A former catwalk model has been given a fashion shoot after she was spotted in her OAP home by a top Vogue photographer.
Lesley MacLennan, 85, made her name in her early twenties in Paris – working with Yves Saint Laurent himself when he was still an emerging designer.
She later encountered him again at Dior working with him both on the catwalk and in front of the camera.
Lesley is now in a care home when one day she was spotted by high-end fashion photographer James Muller – who was visiting another resident.
He said he was immediately struck by her “beautiful hands and the way she carries herself” – and she told him about her career.
James then said he wanted to capture her “poise and class” and hair and makeup was arranged to do a fashion shoot more than sixty years after her career began.
International photographer James, whose work has been featured in Vogue, was visiting a friend at Huntington House in Hindhead, Surrey, when he met Lesley.
“I met Lesley in passing and thought how amazing it would be to capture her beauty again,” said James, who is based in Farnham, Surrey.
“When I asked her to look my way or turn her face, she did it with such grace – an absolute professional. She was very easy to direct.
“I kept wanting to bring her beautiful hands in to the frame and every time I asked her to, she did so with poise.
“I feel very honoured to have photographed Lesley, she has lived such a colourful life and to be a small part of it is magical. She’s an absolute delight.”
He added: “At the end of the shoot she held my hand and told me how much she enjoyed working with me.
“I was truly touched and will never forget that moment. This is something that will stay with me forever, something I’ll treasure.”
Lesley moved to London in her early twenties after her mother spotted her potential, and then made her way to Paris, where she met Yves Saint Laurent.
Stunning black and white photos from 60 years ago show a stunning young Lesley modelling glamorous coats and large, furry hats.
And today, she seems just as glamorous and comfortable in front of a camera.
Speaking of her photoshoot with James, Lesley said: “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. I just thought it was a dream.”
And James admitted that he struggled to find many examples of models or actors of Lesley’s age when looking for inspiration for the shoot.
He said: “I did a bit of research on models and actors Lesley’s age – there aren’t many, which I think is sad.
“But I looked at photos of Dame Helen Mirren, who I find inspirational, and supermodel Carmen Dell’Orefice, who is still a catwalk queen at 88 and the world’s oldest working model.
“I drew a lot of inspiration from those images.
“Age to me is just a number. During our shoot, Lesley was ‘that’ model again. Age made no difference.
“I’m sure she has worked with many a top photographer so for me to get the opportunity at her age is simply incredible.
“I think there aren’t enough older models out there in the media. In many ways, social media etc. is telling us that it’s wrong to age, but it’s such a natural thing.
“There is so much beauty in ageing too – we’ve just been taught to look at it the wrong way.
“I’m all for taking care of yourself but also all for self-acceptance in the bodies we have and ageing,” said James.
Charlie Hoare, director of the Huntington and Langham Estate where Huntington House is based, said: “It’s been wonderful to hear Lesley’s memories of her modelling days.
“To see her back in front of the camera was just incredible – she’s never lost her sparkle.
“Finding a sense of purpose at any stage of life is incredibly powerful, and for those living in a care environment to find something that motivates them, as Lesley has, can have huge benefits for their wellbeing and state of mind.”
And Sarah Chapman, another Huntington and Langham Director, said: “Huntington and Langham’s ethos is just to promote wellbeing.
“We really want people to have a happier and better life.
“With these experiences, they can really come out of themselves, and just enjoy the days, just like they were in their 20s and 30s. Age shouldn’t matter.”