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IWTB Interview: Linda Morand

IWTB Interview: Linda Morand
By Heather Dunhill

A mod sartorial shift was in the air during the Sixties, a convergence of high fashion with the Space Age Super Chick, and as one of the supermodels of the decade, Linda Morand had the instantly alluring right stuff. She was discovered by the incomparable Eileen Ford, inspired the illustrious Pierre Cardin as his muse, and was photographed by the most celebrated names in the fashion world like Helmut Newton and Richard Dormer.

The unflappable Morand also walked the coveted Parisian runways in the finest of prêt-a-porter and haute couture, much of which was made especially to fit her, by fashion icons such as Jean Patou, Karl Lagerfeld, Emanuel Ungaro, Paco Rabanne, Louis Féraud, and Valentino.

During her mod M.O.D. (Model Off Duty) hours, the girl with the sleek and chic Vidal Sassoon haircut hobnobbed with those who retained exclusive European titles as well as those who were to inherit their own countries. One evening in particular, she even found herself on a surprise double date at Maxim’s with Prince Rainier and Princess Grace. And, for a lifetime she’s been likened to the former First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy, a comparison that Morand intentionally shied away from as a model wanting her own distinct look.

This modern Long Island ingénue became one of the most photographed faces of the Sixties, for which she’s earned a rightful place in fashion’s history. Today Linda Morand is a fashion philanthropist who chronicles the industry’s history while keeping an eye on mentoring the generations to come. If you’d love to know more, stay tuned; her memoir is in the works. Below we gain insight into her intriguingly stylish life that most fashionable femmes can only invent in a schoolgirl-like parallel universe…

Let’s begin with your first modeling job in Lilly Pulitzer, how did that come about?

It was the summer of 1964. Having graduated high school on Long Island, I decided to spend the summer in Key West, Florida, before attending Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City in the fall. One day, Jim Russell, the owner of Key West Hand Print Fabrics, approached me with the usual line, “Did anyone ever tell you that you look like Jackie Kennedy?” Did anyone ever tell me? I felt like saying, I wish they would stop already, but I said yes, sometimes. He offered me a part in a fashion show. They had a small building on Duval Street in the heart of Key West, where they designed the exclusive fabrics for Lilly Pulitzer, just emerging on the Palm Beach scene. She favored colorful detailed silk-screened prints on polished cotton. I was chosen to model the dresses in a sort of boutique modeling setting. They also took a picture of me for an ad that appeared in The New Yorker, my first professional modeling job. I returned to New York in the fall encouraged to try the big time.

When were you discovered by Eileen Ford?

It is funny to say that she discovered me, but in a way she did. I had a hard time being accepted by the Ford Agency at first because at the time she was only interested in Scandinavian blondes. But the demand for someone with the Jackie Look had become great so she scooped me up, had me groomed into the ultra-mod, Space Age Super Chick image, and sent me off to Paris. It was written about in a syndicated newspaper article. All doors were open to me. Eileen was not happy when I did not return to New York for five years. Paris in the Sixties, with London, Rome, and Ibiza a hop and a skip away, was not to be missed. I made a new life for myself in Europe and do not regret my decision to become an ex-patriot for a while.

Incredibly cool (and enviable!) that your signature hairstyle — a closely cropped asymmetric cut — was crafted by the master, Vidal Sassoon. What was that experience like?

I was always careful to wear my hair very differently from the former First Lady while I was a model. At first I had it shoulder length, while Jackie wore hers in a chin length bouffant bob. Eileen Ford sent me to the Vidal Sassoon salon, newly opened in New York City, the very hub of the mod look. They designed the little ergonomic bob that hugged the shape of my head, very short in the back with full bangs in the front. With one side covering my ear and the other side trimmed to show the ear, it looked very odd at the time. I did not like it at first, but it seemed the magazines did and I began to work a lot. I posed for some iconic images with Betsey Johnson dresses which were so original at the time and still survive today in museums and galleries. I also modeled for Mary Quant. The haircut was perfect with those clothes.

I can’t let the opportunity pass to ask about your evening with Prince Rainier and Princess Grace. Whatever do you discuss with His and Her Serene Highness over a late supper at the legendary Maxim’s?

So many of the models were courted by photographers and rock stars but I was more attracted to the Continental type. Shortly after I arrived in Paris, to walk the runways and appear in magazines, I was invited to sophisticated parties that I could only dream about back home. There were still strong influences from classic Europe, with emphasis on history, art, and tradition and manners. I was part of the mod movement that would change all that. With Courrèges and Mary Quant introducing miniskirts, the up-and-coming models traded in their teased up bouffant hairstyles for sleek bobs. With the emergence of millions of young people coming of age, the Baby Boomers, the dynamics of society were changing. In Paris, London, and Rome the aristocrats, whom Diana Vreeland dubbed the Young Bloods, were fascinated by the middle-class youth, the mods, who were emerging as the top photographers, actors, and models with a new way of looking at the world. It was the dawn of the Space Age; we were going to the moon. Anything could happen.

