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@sacklunch it happens a LOT in design. I have heard hiring managers whisper about not considering an older candidate because they ‘wouldn’t be a culture fit’, which is the current term being used as a dog whistle for age/sex/racial discrimination. It is beyond absurd. Culture fit is a real thing to consider, but the way the term has been abused, it has lost its original intention, and until its definition and limits are well defined, it should not be used as part of the hiring process.


I have seen quite a few people in their 50s pushed out in design and usually what’s happened is they just raise up some Sr Designer who’s not equipped to be a manager (to be fair, the person they replaced often wasn’t great a managing either…). But what’s worse is, the people pushing them out have, often, been their peer in age. What I want to know is, for those who have been in the industry for 20+ years, did you witness people being pushed out early when you were jr members of the team? And then, were those people not able to find new jobs? Or is this a recent turn of events that started around The Great Recession?

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I think ageism has become much more prevalent in the past 10-15 years. There was a time when experience was sought after; now it is detrimental. When a job posting states 5-7 years experience - that means no one over 30-35 should apply. Much less 50! This is especially true for women. Just think of how many 50+ men are in the industry vs. women.


Do you think it’s just detrimental because companies are cheap and they don’t want to pay for the experience? Or is it more that people think that people in their 50s are out of touch? I would see it as the former.


I think this is extremely prevalent in design. I don’t see it happening in sales or production much to be honest.


I have asked recruiters why companies don’t want to hire older candidates. The primary reasons I was told are:

  1. Salary. They don’t want to pay higher salaries for experience.
  2. Older workers are stuck in their ways and don’t want to change.
  3. Younger managers are uncomfortable supervising people who are older than them.

Those are the reasons I’ve heard as well. My thoughts:

  1. Can’t do anything about this mindset until they see a clear causal relationship between inexperience+inefficiency=sinking profit margins.

  2. Older workers being stuck in their ways - Reductive thinking. I’ve seen both. I’ve seen older designers who still send hand drawn patterns, and refuse to learn how to do anything on the computer, I’ve also seen older designers eager to learn new systems and search for ways to reduce inefficiencies. You know…do their jobs as managers. I’ve also seen MANY young new hires stubbornly dig their heels in and refuse to change how they work.

  3. This needs to be addressed systemically, and I’m tired of recruiters using this as an excuse. This is discrimination. Recruiters need to make it clear that this is illegal and they will not support it. Ask anyone who says this to replace ‘people who are older than them’ with ‘people of color’ or ‘women’ and see how that sounds.


These are very valuable points. Never wear logo brands, shoes should be immaculate -shabby shoes/sneakers are sad. Don’t wear a dated shape. or something that is or has been too on trend.
If you. are dealing with an HR person remember you know a lot more than them. Choose your words carefully and do not talk to much. Stress the value of your experience to others
To me due to rising high fast, 40 became my cut off age. I thought it would be the last job I’d ever do. Never imagined a 17 year career. At 45 I was laid of for incredibly illegal reasons.I was very ill from 9/11 and was accused of having AIDS.
There are ways of avoiding giving your age away but the biggest trick on your application is graduation years. Also I was once asked to put dates on a resume.
Compact your resume. If you have freelance work of no importance, remove it.

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Yes. Or the application asks you when you graduated college. And if offered the job, the company brings in a junior or intern, you’re asked to mentor/train them and then they replace you. It’s a consistent pattern across apparel and home.

I had one agency ask me if I intended on retiring soon. The recruiter was older than me.

Absolutely in design. And what hiring managers don’t understand is that inexperienced designers don’t have good computer skills - they know the software but don’t know how to create color stories that sell, have no idea how fabric is printed, and struggle to create layouts that are flattering for apparel or salable for home fashions. Only experience; working in a mill,working with buyers, collaborating with talented colleagues, doing market research, can a designer have a comprehensive understanding of how to design on trend, salable products that will appeal to buyers and consumers. I have worked with young designers who are talented and creative, but I had to teach them Necessary CAD skills.