The divine Delevingnes: Cara Delevingne's society family

She’s just been crowned Model of the Year and has her sights set on Hollywood. So what’s behind Cara Delevingne’s overnight success?

All of a sudden, Cara Delevingne is one of the most recognisable faces in fashion. Hers was the name on everybody’s lips during the Spring/Summer 2013 shows, and she confirmed her meteoric rise by winning Model of the Year at the British Fashion Awards on Tuesday night. She has “the diversity and originality that we’ve seen in all the greatest British models,” Caroline Rush, CEO of the British Fashion Council, told the Standard. She then went on to praise her “unique sense of style and attitude”.

Editors and designers the world over have so fallen for Delevingne’s elfin look and distinctive eyebrows that the 20-year-old Londoner is being talked of as the next huge star of British fashion — Kate Moss, anyone? 

In her spare time, Delevingne hangs out backstage with Rihanna, is best friends with Georgia May Jagger, and parties with Harry Styles — a tabloid-tempting social life that affords her the mainstream recognition enjoyed by few in the world of fashion.

But she is playfully at ease in the face of banks of cameras — smiling and posing rather than pouting and scowling, and turning up to events in animal onesies or her favourite cotton beanie.

How does this girl have it in her to walk in Karl Lagerfeld’s blockbuster Chanel shows, peer down on Times Square from a 40ft billboard for Burberry and still have the poise to dress like a student and pull funny faces with the stars?

Look at the family, say those who know.

In contrast to Moss or Naomi Campbell — rising out of Croydon and Streatham to international profile — for Cara high society fame and gossip column interest run in the blood.

Occasionally described as country aristocrats, the Delevingne clan are in fact of one London’s best-connected high society families — a long line of debutantes, party boys and millionaires whose antics have set a high bar for their latest celebrity member.

Cara’s mother, Pandora, 52, was one of the society beauties of the Eighties — a striking debutante who was friends with Sarah Ferguson from school and pushed onto London’s social stage by her mother at a young age.

She fought a crippling heroin addiction in the public eye, at one point moving into the former home of gambling club owner John Aspinall in Belgravia so that her daughters didn’t have to experience her daily trials at close quarters. “Sometimes they have had to live with me being too ill to mother them, which has been agony for me,” she told Tatler, which has benefited from Pandora both on its pages and in the making of them, when she had a spell working there. Now a personal shopper for Selfridges, Pandora has also been instrumental in helping dress the Duchess of Cambridge for duty.

Charles Delevingne, Cara’s father, moves in the same circles. A dashing “debs’ delight” as a young man, his grandfather was the politician Hamar Greenwood, 1st Viscount Greenwood, and his late aunt — Doris Delevingne — was a society girl close to Winston Churchill. Charles made his money in property, and demonstrated his skills when he sold the family’s Grade II-listed Belgravia house for £10.5 million during the worst of the credit crunch.

But more colourful still is the sisters’ grandfather, Sir Jocelyn Stevens — a drinking friend of Princess Margaret’s and former chairman of English Heritage. After breaking up with Pandora’s mother, Janie Sheffield — once a lady-in-waiting to the princess — he lived with Selfridges heiress Dame Vivien Duffield for years, and is remembered for celebrating his 50th birthday by flying 130 friends to the upmarket Swiss ski resort Gstaad for a ball where the tables were reportedly decorated with trees of diamonds and precious stones.

“I suspect Cara is not particularly fazed by social situations because she comes from a very social family,” says British Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman.

A few years ago, it was her sister Poppy’s name that was doing the rounds in the world of fashion. Taller, with a more conventional face, and six years Cara’s senior, Poppy has done campaigns for Burberry, Anya Hindmarch and, as a muse to Marc Jacobs, is a face of Louis Vuitton.

A former flatmate of Sienna Miller’s and friends with Princess Beatrice, Poppy is a society name in her adopted home of New York — glamorously swanning around Governors Island polo and the chic Standard hotel. Poppy was spotted by modelling grande dame Sarah Doukas during Cara’s speech day at fashionable Hampshire private school Bedales, where both girls went after Francis Holland School for Girls. She recently got engaged to her longtime boyfriend James Cook.

Cara and Poppy’s older sister Chloe went to Stowe, in Buckinghamshire, before marrying nightlife kingpin Louis Buckworth, at St Paul’s in a huge society wedding. However, she left her husband after 17 months for property developer Ed Grant, and is said to be training to be a doctor, building on her biomedical sciences degree from UCL.

Does being a member of the devilish Delevingne clan contribute to Cara’s remarkable confidence? “I think that’s probably true,” says Shulman. “She’s part of a big family, she’s used to mixing with all age groups. I’m sure that’s what gives her some of her confidence, and some of her spirit.

“Cara’s very, very alive, and she’s got a kind of confidence that somebody like Agyness Deyn probably had,” she adds.

But is there a danger that her twin roles — socialite and model — are going to make things difficult for the next anointed queen of British fashion? Cara, who like Kate Moss is managed by Storm Models, has been photographed going back from a club in Harry Styles’s car and partying with Rihanna after a recent London gig. Are those kinds of engagements compatible with walking the biggest runway shows in the world?

“To be a successful model you’ve really got to apply yourself,” says Shulman. “I am very supportive of Cara, I think she’s an interesting new British face, and we need people with personality and girls who have a resonance out there and who aren’t bland.”

There’s certainly nothing bland about the Delevingne family’s latest star and she might well decide to do something different quite soon.

Acting beckons — she had a small part in the recent film version of Anna Karenina and she tweeted recently: "Music and acting are my life!”

Will she jump ship with the international fashion crowd wanting more? Judging by her eccentric forebears, you wouldn’t put it past her. 

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