How We Met: Yasmin Le Bon & Maria Grachvogel
The Independent 23 October 2011

interview: Adam Jacques


Maria Grachvogel, 42

An acclaimed British fashion designer, Grachvogel is a London Fashion Week veteran whose designs have been worn by Scarlett Johansson and Victoria Beckham. She lives in London with her husband and son

One of the amazing things about Yasmin is that she's never really aged. She has this serene beauty that's timeless, while I seem to have got older and older. I remember first seeing her in the "New Faces" section of Elle magazine. She was so natural and beautiful. It's hard to explain what a model has when they have "that thing", but she just had it.

I met her through a mutual friend at a rock concert at London's Astoria in the mid-1990s, and we had a good, civilised night up on the balcony watching absolute chaos going on below. In the fashion industry it's lovely when you come across someone who's genuine.

I first featured her in my autumn/ winter 1997 collection and she became a regular on my catwalk. I've always loved to use models who have a little bit of their own sense of style and character and who are not just clotheshorses.

The friendship grew from working with her, but we became even closer when I became pregnant in 2009. I was afraid to have kids, but I had an admiration for how Yasmin had kept her body amazing after three children. We talked about it and she gave me a degree of reassurance. We had a a laugh about how the brain goes a bit fuzzy once you've had babies: it's a well-known but little publicised fact, but she reassured me that [clarity] does come back.

Now I have Ansell, I observe things in a different way. Before, I didn't really make an effort to get to know her children, but once you're a mum you connect to kids in different ways. She's since brought her youngest daughter to one of my shows, and then she [Tallulah] recently did a work placement in my studio. When you see the values someone's child has been given, it tells you a lot about the mother. Tallulah came the week we were about to move offices, and helped us by scrubbing and cleaning the new space.

It's an interesting moment in modelling now. The past 10 years were full of "Who's the latest thing? What's the latest thing?", but that attitude has changed and people are looking for more interesting models. We've returned to a time with deeper values which is great for people like Yasmin, who have such a strong sense of who they are.

Yasmin Le Bon, 46

A British fashion model and designer who's posed for the likes of Calvin Klein, Versace and Chanel over three decades, Le Bon lives in London with her musician husband Simon and their three children

We met through a mutual friend, Julia Rhodes [the now ex-wife of Duran Duran keyboardist, Nick Rhodes], at a gig. Unusually, it wasn't a Duran Duran gig, we saw Supergrass. We had a great time together and got on well, though I'm not even sure I knew what she did at the time.

A few years after that, when she started doing shows, she got hold of me on a professional level and asked me to take part in a few of them. I'd actually worn a couple of her pieces, and I loved them; they stood apart from everything else that was going on in London. She loves women and wants to make life easier, so her clothes were not about torturing women but about loving all our bits and being able to wriggle into an outfit that makes you look wonderful. So when I got the call, I leapt at the opportunity.

She gives off this wonderful airy-fairness, which I adore, but she's a very exacting businesswoman and can be quite demanding to work with. Over time, when you work with someone you respect, you become friends. Maria knows all of Simon's [Le Bon] music and we've been to a few of his shows, too, but I don't push any of his newer music on to her well I might after a few glasses of wine. What I love most is her ability to be soft but assertive. I'm more aggressive and would love to be more like her.

Maria's a mum now. I think I may have told her a few untruths to make it seem easier then it really is, which I feel bad about, but you have to play certain things down as a mother otherwise no woman would want to have kids ever again.

Motherhood has also given her a new lease of life and you can see that in her designs. What's genius about them is that she designs clothes for herself. Every time I go out with her I say something like, "Those pants are so good." And she says, "I know, they're mine."

There's a lot of Maria's items in my wardrobe. One, a beautiful teal-blue dress, I wore for Simon's 50th birthday. Different designers empower you in different ways and with Maria there's something grounded about her outfits. Tallulah wants to go into design, so she did work experience at Maria's studio. I said to her, "If you want learn how to cut, honey, this woman can cut."