|Yasmin Le Bon: The Dream Life of an Icon
Madame Figaro 17 June 2016
interview: Éric Dahan
translated by me
Supermodel of the 1980’s, she has lost none of her sparkle. Her secret? Good genes, without a doubt… and a family stability that is rarely seen in her profession. Giorgio Armani has once again made her his icon for his New Normal collection. Confidences.
It is raining on Ladbroke Grove when we meet Yasmin Le Bon at Sunbeam Studios in London. The simple mention of her name sparks memories of the 1980’s. Golden boys stepped over the homeless to get to Wall Street, AIDS decimated celebrities and unknowns, crack took its first toll – but the Parisian and New York temples of the night, such as Les Bains Doubles, Danceteria, and Area were filled with supermodels straight out of magazine covers: no sooner had they arrived via the Concorde, Renée Simonsen, Tatjana Patitz, Stephanie Seymour, Elle Macpherson, Christy Turlington, and Paulina Porizkova let loose on the runway.
Exuberance and good humor were still de rigeur in the couture and ready to wear houses, people fervently awaited the wild antics of Pat Cleveland and Janice Dickinson on the catwalk, and after midnight no one feared being snapped by a portable phone while engaging in shocking or sexual misdeeds to wind up on some upstart’s blog. It was the golden era when accountants and marketing directors didn’t dare come close to the security cordon at fashion show after-parties that most often consisted of a dinner for about twenty friends, like those that Jean Paul Gaultier organized at Privilège and Les Bains Douches where Tanel, his star model, would get up on the table during dessert to give a catwalk parody, turbaned with a napkin like a stewardess. Propelled overnight to the top of the best-paid models in history, Yasmin Le Bon, who you could run into at Davé in the arms of her husband, singer of Duran Duran, was terribly sexy and endearing.
Born in Oxford, from a Persian father and an English mother, Yasmin Le Bon was not predestined to a life of oversized yachts, photo sessions in the Bahamas, and sleepless nights in Tokyo and Milan. If it wasn’t surprising that she was one of the faces of Giorgio Armani’s New Normal collection, a line created in 2015 for the 40th year of the house, it’s because she continues – like Linda Evangelista and Cindy Crawford – to fascinate designers. Taking a break after posing for three hours before our lens, she talks about her childhood, wrapped in a white robe.
To hear it, she was a real terror, “stronger and faster than the boys in the running. I was very sporty, a bit literary, and overly scientific. I was also fascinated with the collection of pre-Raphaelite painters in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, Michelangelo, and the Renaissance in general,” she recalls. Her mother was a nurse in an operating theatre; and when she returned home in the evening, she regaled Yasmin and her sister with gruesome details that made their father shudder. The latter taught photography and instilled the basics of this art in Yasmin, who considered making it her career. The teenager who would later exalt the creations of Dior, Versace, and Chanel and play the feline in the pages of Vogue, Elle, and Harper’s Bazaar did not attract boys. “I was horrid. I looked like the devil, a drug addict, a tramp. Even today, when I show up at the studio, I have the feeling that people are wondering, ‘My God, but what are we going to do with that one?’ Then I turned to makeup, I put on clothes, I transformed, I became a model,” she laughs. Discovered out of high school, she was 21 when she caught the eye of Simon Le Bon: “He was my first boyfriend. What attracted me was that without being macho, he could care less about what others thought of him. My sister and I wouldn’t have been able to live with insecure men, because my father taught us to be strong and self-confident.”
Thirty years later, the couple is closer than ever and lives in a mansion not far from the Thames with their three daughters, “their boyfriends, their friends, my nieces, their cats, their dogs… it’s a real commune, a small hotel where no one pays.” Her eldest, Amber Le Bon, is also a model and her youngest, Tallulah Pine, is a booker in an agency. They often compare their respective stories, because “only someone who has been there can understand the ambiguity of situations, the unspoken things. There are more and more hairdressers, makeup artists, photographers. As a result, it’s easier to take advantage of them. My generation fought for models to be respected, and from that perspective, there is a certain step backwards.”
Recent paparazzi shots have not done her justice, because she has undeniably grown more beautiful. “Oh no, I don’t think so,” she retorts. “Regardless, I wouldn’t be able to notice because there aren’t any mirrors in my house, I think it’s unhealthy; just a single one in the bathroom that my daughters, their friends, and Simon fight over in the morning.” Plastic surgery? “I have a friend whom I ask, every year, to start work but he dissuades me. If I decide to, it will be by personal choice, not to give in to outside pressure. To be honest, I don’t really feel like a woman, I hate it when people tell me what to do, and I have a big mouth: if I see an injustice, I go off. I wouldn’t have lasted 24 hours in a normal job.”
Over the past few years, Yasmin Le Bon has been designing clothes and jewelry. After Wallis, where she had a big hit with a military jacket, she now works for Windsor [sic], a recently-launched label that proposes “quite classic clothes but of high quality and at affordable prices. The challenge, it’s to respect the customer’s taste but without sacrificing my personal touch.” This campaign for Giorgio Armani’s New Normal collection, for which she was one of the historic models, is an occasion to look back: “We partied a lot in the 1980’s. After the shows, we got so crazy that I was certain that I would die at age 25. Each time I had a new child, I put my career on hold, but offers continued to flow in. Today, I have to be careful, to work with people who give me self-confidence; because at age 51, you’re more fragile, less confident about your body.”
If we have never heard her talk about Iran, she is not indifferent to what’s happening there. “I follow the news, but sometimes I stop. You can’t constantly expose yourself to the tragedies of the world; it’s agonizing and destructive. I’m happy that the international sanctions have been lifted, even if Iran continued to pull through despite them. Of course, a corrupt regime has replaced another; it takes time for democracy to set in.”
Her favorite designer: “Azzedine Alaïa, absolute elegance, a mixture of power and femininity, unbelievably sexy, clothes that hug your body and make you look beautiful, as long as you are confident in yourself.”
Giorgio Armani’s New Normal line: “In three words? It’s beautiful, luxurious, and functional. Basic and flowy: structured and fitted while remaining feminine. You can recognize a Giorgio Armani jacket a mile away, even if you are always surprised by the details.”
Her influences: “What inspires me while I’m designing clothes? Sports, the 1970’s, disco, vintage cars… Isn’t that a lovely program? The 1974 Alfa Romeo Montreal, with its V8 motor… Hmmm, that’s what excites me.”
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