“I’ve been working at Chanel with Karl [Lagerfeld] for twelve years now, I think. It is consistently challenging, broadening, sharpening and refining. Karl, as you know, is the most extraordinary genius and this can mean a lot of pressure because you have to keep up with the way he’s thinking of the next new thing very, very quickly. He’s such a polyglot of extraordinary gifts not only visual, it can be literary, architectural or textural or so many other things; so really it’s been twelve years of growing for me—which has been fantastic. Before Karl, I was with John Galliano for thirteen years, so I’ve had an amazing journey and the most extraordinary voyage through dressing. I don’t know how I would describe myself. Court Jester? I'm not sure. I hope I’ve got a good eye. I hope I get it. I hope I really see it. That’s all I hope for and that’s what I love doing. Karl does it all: inspiring, designing, bringing ideas. He is somebody who has his dream in the night and gets up before dawn and puts it down on a piece of paper and when he wakes up in the morning it’s like a fairy tale, there is the theme of a collection.
For me, beauty is grace. So, it’s not just how somebody looks in a photograph. It’s much more about a woman in motion. It’s the life that I find really beautiful. For me, things like lines are part of what makes a woman beautiful. I don’t believe in losing all of that. I do dye my hair though, but that’s because I like the idea of really black hair. I don’t care if I live as long as seventy-five, I’m going to have black hair. So, my beauty philosophy is really to look after yourself. There’s really nothing immoral about that. Looking after myself is giving myself time. Time to breathe. Time to sit still. Time to look at the sky. Time is very important. There is all that stuff like getting enough sleep and drinking lots of water, but those kind of go without saying. The sleep thing doesn’t always happen, but even then, I never miss doing my yoga practice. Even if I was really tired and wobbly, I'll still do it as that’s my thing. Every day. As you go through your poses, actually what you’re doing is giving yourself a bit of a massage, you’re massaging all your organs as you do your twists and positions—then lying still afterwards. You feel great and that is yours. And you can have that feeling any time you want. So, when you’re sitting there and everybody is being really horrible to you, you go back to that feeling. That for me, really part of beauty. The other thing is cleanliness. Being a true Brit, we’re of the soap and water. I’m quite French in a lot of ways too, so it’s a good mix. I have so many baths—if I was given a chance for my ideal day, it would be: bath, get dressed, bath, get dressed into another outfit and so on. I really like using different products in my bath. At the moment, my favorites are patchouli and rose oils with some sea salt. I like the mix. I adore my beauty routine, I concentrate on cleansing the face. I have these daily face masks so I can have a face mask every day, they’re Anne Semonin—she’s French. I happened upon them by chance at a store called Liberty in London. I was just drawn to all these bottles and the vials of serum and elixirs so I went to the woman at the counter—she must have been about fifty-five, sixty, and she had the most amazing skin, beautifully smooth skin. She told me what she used, and we talked about my skin and she gave me one serum to use in the morning, and two that you mix for the evening, along with daily masks. You can mix the masks and serum—I love all of that. She didn’t force stuff on me which I Liked. There’s also a cream called extreme luxuries or something like that [Extreme Comfort Cream] which is great for dry skin, so after spending a lot of time on a plane, I have to moisturize, and this actually stays put for hours later. Your skin still feels nourished and like it's had a drink. You should change your products after a bit, but this is a great discovery and I’m really happy with the whole process.
