Forever In Fashion
Stylist 24 March 2010

interview: Helen Bownass

At 45, Yasmin Le Bon looks better than most of us do at 25Ö Here, she models the perennial fashion trend of Utility while talking to Stylist about her incredible life

Yasmin Le Bon is a name thatís long been synonymous with glamour, rock íní roll and catwalk prowess. But can a 45-year-old woman still cut it in the fashion and modelling world? After spending a day with her, Stylist can say a resounding yes.

When we meet Yasmin to celebrate the launch of her second YLB collection for Wallis, she instantly endears herself to everyone. Sheís imposingly tall with an envyinducing figure but itís her face thatís most astonishing.

Despite close inspection by every woman in the room, we can report thereís not a line. Nada. She wonít hear a word of it though. Sheís too busy flitting between joking with the photographer and throwing the most incredible shapes in front of the camera. Considered and well spoken, she still cracks everyone up when she launches into a rant about the reliability of Wikipedia. ďIt says Iím a vegetarian on Wikipedia, so every time I turn up on a photoshoot Iím met with a plate of vegetables. Itís a lie Ė Iím not vegetarian!Ē

Born in 1964 in Oxford, Le Bon was born to an Iranian dad and an English mum, a combination she has to thank for the exotic looks that kicked off her modelling career aged 19 when she walked into agency Models 1, despite her ambitions to be a racing driver.

After a couple of yearsí hard graft Yasmin soon became one of the worldís highest-earning supermodels. Sheís worked for nearly every designer going Ė from Chanel to Dior, Missoni to Versace and graced over 200 magazine covers, starting with the former teen bible, Just Seventeen in 1984.

Her personal life is just as impressive. Married for 25 years to Duran Duran singer Simon Le Bon, the pair got together when he saw her on a magazine cover and asked her out. Their first daughter, Amber, now 20, was born four years later (Yasmin was infamously back on the catwalk just weeks after giving birth), then came Saffron, 18 and Tallulah, 15.

But Yasminís not blasť about her success. From the beginning of our shoot she admits sheís conscious of her age and shape and how that makes her, ďdifficult to dressĒ. She spends an hour and a half trying on clothes and even apologises if sheís been a challenge. Definitely not. Thereís a reason some models are preceded with the word, Ďsuperí Ė Yasmin is more professional, passionate and dare we say it, photogenic than many models half her age. Sheís definitely still got it.

Youíre one of the original supermodels, do you still love fashion?
I think there are some fantastic contemporary designers at the moment. Hannah MacGibbonís doing a fantastic job at Chloť, Phoebe Philoís new collection at Celine is fantastic, Balenciagaís great, Giles is brilliant. And I couldnít go wrong with putting a Christopher Kane dress on. Heís become a modern classic.

What are your wardrobe staples?
Oh I so wish I was one of those girls who had staples. Itís really where I go wrong with shopping. Odd pieces speak to me and for some unknown reason I get them and they have to sit in the closet for five or 10 years before I can make them work. Although Iíll always be obsessed by Manolo Blahnik Ė I think heís an incredible artist Ė so I make sure I go out of my way to have a good time in his shoes.

Whatís your favourite thing in your wardrobe at the moment?
Iíve just bought this amazing pair of ancient workmanís jeans from France that the owner must have repatched so many times. I probably shouldnít be seen wearing them Ė they are about 10 sizes too big, but I love them.

Do you tend to keep stuff for years?
I try not to be a hoarder. I do go through times when Iíve sold stuff or given it to charity shops, but I donít like getting rid of things. I pulled something out the other day that I hadnít worn for 20 years. Luckily it still fits. The whole point in buying clothing is to have a good time in them. I love vintage clothes because I love the idea that somebody else made memories and itís almost like you feel duty-bound to create memories in the clothes too.

This is your second line for Wallis. Are you happy with the new direction your careerís taking?
I just love the discipline of sitting down and making myself do something. Iíve got so much more to learn. Iím not used to concentrating for long periods of time and Iíve had to learn to deal with compromise and limitations. Getting to work with a team, and be creative Ė thatís a real dream come true.

You barely look 30, do you feel like youíre 45?
Ah. Youíve walked in when Iíve got fantastic hair and make-up with amazing lighting Ė you didnít see me when I got up this morning Ė it was tragic. I couldnít look in the mirror.

But you donít have a line on your face.
Oh I do. Iím just very good at deflecting them so no one notices them.

Is getting older in this industry tough?
Itís strange, growing up catches up with you really quickly. The cliche that, ďBefore you know it youíre 45 and you wonder where all the time has goneĒ is so true. You still feel exactly the same inside. We celebrate youth more now than ever before so itís very difficult to grow up. Itís put me in a precarious position.

Do you struggle with the idea that youth is so celebrated?

I absolutely do. And only recently have I wanted to step off that bandwagon. Now for the first time when people say, ďI canít believe youíre 45Ē, it makes wince. I donít want to be judged because of that or by those ideals anymore. Itís fine when youíre younger, itís not so fine when you have three grown-up daughters. I need to move on from it.

