Caroline Labouchere, Model
Reading Time: 4 min
Social Impact: A grey ambassador for women and models alike, proving you can achieve what you want and take a new direction at any point in your career.
There’s often an unspoken expectation (especially for women), that reaching a certain age means one thing: compromise. However, the the past year, the life of Caraoline Labouchere has been anything but. After a happy life content with working alongside to support her family, she’s become one of the most recognisable faces in the modelling industry.
Kick-started by a No.1 Rosemary Water campaign that graced the pages of British Vogue, her unique look has been coveted by increasingly big-name luxury brands including RIXO and Ulta Beauty. With such huge jobs on the go and an amazingly positive welcome whne we greet her at her Kings Road house, it’s easy to mistake her gratitude and excited nature on her future to be the result of a long uphill journey in an infamously competitive industry, but what we discover is an incredible humble women, grateful for every amazing thing life has thrown at her.
And we’re shocked when we ask what she was doing last year, she answers with a smile:
“Last year I was a school receptionist, I’ve always followed my husband in the army for 30 years and didn’t want anything else, but now things are changing.”
So your incredible career started through a desire for a career change?
“No, not really, it came about by chance. My daughter was working for No.1 Rosemary Waterrosemary water, and she showed a picture to her boss who was looking for a grey model. He was asking big people who had equally big prices. He saw a pic and said: ‘I’d like to have her!’ So, the next thing I knew, I was on a plane from Dubai to London for my first job! I don’t remember thinking ‘can I do this?’ It just was the right time.”
The first of many, her career has only snowballed ever since; but we ask if, being such a natural to a scene many find intimidating, if she’d modelled before.
“I had modelled once in 2015. Me and my daughter Mimi were watching a Kylie [Minogue] concert in Dubai and this Italian photographer came up to us and said ‘I want to photograph you!’ So that week we did a shoot with him, but I felt so awkward; I felt like I should be standing behind my daughter; she’s the model, not me! I didn’t feel comfortable at all, I remember thinking ‘Why am I here?’
So, I never thought it was something I’d ever do again. But this time, with No.1 Rosemary Water, there was never a thought. They dressed me, made me up, and I felt fabulous. I totally believe in the right time for everything, even when meeting people.”
Is this an approach you’ve always had to life?
“Actually, I never used to be like that: if i was invited out I’d be more likely to stay in, I like the whole idea of ‘home’. I could have become a recluse like my mum and my granny, so when we bought land in Canada I was ready to live in the middle of nowhere, but now I have this amazing exciting life, I don’t want to go anywhere!”
The most unmistakable part of Caroline’s look, and the one thing that’s brought her such respect and love from women internationally, is her iconic grey hair, so we have to know if it was something she always knew she was going to do.
“I’ve inspired my daughter to go grey too, but it was never something i was conscious of doing! I went to Dubai grey, and every woman who I met said I couldn’t do it; if you’re in Dubai and you’re grey, you’re a visiting grandparent! I just feel that now it’s flicked a switch doing the rosemary water how amazing grey is.”
Although a Dubai-residing Londoner, Caroline carries a deep love and fascination with life and a spirituality that would go over the heads of the average metropolitan. Seeing gorillas in Rwanda, white witches and face exercise are just some of the topics we speak about; a kind of connection Caroline tells us is being lost:
“One day, me and my family were going into a restaurant and I saw this girl who I had suhc a pull to, so I went up and asked if she wanted to sit with us. I think we fight our instincts, we ignore our gut; there’s a reason you have a pull to certain people, you learn little things from every person you meet. But these days we have our heads down and we just march.”
Do you find London to be one of those lonely cities?
“All cities are lonely, but even when I’m running around where we live, I say hello to everybody and maybe 5% of people say hello! It’s a funny old world, we’re losing the whole speech thing, human connection and the eye connection which is so important. Engaging with people is vital to us, but to hear other peoples lives is fascinating. It’s up to us to take control and make those changes, if we don’t do it, it’ll go.”
She’s flourishing in an industry typified by cattiness and coldness, so we wonder if this is something experienced in her line of work as well as day to day:
“I’ve been very lucky, I don’t know if it’s an age thing.”
Perhaps lack of naivety?
“No! I’m so naive: I have no idea what I’m doing! I have so much to learn, the youngsters I work with are so nice and respectful. I’ve never come across catty women, because I’m different. It’s only if you have a room full of women who all look alike that tends to happen.”
What about other people your age? Do you think there’s a reason that you’re different to be pursuing dreams at this stage in your life?
“That’s the thing, there’s plenty of people who’ll get married, have kids and then that’s it. They’re in their homes, they’ll be there a number of years: you become content, but not happy.”
We have the fortune of visiting Caroline the day after completing a 100k walk with her son and the man that she says has kept her grounded for years: her husband.
“We started to walk alongside a couple at the 100k walk who’d just started on their jorney together and they asked for advice. We just said: you’ve got to work at it and never give up. Unless someone does something terrible to you, nobody is perfect. You may have bad times but you’ll come out stronger the other side. My husband pisses me off, and I’m sure I piss him off too, but I wouldn’t have anybody else in my life.”
What about the rest of your family? We hear your daughter has also modelled?
“Mimi left school early to become a model at sixteen. It’s such a tough world, where they shout out your measurements in those horrible castings, but she got through it. She still does a bit in Dubai but doesn’t want to be a model anymore with the pressure, body issues: she just wants to enjoy life!”
‘Just like her mother!’ we say, and she laughs with:
“Right! It’s got to the point where I take her out, I’ll chat to industry people and she won’t believe I know them! It now means I get to be the mummy that takes her daughter to cool parties.”
Words by Hannah Crosbie
Photography by Nora Nord