The other thing that I do is I mix my own body cream. I have it in a little jar so that I can mix it. There is something called Mimosa cream from Santa Maria Novella that is really good for scratchy skin, so I put that in. Then I’ve got some shea butter that you can get in the super market. Palmer’s Shea Butter as Cocoa butter, coconut oil and almond oil don't absorb into the skin as well. I also put in this oil made by a lady called Rodin—she’s amazing and so chic. I put five drops of that: Olio Lusso—for the body—I think she’s extraordinary. Anne Semonin is the same; she’s been making serums for thirty-five years. So these women really know their stuff. So, that goes in. Then, I really like Frédéric Malle’s tuberose a little bit of this scented body cream—I put a dollop of that in too. Then there are things for when I'm on holiday, I'll put some olive oil in because I don't use sun oil, I'm forever in and out of the sea and drying off in the sun as I love swimming and sunbathing so: in out, in out, with lots of cream being applied in between dips. Cream with olive oil in it, for extra moisture. And sometimes you’ll come across a body cream that you really like the smell of and you can add a bit of that too, but the base things are the shea butter and the Santa Maria Novella. Sometimes I put the Santa Maria Novella Melograno in because I love the smell.
Hair is really important. The older you get, the more it shows in your teeth and your hair. I always say to hairdressers on shoots and the suchlike, ‘Come out with a product, please, so that you can make your hair look like your teenage hair.’ If you look at teenage hair, it’s youthful—it’s not dry and split…it’s like young skin retaining its own moisture. So, I go through stages and learn lessons. I went through a big stage of dying my own hair. That’s not good when you’ve done it a lot. So, I went back to Josh Wood Color in London and I have a great colorist called Bantika, who has really helped and looked after my hair. It doesn’t look really good at the moment, because it’s had two weeks of me washing it myself and I can’t blow dry it. Actually, there's a shampoo that I love that I got in the super market called Root Awakening by John Frieda. In essence what I’m trying to say is feed your hair!
I definitely do my hair and makeup in tandem to my fashion—for me, hair is really important. I try lots of things; I bought some braided hairpieces and I’ve been doing up-dos. I’ve been going through a big Victorian phase. I love an eyebrow at the moment—penciling them in really strong. Peter Philips at Chanel has done this amazing makeup that I can’t get my hands on until October—it’s this extraordinary blusher that he’s been using as an eye shadow, almost as a misty grey. It’s so beautiful. I’ve always liked the slightly consumptive face, so I love the idea of some greyness here, sort of like a bruise, and pale skin. So, that’s my makeup at the moment. I don' ever wear a red lip—my mouth is the wrong shape for makeup as I haven’t got a bow, I’ve got a very French mouth. I’m not a lipstick girl but an eye girl. You can’t do eyes and lip as one cancels out the other. I do a lot of eye things—I love false eyelashes. I wear makeup when I’m going out, or when I’m on parade, but otherwise I try not to because I quite like my skin to breathe. So, when I do, I’ve got Vitalumière by Chanel. You shake it to activate the pigments. It’s really good—it’s really very light and you don’t need a lot. I hate seeing so many young girls with their faces literally like masks in solid makeup. Be in your own skin, look after your skin. I’m from the school of wear a really fabulous expensive pair of knickers and you can wear just an old t-shirt on top. But get the fundamentals right.
Beauty, it’s just very caring. It’s not about looking in the mirror and thinking, ‘I hate you! Transform you! Obliterate you! Disappear!’ It’s about saying: ‘This is me. You’re tired. You’ve got great bags under your eyes—that’s not surprising!’ So, don’t stop loving your skin. That’s all we are. We’re a heart pumping with a spirit somewhere and we’re a bunch of bones and skin. We work with clothes, but let’s go one step beyond and actually look after our skin. Oh, and look after your heels. Your feet carry you around and I see so many women, and girls, really it applies to everyone who have terrible heels that look like the Grand Canyon! It’s so horrible. Love your feet—rub in the cream and take care of them. With the yoga, I lie with my bottom against the floor and with my feet against the wall and you give your ankles a little massage. Turn to the right, turn to the left, I do this every morning. How often do we think about our feet? Never—so look after them. Look after your hands—which is difficult for me as I ride horses, and I garden and paint and play the piano. So, you know what, in my case, I take care of my feet.”
Harlech was photographed and interviewed during a fitting at the Chanel atelier, 31 rue Cambon.