At Huntington and Langham Estate, we love delving deep into the histories of our residents – from discovering previous generations, to learning about their career journeys.
When we discovered that Lesley MacLennan, 85 years old and living in Huntington House, had been a model for Yves Saint Laurent in her early 20s, we wanted to help her relive this special time in her life.
Lesley began her modelling career at age 25, after her mother had realised her potential. When talking to Lesley about the start of her career, she told us: “My mother thought I had beautiful hands! She took me to London – she was very ambitious for us. She was a wonderful woman, so determined to ‘do’ something. I was 25 and not married, so I was old enough to know it, to feel it. I didn’t mind it at all.”
Lesley’s career started in London, and continued in Paris. This was consequently where she started modelling for Yves Saint Laurent – a then emerging designer – and later with him at Dior, both on the catwalk and in front of the camera. She learned how to walk, develop the etiquette and do her make-up like a model – something many girls and women had aspired to in those days.
60 years after beginning her career, Lesley returned to the face of the camera when esteemed fashion photographer, James Muller, visited the estate. He was visiting a friend at the time, and happened to stumble across Lesley – who had “beautiful hands”, and was immediately struck by the way she carried herself, visualising himself capturing her poise and class.
Subsequently, we worked with James to arrange a professional photoshoot at the estate. Lesley had her hair and make-up done, and was dressed in vibrant clothing and jewellery.
Following the shoot, Lesley told us: “I thoroughly enjoyed the photo shoot – James made me feel perfectly at ease, he was the real McCoy! I would have said so if he wasn’t! The red and black outfit was so vibrant, it was stunning.”
It was an honour to help Lesley relive her modelling days, and it was wonderful to learn about her history of working for one of the biggest names in fashion. Photographs and visual memories are particularly important to us here at the estate, since they offer an unfailing sense of comfort to so many people – and in Lesley’s words, pictures last forever.
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