Me and my wardrobe: Why Marie Helvin is done with her designer clothes

Marie Helvin wears her signature tight white shirt with a black pencil skirt

Signature look: Marie Helvin in one of her 50 tight white shirts, teamed with a black pencil skirt

I've collected beautiful clothes since I started modelling aged 16 - I'm 57 now.

Each garment holds a special memory for me, but I've decided to sell the lot.

I love fashion, but I don't really do shopping.

I'm just not interested in 'possessions' any more; I knew this would happen to me one day.

I'm interested only in buying land in my native Hawaii, so that one day I can live there and have the space to rescue animals.

I don't have any children, but I can leave my land to an animal sanctuary. That is what I dream about, not bags, not shoes.

I always wear the same thing: a tight white shirt - I have about 50 - and tight black trousers.

I have some wonderful memories, though.

Take the designer Azzedine Alaia - my life was perfect during his heyday, the late Eighties.

I wasn't with Bailey [her ex-husband, David Bailey], I was fooling around like crazy - Eric Clapton, Peter Gabriel - and all the time I was in Alaia.

I have a lot of Karl Lagerfeld in my wardrobe, too. He was great fun, very naughty, although it took me a while to understand his accent. I did his catwalk show once and I had to walk down the runway holding a parrot - it was biting me the whole time.

Anyway it is time to move on, besides I no longer fit into most of my wardrobe!

As a model, I could not go over 110lbs, which for my height, 5ft 9in, is tiny.

I remember turning up for a fitting for an Yves Saint Laurent couture show and he pointed at my breasts and said: 'What are those?' I had only put on five pounds.

When I look at pictures of myself from the Seventies, I think, 'Look at my bones!'

Now, I weigh 130lbs, although I still look small because the extra weight is muscle -I spent most of the Nineties in the gym.

I did Armani's show only once, in the mid-Eighties. There was me, Janice Dickinson, Pat Cleveland and Jerry Hall, and we were all smoking and drinking champagne, and Armani totally flipped out. 

He never hired us again. I quit smoking when I was 40, but in those days, none of us ate and so we smoked and drank to stave off the hunger.

Yves liked to party and there was a time when we were staying up all night. The new girls all look the same, and why do they have to be so young?

It's silly. They look like they need to go to a party and eat! One of my favourite designers is Antony Price.

He was the master, so ahead of his time. I met him through my friend Jerry Hall. We were inseparable for a while, but we rarely swapped clothes.

Special memories: Marie has collected many beautiful items over the past 40 years, but is selling the lot to buy land in her native Hawaii

Special memories: Marie has collected many beautiful items over the past 40 years, but is selling the lot to buy land in her native Hawaii

Ossie Clark


Ossie Clark was a genius. My favourite dress was made for me by Ossie. It's in pristine condition, a velvet and chiffon gown with a plunging neckline that he cut onto the cloth – he didn't use a paper pattern. I never saw Laurent do that, never saw Givenchy do that…

The dress is a miracle, with no stretch, so you have to shimmy into it. It has the narrow gold label sewn on the outside that became his trademark in his final years.



Yves Saint Laurent is another favourite: He was a Leo, like me, so we got on really well. He was so gentle, and he loved us models.

He hired me and Iman (who would later becomeMrs David Bowie) as his house models - he was one of the first designers to use black and Asian girls on the catwalk.

Working with Yves meant I got to see how a couture dress was made. I know it sounds ridiculous but I truly felt I was in the presence of a great artist. Once, he stuck me in the head with a hat pin during his Moroccan collection and some blood trickled down my forehead and he fainted.

He would just give all the couture clothes to the gang: Me, Paloma (Picasso), Nan Kempner, Lauren Bacall, until one day his business partner said: 'No more giving gowns away! It must all go into the archive.' But Yves managed to give me the black and white printed Rice Gauche jacket I wore for my wedding to David Bailey in 1975.

Under the jacket I wore a white jersey T-shirt dress by Yuki, a fake flower in my hair and gold sandals. I was very young when I got married and it was important to me to do everything right because I was marrying a man who had been married to Catherine Deneuve.

I remember The Sunday Times ran a piece the next day which said, 'Doesn't she look ridiculous? It's November and she's not wearing stockings!' I was so upset.


Do I like any new designers? I love Stella McCartney: I have a bottle green and black lace bias-cut chemise I bought from her graduation collection in 1995. I think she might bid for it at the auction.



My favourite brand is Rock and Republic. I have a pair in every style: high, low, flared, straight. They are very sexy…


I have about 25 Hermes Birkin bags in different colours - I know there is a waiting list for this bag, but if I want one I just call them up, and I never have to wait.

I have a couple of Gucci bags from when Tom Ford was there. I like Tod's, I have a Mulberry Picadilly bag and I have a great big Louis Vuitton tote, but my favourite bag is an old wicker picnic basket. It was woven by Native Americans, and I carry it all summer. Everyone thinks I've brought my own food.


I'm addicted to Roger Vivier shoes: They have a platform, which means they are so comfortable. I used to have 50 pairs of Manolo Blahniks but I sold them all.

I sold all my jewellery, too, and watches. I used to have so many watches but then I thought, Why do I need so many? I have one Hermes watch now, and the face is so small I can never read the time.

I never wear heels during the day: I love soft, beaded Minnetonka mocassins.


I love candles: My favourite is by Prada. My favourite perfume is by Hermes - it makes you smell of lemons, and I love Flower Bomb by Viktor & Rolf.

I have always used soap on my face, which amazes people. I cut my own hair, and recently I even dyed it myself.

I love, too, the Revive range of skin care from Space NK, but I can't afford it. I know I'm blessed with good luck. I don't look or feel like an ordinary 57 year old.

  • Kerry Taylor Auction's Passion for Fashion sale is taking place on December8th at 2pm at La Galleria, 30 Royal Opera Arcade, Pall Mall. For further information contact 0208 676 4600 or visit

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