Dialogue: Veruschka and Yasmin Le Bon
Original supermodel meets archetypical 80s version: German-born Veruschka has been an icon since the '60s, collaborating with the world's great photographers. Yasmin Le Bon hit the catwalks in the '80s, married a rock star and still models. In Melbourne for Fashion Week, they did lunch with its director, Robert Buckingham
YASMIN: Veruschka, you must have seen many changes in modelling and fashion.
VERUSCHKA: A long time I am around. I wasn't in modelling all the time. I was in and out. Models in the 60s and 70s were a totally different story. There were the models for the catwalk and the models for photography. I never did catwalk. I remember seeing Yasmin, and I thought you were so fantastic on the catwalk. So beautiful, like a goddess... but I was too shy to do that. Giorgio [Armani] would say 'come on, be in my show,' and I would say 'I can't do it.' But then slowly I got a little less inhibited. In those days we also had to know how to do make-up. I went further with my make-up and invented things, but every model had to know how to do it.
ROBERT: So you just went on the shoots with the photographer, no stylists?
V: Nothing. They trusted me.
Y: It was still a bit like that when I first started. I did plenty of jobs where I did my own hair and make-up. I can remember jobs where I had to bring my own shoes, my own evening dresses. It's a great discipline and to know how to do it is a part of the craft - because it is a craft.
V: Yeah, we had to have a craft. Now a model doesn't necessarily... she gets made-up, and her hair gets done.
Y: I think it's important to be part of that process because you bear some of the responsibility.
V: Also, what makes a difference is that the girls all looked different then... Sometimes now I go through a magazine and I can't tell which girl is which.
Y: I think a part of it is also to do with the fact that there are so many models now, so many of them are a similar age, a similar look, so the ones that aren't like that really do stand out. I think the business of modelling has just grown so much. There are so many more people involved than there used to be.
V: In a way it's more business minded now. Everything has to sell, and everything has to have a purpose. [Back then] we often invented things that were just for the fantasy.
Y: It's great to be a paid schizophrenic. I love it! Go to work and change character every half hour - how brilliant.
V: That was my fun in modelling, to be really always different characters. In my book, Emanations, this is what I do, I do 30 characters.
Y: That sounds like a real model's dream, I have to say. Any real model aspires to do something like this, they really do.
V: I also wanted to give some lectures, to have little workshops with people where they can get out of their skins.
Y: It's so important these days, I think, for people to express themselves. People feel like they're a statistic, a number, they're part of someone's market research, and they don't want to be. Even if it's simple things like choosing whether to wear gold or silver, you make these choices and it's part of your expression.
V: It's very important that people can break out of their skins and do something else. As a model, I always did it like this and my book is a continuation: I asked designers all over the world to do different clothes for different characters, so Calvin Klein did Garbo, walking all by herself in the streets of New York in the sunglasses; Marlene Dietrich was done by Donna Karan.
V: Also I asked some students in Paris what they think of the future of clothes; what do they think women will look like?... They came up with great ideas, so I have this incredible outfit with herbs growing in the plastic collar.
Y: That's what you expect from students.
V: That's right, I said, 'My God, do something wild.' One did a very good thing, he did a CD raincoat, all with real CDs. That would be good for your husband [Simon Le Bon, lead singer of Duran Duran].
Y: It would be great for us... We have boxes and boxes and boxes of the worst CDs.
V: Make it a CD outfit.
Y: That is it. Brilliant, he's going to love it.
R: We were talking about the importance of touch.
Y: I've given up modelling so many times, but I remember one time, after about 10 or 11 months, I was walking around with this really empty feeling. It was very strange. It took me such a long time to work out what it was that I was missing - touch. When you're a model you constantly have people dressing you and brushing your hair every single day of your life.
V: Yes, yes.
Y: It has an effect on you. You mistake all this touching for affection. It's amazing how people underestimate the power of touch. My husband does a really clever thing, actually. When I get really stressed and really tense - it's one thing after another and life's too fast - and he sees that an argument's brewing or something's going wrong, he walks straight up to me and he just hugs me, and suddenly it changes the complexion of the whole situation. You put it all back into perspective...
R: I suppose that's why pets are so important to people for affection. Do you have lots of pets?
Y: No, I've just got lots of children!
V: I have pets because I consider affection so important...
Y: You think you can do without it - we all think we're so strong.
FORM AND FASHION
Y: Fashion is an art form, but anything's an art form. Maybe the end result of fashion is about letting the beautiful woman come out and shine, rather than whatever's surrounding her.
V: You know, for me, Issey Miyake is definitely an artist. I love his clothes but I wouldn't wear them because I don't want to be a walking sculpture, I want to be feminine.
Y: You'd feel so inhibited, wouldn't you?
V: Well, yeah. There are things sticking out. Also, I love them on the catwalk but I wouldn't want to wear Vivienne Westwood's clothes.
Y: Yes, because who would be wearing whom? The clothes would be wearing you.
V: I think the person's always more important. I don't want people to talk about my dress, I want them to talk about what I have to say or about my face.
R: It's not necessarily that fashion is art, I think art has a different objective, and there are a lot more limitations... Probably fashion's tradition is more in the decorative arts. Like a beautiful chair, it is designed and has a function. Clothes are designed, they have a function, they have to be worn. They're not so much fine art as limited art.
V: Art and fashion are becoming friends. People say 'Now that you are an artist,' and I say, 'No, you are born an artist.' Maybe you have not practised it, but you are an artist or not.
Y: Absolutely, it's in your nature or it isn't.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
R: Do you enjoy travelling, Yasmin?
Y: To be honest it's quite a joy now, because nobody can bother you on the telephone. I have a bit of a phone phobia anyway. The idea of telephones ringing makes me start twitching, so it's quite wonderful. I feel calm. I can read my book whenever I want, I can catch a movie, I can sleep. [There's] nothing I have to do, which is just bliss.
V: When you have a free day in your own place, never is it like that?
Y: Never. There's always something to do - can't sit still, can't relax, can't do something nice for yourself.
V: I know, it's crazy. Why can't we do it?
Y: I spend all my life trying to build this sanctuary in my home, a comfortable sanctuary, and actually I don't do anything comfortable there!
THE BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL
R: I suppose it's hard to know, but can you imagine not being beautiful?
V: I don't feel so beautiful.
Y: I think most days I don't feel very beautiful at all. Maybe if I had a hair and make-up artist, a good stylist and some good lighting, then, yeah, maybe I feel beautiful.
V: We learn to work with our faces. Therefore we can all do it, but I have days when I feel terrible. I remember they were always saying to me, 'You are so perfect,' and I would say, 'Listen, now, I have to tell you one thing. You should see the way I look in the morning with no make-up on.' Sometimes you look better, I think also. What you see in magazines is a work, put together. Maybe sometimes we have good bones and are photogenic, but I see so many great people who do nothing with themselves.
Y: Beauty is sort of how you feel.