Caroline Labouchere has a captivating presence that makes time stand still. Graceful, articulate and wise, in fact Grazia would venture that her shock of grey hair is actually the least interesting thing about her.
She was discovered at the age of 53, and cast in an ad campaign for No. 1 Rosemary Water - at the suggestion of her daughter Mimi who was working for the company at the time - and in three years that followed, has been a muse for The Modist and modelled at London Fashion Week for Rixo.
Her first grey role model was her mother who first started to go grey in her 20s and never looked back. Caroline, however resisted. "I dyed my hair in my 30s and 40s, dipping in and out of going natural," she recalls. "I gave in to peer pressure and conformed to societal norms. If you don’t have the support of friends or family around you when taking the decision, other pressures will stop you in your tracks."
Ironically, it's the world that's now stopped in its tracks, but Caroline already has the headstart on self-acceptance. "Going grey could be a metaphor for other natural traits that people cover up such as wearing make-up or glasses because they think that is required. I say take the leap on whatever your ‘grey’ is! More specifically, we need to teach our children that grey is a hair colour. We made it socially unacceptable so it is up to us to change that," she insists.
With spas closed and Dubai on lockdown, we're all about to find out what we really look like without our salons on speed dial. "Before this crisis you could get your hair dyed to its natural colour so there was no need to wait for it to grow out. And in the current absence of the colourist, let nature take its course."
This isn't always easy, even for Caroline. "In lockdown, everything is magnified," she admits. "I have time to notice that my hair is falling out, that my eyebrows are going grey. My nails are now non-existent, my hypothyroidism means I have a hard time growing them." Her advice? "Control what you can control. I am working on what I can change so I have been putting coconut oil in my hair and leaving it for 48 hours. It is is super-soft now. With skincare I moisturise more often adding a little self-tan as having a ‘glow’ makes me feel better."
An avid runner, she confesses, "Not being able to run is driving me crazy. We have a routine that includes fitness challenges; hand-stands, squats and push-ups." However, there have been some benefits. "I’m sleeping more recognising that our health is directly related to the length and quality of our sleep. I’m eating better, cooking from scratch more; we haven’t had a take-away since lockdown started."
Caroline is not alone in struggling with Dubai's latest 24-hour lockdown measures, and has booked a telecounselling session for extra support while were in social isolation. "Yesterday was easier than today. It is getting harder; I miss people and three-dimensional human contact, touch and smell. Zoom is great but it isn’t the same. I keep talking to positive people around me and steer clear of the people who bring me down." She adds, "We work regular hours too; constantly looking for opportunity. To paraphrase Darwin, it's not the strongest, fittest or the fastest who will survive, but the most adaptable. Adapt or die?"
Astute enough to realise that in a post-pandemic world, it's not just individuals that need to adapt to become more accepting but also the collective, she observes, "Like the youth of today the fashion industry seems to think we will go back to normal. It appears to be in hibernation. I don’t think anything will ever be the same again. This is an evolutionary event. The adaptable will prevail. I predict an initial rebound and a backlog of fashion events but society will have changed and the industry will have to catch up. Change is progress. I hope that the industry will evolve to reflect the demographics of modern society. The discerning buying public are of all ages," she pauses, "and some even have grey hair."
Photos: Courtesy of Caroline Labouchere Additional reporting: Kathryn Rao