Top models were treated as young ladies and most behaved so. I was introduced to a charming gentleman about town named Albrecht, a prince of the tiny principality of Liechtenstein. He was young, handsome, and the brother of the reigning prince. He invited me to dinner with friends. They turned out to be Prince Rainier and Princess Grace, rulers of another tiny principality of Monaco. I was only nineteen years old and was awed by the magnificent restaurant, Maxim’s, and the stellar company. Princess Grace was radiantly beautiful. The royal couple was dressed in formal attire, having attended a state function earlier. Grace was wearing a white pearl studded Dior gown, diamonds, and a tiara, and of course the beautiful engagement ring. We dined in a private room. It was quite informal with no need to use titles or curtsy or anything, thank goodness.

They were so gracious as to make it all about me and ask me questions about myself, my ambitions, and my successes, putting me at ease. I had always been taught not to talk about myself so much, but to ask polite questions. So I asked Princess Grace and Prince Rainier how they met. They told me she had been in Monaco, ten years before, while filming To Catch a Thief with Cary Grant. There was to be a publicity photo shoot at the palace and Grace was to be presented to the Prince. But when they arrived the Prince had been delayed somewhere. So the photographer began taking a few shots of Grace around the palace. They were in the throne room when he suggested that Grace go sit on the throne, just as a joke. At that moment the Prince walked in and that was his first impression. “I saw this lovely vision sitting on my throne and took it as a sign,” he said. “I made up my mind, then and there, to marry her if she would have me.” They told me a bit more about their romance and marriage. Albrecht had been in the fairy-tale wedding party. That evening is one I will never forget.

As a Fashion Editor who reviews Vogue Paris for IWantToBeAnAlt.com, this question is a must…The Helmut Newton shoot for VP’s September issue, 1973 – how amazing was that? I heard it was such a great success that Richard Avedon sent a telegram of congratulation to Newton with a note that said Jackie Kennedy was ready to sue!

I had been running from the Jackie comparison, which I felt limited my scope. I had short hair and later, when I decided I would like to have longer hair, I dyed it auburn. When I went to see Helmut Newton, who was then the one of biggest photographers in the world, he immediately remarked on the likeness. He asked if I would do a shoot dressed and coiffed like Jackie O. I said it depends on who the photographer is and for what magazine. He said “How about me for Vogue Paris, shooting in Dior, Chanel, and Givenchy. And we will use your name in the story." It was an offer I could not refuse.

My eyebrows, which I had plucked into a thin line, were thickened and darkened. That was all they had to do really. Jean-Marc Maniatis, a top stylist, brought a long brunette wig and my makeup was done to make me look a little older. In most of the shots I am wearing sunglasses but my favorite is one in which I am standing with a US Marine outside the American embassy, where I am not wearing glasses.

Helmut and I planned a paparazzi style shoot in the streets of Paris. He went across the street with a telephoto lens and I got one chance to stride past soldiers and Parisian policemen at the Palais Bourbon, while he shot away, unobserved by them with a motorized camera. Those officials were in the magazine with me, unaware, as background figures. The pictures were so strikingly realistic that Jacqueline thought at first it was herself. Then she was ready to sue the magazine because she hated to be imitated, which always put a big burden on me who could hardly help it. She once sued Oscar de la Renta for using a model named Margaret Donohue, inferring that she was Jackie, in a double-page ad in Vogue. But seeing my name in print deterred her. Avedon sent a telegram congratulating Newton on the spread. One life-size picture from this series is in the current Newton Exhibit on tour around the world.

This did lead to a lot more work for me in Europe, but I altered my style to a glam Thirties look and specialized in cool haughty stares, something Jackie would never do. If I dared to smile though, I was a dead ringer.

Speaking of Jackie, did you ever have the opportunity to meet her? Did the “twin” subject come up?

Early in my career I met Jacqueline Kennedy. It was chronicled by syndicated columnist, Marian Christy. I was having lunch in P.J. Clarke's, a famous New York restaurant. Who was sitting nearby but the famous lady herself, with Pierre Salinger who had been President Kennedy’s press secretary. It was like looking in the mirror. My companion knew them and introduced us. Mr. Salinger said, “Boy, you two look enough alike to be sisters!”

My friend told them that I was on the cover of Mademoiselle that month. “Oh,” Jackie said with a smile, “You must be the model everyone is saying I look like.” So gracious was she to turn it around like that. It endeared her to me even more, I had always been a big fan.

However I left for Europe shortly after to escape the constant comparison. Jackie was not so well known there as she was in New York until the Seventies when she was married to Onassis. I made a life for myself over there. Peter Beard, the famous photographer and former fiancé of Jacqueline’s sister, Lee Radziwill, approached me in the same restaurant years later. He shot a series of portraits with me because he could not believe how much I resembled Jacqueline, whom he knew so well. He and his friends said I had the same mannerisms, the same gestures. It was not as if I had to act the part. One of the pictures appeared in Esquire magazine.

It’s certain you’ve received numerous compliments in your lifetime – any one stand out as touching and memorable?

