NEW YORK — Living legends from the earliest years of the supermodel era won big cheers and loud applause at New York fashion week Monday, demonstrating that beauty has no sell-by date.
Carmen Dell'Orefice, 81, the Irving Penn and Salvador Dali muse who, more recently, lost her life savings in the Bernie Madoff investment fraud scandal, sparkled in a caramel gown at the climax of the Norisol Ferrari show.
Also walking the Lincoln Center runway for the New York designer, who launched her sophisticated ready-to-wear collection two years ago, were Carol Alt, 51, and Karen Bjornson, 60.
They displayed a work ethic as serious as any of their upstart teenage peers, with Alt revealing on Twitter how she was up before dawn to make it to the make-up table for Ferrari at 5:00 a.m.
Ferrari clearly appreciates an older clientele, saying in her show notes how she was inspired by "the curves of Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth and Rita Moreno, all strong, confident women who command attention, desire and respect."
From the formal elegance of Ferrari, Dell'Orefice and Alt kicked off the high heels and raced downtown to join pioneering black model Pat Cleveland, born in 1952, to walk the youthful Marimekko show in floral Converse high-tops.
It was the first time that Marimekko, the venerable Finnish textile manufacturer and lifestyle label famous for its colorful prints, and fast expanding overseas, has shown at New York fashion week.
Asked how many shows she would be doing this season, Dell'Orefice -- a 16-year-old when she first appeared on the cover of Vogue in 1947 -- told AFP with a laugh: "As few as possible. I'm a print model."
She agreed to do Marimekko because her agent of 30 years, Patty Sicular, "twisted my arm... I do what Patty says." Both model and manager are at Trump Models, which launched a "legends" division for older models earlier this year.
Alt, Bjornson, Cleveland and Delle'Orefice all featured prominently in the just-released HBO documentary "About Face: Supermodels Then and Now" by filmmaker Timothy Greenfield-Sanders.
Other designers and labels who held shows Monday included Donna Karan, Reem Acra, Thom Brown, Belstaff, Carolina Herrera, Theysken's Theory and, in the evening at the Lexington Avenue Armory, Marc Jacobs.
Theysken's Theory, steered by Belgian designer Olivier Theysken, sent out a range of fluid and sophisticated looks, worn by models in identical wigs, beginning and ending with scalpel-sharp tuxedo suits.
"In this collection, I wanted something more projected, a bit more distant, and not fixed so much in our little reality," Theyskens, who joined Theory in 2010 after creating his own label in 1997, told AFP backstage.
Founded in 1951, Marimekko is a rarity in the highly globalized rag trade -- a fashion and lifestyle house that manufactures its own textiles in its home country, with three factories humming in the capital Helsinki.
Under its chief executive and principal shareholder, former banker and self-acknowledged design junkie Mika Ihamuotila, it has been growing aggressively in Asia and North America, with new stores in China and Japan.
"We don't want to separate design and production," Ihamuotila told AFP backstage. "We want to be totally different from the other fashion brands that design in New York and outsource their production in Pakistan."
Marimekko's chief fashion designer Noora Niinikoski said it was no surprise that bright-colored outfits come out of a Nordic country that's shrouded in winter darkness for half the year.
"We need color," she said, "and its natural for us to see the positive energy of color."
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