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Carmen Dell'Orefice: 'All the Models I Cared About Are Gone'

Legendary 80-year-old model Carmen Dell'Orefice walked the runway for Marimekko. We asked her some questions and then she schooled us about sunscreen.
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While backstage at the Marimekko show yesterday, I noticed a few legendary names included in their run of show. In addition to Sessilee Lopez, Carol Alt, and Pat Cleveland, 81-year-old Carmen Dell’Orefice was in the lineup.

Dell'Orefice snagged her first Vogue cover in 1947, at the age of 16 (take that, Karlie Kloss) and has been photographed by Richard Avedon (check her out here, in Pierre Cardin for Harper’s Bazaar in 1957) and Irving Penn. When I saw her gamely walking around in a Marimekko polka dot tunic-pant ensemble and a floppy bucket hat, I cornered her to ask her some questions.

Fashionista: How do you feel about going on the Marimekko runway? Carmen Dell’Orefice: I’m doing this out of sentiment. [Years ago] Marimekko was the only place that had mother and daughter outfits. My daughter is 60, I’m 80. Until my daughter hit her teenage years, all she wanted to do was dress mother and daughter.

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What is that? (gesturing to a beauty product Dell’Orefice is holding.) A secret weapon beauty product? Sun damage. Stay out of the sun. Your body stores it. And you don’t know it yet...but I can see your lovely, little charming freckles at your age. You’re very vulnerable unless you have sunblock. Can you get a terrible burn on a rainy day?

Yes. [Writer’s note: Thanks Mom, for always being so vigilant with sun protection, that we were probably the only family to come back from a Hawaii with zero tan.] Thank you, you are [part of] an informed, younger generation. I just had a lot of cancer stuff removed from my body. I was a swimming person. I didn’t go brown in the summer, I turned black.

Are you familiar with Kate Upton? No. I am the least fashionista person. All my friends are dead. All the models I cared about or knew are gone. Except for Carol Alt, who is like an adopted daughter to me. She’s so beautiful and has the right attitude for someone in the middle of her life.