That is hard to answer. I was recently interviewed for Hamptons.com by Douglas Harrington who said: “Although Morand, like many of us from the flower power generation, now qualifies for senior discounts at movie theaters, she is a still a stunner with intoxicating looks and a figure that the average 20-something would envy. In a word, she remains to this day an absolute beauty.” I was flattered that he would say that!

Now that I am semi-retired I have more time to lend to good causes. I am very involved in Models Against Addictions and Super Role Models, an international group of successful models, exceptional individuals, and established figures in the fashion industry who want to help create a better society, via becoming role models. We acknowledge the power of the fashion world and believe that we can set an example and spread the awareness throughout the global society. I am also very fond of Last Chance Animal Rescue on Long Island who do incredible work finding good homes for dogs on Death Row, literally.

So in the future, if I receive any compliments, I would like them to be for the work I am doing to help in some way, and encouraging others. And if anyone wants to say I am a good mother, I would take that as the best compliment of all.

If you could go back in time, what would you whisper in the ear of that mod model?

I would whisper to buy up property in Europe while the price was so low and the dollar was so high. I did not understand real estate then and missed some opportunities for very good investments. I would have also encouraged her to further her education, perhaps go for a doctorate in the subjects which interested her. This would come in handy later in life, back in the real world. Oh, and not to fall in love at first sight.

I’m completely interested in your work as a fashion archivist. Please share some insight into what you’re working on…

Since the spring of 2006, I have led several educational/dialogue internet groups consisting of models, photographers, art directors, agents, archivists, and beauty artists who have been active since the 1950s until the present day. We have assembled, scanned, identified, and cataloged over 25,000 fashion and beauty images of the famous models of the mid-Twentieth Century, especially the Sixties.

Our archives are consulted by designers, Hollywood costumers, artists, beauty professionals, models, and photographers.

For the fashion faithful: How about a few must-see documentaries from The Supermodels Hall of Fame collection?

We are working on one right now about the supermodels of the Fifties. This is an area that has not been explored as much as the Sixties and the Eighties. There is a great interest in the Fifties generation by young people. We want to get the interviews done while many of the participants are still with us. Through this I met Daniel Patchett, who is the webmaster of jeanpatchett.com (Jean Patchett Tribute). He has extensive and excellent archives of original photos of his famous relative who was one of the most celebrated models of all time.

I’ve chosen a few of my favorite photos of you — would you share a story or tidbit about each shoot and who you’re wearing?

This picture was done by Gunnar Larsen, a Danish photographer who had me under contract for a week along with Jeanette Christjansen, who was Miss Denmark and later married John Casablancas, the founder of Elite Models. We drove around Paris to all the fashion houses during the collections just after the shows. Jeanette and I would be hastily fitted into the latest creations, including the shoes and jewelry. Then we went outside to be photographed in the nearby streets. Then a quick change and on to the next couture house. It was very exciting to be there and to wear those impeccably tailored outfits, to meet the designers and to wear the exquisite clothes. This Yves Saint Laurent two-piece outfit was made of black satin, with long, wide pants and a leather and gold chain belt. The pictures appeared in syndicated newspapers and magazines all over the world.

Here is another Dior dress. This was taken at the Vogue studio in Place du Palais Bourbon by Richard Dormer. It was my first job in Paris. I was thrilled to see Jean Shrimpton, the British supermodel, and Brigitte Bauer, a top model from Germany, who were shooting for Vogue with David Bailey. Catherine Deneuve was in the studio too. Love this dress. My hair was cut by Alexandre de Paris whose clients included Liz Taylor.

This picture was done for Italian Vogue. You can’t see much of the location but it was the beautiful Villa d'Este in Rome. I was often photographed in a beret, which was my favorite headgear and still is. You always look jaunty and chic in a little beret.

Here I am in Lanvin. This was done for Vogue Patterns. They made the dress on me. I worked for them a lot and had the experience of having dresses made to my size. It was a thrilling experience to be in the heart of Christian Dior, Pierre Cardin, Yves Saint Laurent, and others, and to see just how much skill and artistry goes into making a couture outfit.

You’ve crossed paths and enjoyed the company of fashion icons. For fun, tell us three words you’d use to describe:

André Courrèges: Handsome, Dynamic, Daring.

Helmut Newton: Complicated, Brilliant, Droll.

Valentino: Suave, Handsome, Refined.

Pierre Cardin: Brilliant, Excitable, Mean.

Karl Lagerfeld: Proud, Genius, Remote.

Vidal Sassoon: Charming, Innovative, Heroic.

Paco Rabanne: Original, Flamboyant, Insightful.

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Photographs courtesy of Linda Morand.

Reader Comments (7)

A very interesting interview. Love everything about it
31 mai 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbernie
she really does look like Mrs. Kennedy ahahahah!
31 mai 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbernie
Truly LOVED getting to know Linda -- thank you for the intro, Kellina!
31 mai 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHeather Dunhill
Wonderful interview! Loved every bit of it.
31 mai 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPhyllis
I love the Vidal Sassoon cut!
Great interview, and the documentary about 50s models would be very interesting!
31 mai 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKate
WOW! Thanks for an amazing article!
3 juin 2013 | Unregistered Commenterpaul
Wow! She is so divine!
13 juin 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRTG

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