Photographer Tim Petersen

In this age of ‘fame’ happening so fast and in such apparent quantities it’s always reassuring to see the real deal. The inestimable vintage Supermodel (most definitely with a capital S) Carmen dell’Orifice is being documented in a long overdue exhibition at our very own London College of Fashion’s Fashion Space Gallery.

Curated by renowned artist David Downton – who is a close friend of Carmen’s – this promises to be tremendous. As someone you glimpse so very rarely (which of course makes her all the more intriguing), be that in cameo roles in films by Woody Allen or Martin Scorsese or in her work as a model, it will be very exciting to immerse oneself in Carmen-world. The opportunity to see an archive of work on this inspirational über-beauty by such luminaries as Cecil Beaton, Irving Penn, Norman Parkinson, Horst P Horst, Hiro and Lilian Bassman is incredible. Looking at the names you of course have to ask yourself, exactly how old is this woman? As Carmen would be only too happy to tell you, she celebrated her 80th earlier this year. London College of Fashion commissioned Ali Mahdavi to photograph her to celebrate this, thus ensuring the portfolio of her images is completely up-to-date.

Similar to the ethos of another senior model, Daphne Selfe, who Volt Magazine profiled in its ICON shoot in the 9th issue, Carmen’s work ethic is profoundly simple: ‘Show up for the job. Be careful of the company you keep and have fun… If it’s not fun, it’s no fun!’

It’s very hard to imagine this icon ever being anything but poised and elegant but according to her own candid admission when she was discovered it was as a gawky 13-year old. Throughout her 66 year long career she has clearly worked hard on her incredible presence and she is an inspiration. There is no magic fairy dust, alas, but diligent work will get you a long way. At the graduation ceremony at London College of Fashion in July this year where she was honoured along with Hussein Chalayan and journalist Lisa Armstrong, she advised the graduates present to ‘work hard, get to bed early and turn up on time’.

My advice? Turn up to this exhibition, look and learn. I certainly intend to.

CARMEN | A Life in Fashion
16th November 2011 – 14th January 2012
Fashion Space Gallery | London College of Fashion
20 John Princes Street
London W1G 0BJ

Words by Anna Bang

Carmen shot by Leonard McCombe published in Life Magazine (1947)

Photographer Norman Parkinson for Vogue (1959)

Photographer unknown. Circa 1959

Photographer Tim Petersen


Ali Mahdavi, anna bang, Carmen dell'Orifice, Cecil Beaton, David Downton, Hiro, Horst P Horst, Hussein Chalayan, Irving Penn, Lilian Bassman, Lisa Armstrong, Martin Scorsese, Norman Parkinson, Woody Allen,