Does it bother you that women are congratulated on their success, in spite of their age, instead of just being praised for being successful full stop?
Itís a shame. It doesnít happen to men. Being judged by appearance is part and parcel of society but I think we have to buck the trend and create a new way of thinking. Thatís what I got into designing for in the first place Ė to break down barriers and change ideas.

You were only 18 when you started modelling, was it a conscious decision to get into that world?
I didnít go into further education or get a proper job. People had told me I should be a model my whole life, but I didnít take it seriously until then.

Youíve had an incredibly successful modelling career, what have you loved the most?
Iíve had a really great time. Iíve worked very hard, played hard. Loved it all. We all used to love flying in for Azzedine AlaÔaís shows. He had this mixed gaggle of girls and women and became more and more rebellious; there was so much energy and sparkle to his shows. I loved it.

Are there any moments from your career youíd rather erase?
No. I think the only time Iíd change is when I turned up to jobs and was tired and moody. This is a special kind of job, itís extraordinary, and I feel bad for any times I didnít live up to that.

Your daughter Amber, 20, is making a name for herself in the modelling industry; do you worry about her entering that world?
I donít worry about it at all because she has the right personality to deal with it Ė sheís very comfortable in her own skin, knows how strong you have to be emotionally and she really enjoys what sheís doing.

Does it feel strange to watch her replicate your career?
Yes it does. Weíve done a few jobs together and that is strange. When I was 23 I didnít ever think Iíd even have children, and I never thought Iíd still be doing this when they were in their 20s. Itís the weirdest thing. I feel like Iím ready to pass the mantle on.

Do you think either of other daughters follow Amber?
You know what, modelling chooses you, you donít choose modelling. Thatís the bottom line and thatís what everyone has to learn. But all my daughters are very creative and despite me trying to manoeuvre them in different ways, you canít. Itís understandable because Simon and I are both arty and musical. Itís in their DNA, they canít really escape it.

Your relationship with Simon is one of showbizís few lasting partnerships. What do you think makes it work?
Iíve got no idea. We just like each other and we take every day as it comes. You learn a lot in a long relationship; there are lots of ups and downs, but as long as you grow together, youíre lucky.

How do you cope with getting older as a couple?
Weíre going to be hell to cope with. If we make it to grandchildren, they are going to really get hell. Iíve spent so many years being so diplomatic and sweet. Itís payback time. In fact Iíve already started speaking my mind more. But Iím allowed to; Iím in the twilight years of my modelling career.

Do you make it a rule to keep your working lives separate from your relationship?
You canít separate Simon from what he does. Itís in his head the whole time, and it becomes part of our life. Iím the biggest Duran Duran fan ever. Thereís no way I could have married and fallen in love with this man and not fall in love with all his outpourings. Because theyíre the outpourings of his soul.

How do you stay secure when your husbandís such an icon for so many women?
You know what it doesnít matter if heís the biggest popstar in the world or a dental hygienist: trust is trust. You have to have it. And you go through periods when you donít have it and periods when you do.

Thereís been so much in the papers about female celebrities dealing with unfaithful partners recently, how does that make you feel?
I feel incredibly sorry for them. These are really painful, difficult, human things that everyone goes through in a relationship. Name me somebody that hasnít gone through this. I just find it upsetting for them.

Do your girls ever ask you for boyfriend advice?
[Laughs] I have a lot to say. I hope Iím not the only mum like that. But itís because Iím half Persian. We never shut up, so Iíll say what I think whether they want to hear it or not. They are very patient with me. I donít know how they havenít murdered me yet.

So how have you kept looking so youthful and amazing for all these years? Are you a gym freak?
Not now. Not at all. Iím taking it easy. But I used to be. Iíve gone through bouts of training and really hurting myself. But now, because Iíve been modelling so long, Iíve taught my muscles a way to be.

Well you must have a strict beauty regime at least?
No. Honestly, the only thing I believe in is changing your products regularly. Itís the same with exercise, when your muscles get used to routine when youíre working out and stop working so efficiently.

So you donít have one Ďcanít live without ití product?
Absolutely not. But saying that, Iíve moisturised my whole life.

Whatís the best beauty tip youíve ever been given?
God. No-oneís ever given me any good tips, the bastards [laughs]. Seriously though, water and sleep is my new discovery. Everyoneís been doing it forever and Iíve only just discovered it. Iím always on a late schedule. Iím married to someone who stays up late, thereís jetlag and kids and Iíve always partied hard. Iím just discovering the benefits of sleep for the first time.

Your hair has become a bit of trademark, would you ever get it cut?
Yes, Iíve done it before a couple of times. To be honest itís a miracle Iíve still got it Ė I say thank you to Charlie at Jo Hansford for that. You know, I think it might be time to go for the chop; itís only hair after all. I think I need to chop it off just once more.