Age ain’t nothing but a number!

Avon Dorsey
Jul, 20, 2017

The expiration date for most fashion models (male or female) is typically between the ages of 22-25, depending on whether or not the model has been able to secure top-ranking fashion editorial and/or campaigns. If they have secured steady work, they’re allowed to age gracefully. Yet, if no work has been booked and agencies feel that time is running out, most models get dropped from agency rosters for fear of the model appearing too old. How rude!

Rebuking the above-mentioned notion comes Aaron Walton, the self-proclaimed "Black Clark Kent," who is the co-owner of the award-winning advertising agency Walton Isaacson (Magic Johnson and Cory Isaacson are the other owners).

In addition to his day-to-day business operations, Walton spends his off time working the runway in Paris and Tokyo -- and here, he gives ESSENCE the story behind his fairytale fashion journey. Check it out! 

UMBERTO FRATINI

ESSENCE:

What motivates you to defy the societal views of age and ‘ageism’ in the fashion/modeling industry? 

AARON WALTON:

I’m a gay, Black male and lifetime fashionista.  How could I say no?  More importantly, why should I say no?  Modeling is a great motivation to eat better and get to the gym… but mostly I love it and I’m not willing to stop doing something I love that gives me such joy, just because I’m 55.  The fashion industry knows it needs to change -both in terms of age and diversity representation- and knows fully well that I’m still the customer. Most of the designers and retailers who are surviving this huge retail shakeout have cared about attracting customers who will pay for well-made clothes that look good on them, time and time again.  Nobody can deny that ageism is still pervasive in the fashion business and throughout our society, but things are only improving because fewer people are putting up with it.  I’m very fortunate to have been raised by parents who never said, “you don’t belong there.” My mother served as an example for me of someone who never stopped or let age bias get in her way.  After I graduated from Babson College in ’83, my mom went on to receive a Bachelor of Arts degree from Boston College and continued on to receive her Master of Divinity from Andover Newtown Theological School. While many of her contemporaries were winding down their careers, my mom was gearing up… and it serves as a great example for my entire family.  

Kal Lee

ESSENCE:

Who inspires you? 

AARON WALTON:

Bayard Rustin continues to have a profound influence on my life.  He was forced to maintain a lower profile in the civil rights movement because he was gay, but the intellectual heft that he provided was vital to its success. One of my favorite quotes comes from Bayard, he said, “What every community needs is a group of angelic troublemakers.”  When it comes to fashion, it would have to be Rynshu, the Japanese designer who I’ve modeled in 11 of his shows; I’ve always been aware of his creative genius, but in the process of working for him as a model I’m truly in awe of his ability to anticipate and manage the tiniest aspect of everything he does in order to bring his ideas and designs to the world.  

Rynshu

ESSENCE:

How would you sum up your career path (for those who may want to follow in your footsteps)? 

AARON WALTON:

My career has embraced many aspects of marketing and business management, from more traditional brand management at Pepsi (during the Cola Wars), to striking out on my own to create an entertainment marketing company… to reinventing myself (in many ways), by co-creating Walton Isaacson- an unconventional, disruptive advertising agency that allows me to infuse my experience in the entertainment business and love of pop culture into an industry that desperately needs to be reinvented.  Every time I’ve sensed that it was time to evolve into something different, it’s turned out to be the right decision.  Somehow the people who I’ve remained closest to in my personal and professional life are those people who keep challenging themselves.

Kal Lee

ESSENCE:

When did you realize that Advertising, Marketing and Entrepreneurship was the path for you?  

AARON WALTON:

As a member of TV’s first generation, it probably started with watching Darrin Stephens on “Bewitched” being in the ad business and thinking that I could do what Darrin was doing, without the stress of being turned into a frog by his mother-in-law!  Being Black and gay, I’m part of two groups who spend a great time observing the world around them and using those insights to tap into the emotional storytelling that is required to connect consumers with the brands that we represent.  This has allowed me -as a marketer- to evaluate everything, both factually and emotionally. 

Rynshu

ESSENCE:

Where -around the world- have your fashion adventures taken you?  

AARON WALTON:

I have walked for fashion designer Rynshu (www.rynshu.com), 11 times during Men’s Fashion Week [in] Paris.  While most of my business travel is jam-packed with meetings, my twice-yearly trips to Paris have made it a third home for me, along with Los Angeles and New York.  Every trip to Paris reinvigorates me creatively, from the fashion to the architecture to the artful way that everything is presented. It was a special thrill for me to walk for Rynshu at the only show he’s done in Japan; held at the grand re-opening of the breathtaking Himeji Castle (which dates back to 1333).

Guillaume Roujas

ESSENCE:

Why is it so important for you to follow your dreams? 

AARON WALTON:

I can guarantee that if you don’t, it will be the thing that you end up most regretting about your life.  I cannot tell you how sad it is to have so many contemporaries who’ve never articulated what they’ve wanted out of life and what would make them happy.  It might explain my obsession with the musical, “Dreamgirls” whose original title was “Big Dreams.”  Ever since I saw the show in my early 20’s, it has somehow given me strength, joy, resolve and a clear map of the good, the bad and the ugly involved with really wanting something.