World's oldest model Carmen Dell'Orefice, 83, sashays down runway in Singapore

Model Carmen Dell'Orefice. -- PHOTO: DIGITAL FASHION WEEK
Model Carmen Dell'Orefice. -- PHOTO: DIGITAL FASHION WEEK

The world’s oldest working model Carmen Dell’Orefice, 83, has walked the runway at Singapore’s youngest fashion event, Digital Fashion Week.

Wearing a voluminous hot pink coat that stood in stark contrast to her snow-white hair, she appeared on local designer Max Tan’s opening show on Friday to great applause.

Looking regal and confident, she sashayed down the catwalk and blew kisses to the eager audience at the third annual edition of Digital Fashion Week, which closes today.

The American model, despite her longevity in the unforgiving business, says she never considered modelling “a career”. In an interview with The Straits Times, she says modestly, “I think of it as good luck, every booking that comes in. And if you love what you do, why stop?”

Born to immigrant parents - an Italian father and Hungarian mother - Dell’Orefice was discovered during her adolescence on the streets of New York and first made the cover of Vogue at the age of 15. “When I was a teenager, my going to the studio was certainly better than going through my mother’s closet,” she adds matter-of-factly.

She went on to walk in shows for designers such as Jean-Paul Gaultier and Thierry Mugler.

Perhaps it is thanks to her age, but the 1.77m tall model with bright blue eyes is remarkably candid about her perspective on the industry. The mother of a 61-year-old daughter and 70-year-old stepson says she is definitely for the growing diversity in the industry, both in age and ethnicity.

“I mean, is there one flower? Please! People are marketed a certain idea of beauty and they put themselves down because they don’t look like that or can’t dress a certain way,” she says, sounding exasperated.

She is equally frank about the work she has had done on her face and body. In addition to regular silicone and collagen injections in her face, she has had a now unavailable medical dermabrasion procedure that took off a layer of skin on her face when she was 37.

Not to mention the knee replacements, bone implants, lasik surgery and more.

But Ms Dell’Orefice looks forward rather than backwards.

She describes 29-year-old designer Max Tan as “an adorable boy with a long career ahead of him.

“People always ask me things like who’s my favourite photographer, and I always say the photographer I’m working with today. Because that’s the truth. What I’ve done I’ve done. It’s a part of history. But I’m history walking.”

llim@sph.com.sg

Read more about Carmen Dell’Orefice in the next issue of Urban this Friday.