Remembering Legendary Supermodel China Machado

The fashion world has lost an icon—supermodel China Machado has passed away at the age of 87. An industry trailblazer, her legacy will always shine bright.

Born Noelie Dasouza Machado, she changed her name to China (pronounced CHEE-na) when she started modelling couture to fit in with the fashion world. During the 1950s and ’60s, she worked with fashion greats like Hubert de Givenchy and became the first non-Caucasian to grace the cover of a major fashion magazine in 1959, paving the way for other non-white models. She was also Richard Avedon’s muse. The two collaborated for years and produced some of the most iconic images in fashion history, including this 1958 portrait. The legendary photog persuaded her to become an editor at Harper’s Bazaar. She worked there for eight years and went on to produce fashion television shows and design costumes for films and her own line of knitwear.

Following a brief “retirement” (which included running a store and gallery in the Hamptons), Machado was back on the style scene. In 2011, she joined IMG models in New York, becoming one of the oldest women (she was 81 at the time) to ink a contract with a major agency. The senior supermodel landed magazine covers, posed in editorial spreads (like the one with FASHION in 2012), appeared in Barneys Fall 2011 campaign alongside mega-models like Naomi Campbell and starred in the documentary About Face, which focused on aging and the modelling world. Machado was featured alongside other legends like Christie Brinkley, Beverly Johnson, Marisa Berenson and Jerry Hall. During FASHION‘s 2012 interview with documentary filmmaker and photographer Timothy Greenfield-Saunders, he described working with Machado. “There’s no one like her—she has the energy of a 2o-year-old, she smokes an electric cigarette, she has her vodka, she’s thin as a rail,” he said. “She’s lived an extraordinary and very full life. Every single moment you’re with her, even when she sits down in an airport, she sits in a way that’s a photograph. I think it’s completely natural—she is that person.”

On set with FASHION in New York to shoot an editorial spread for the May 2012 issue, Machado (then age 82) regaled our team with stories about fashion legends like Oscar de la Renta and Givenchy. But when it came down to getting the shots, she was all business. The patrician brow, those chiselled cheekbones—age had not erased her best angles. “I see myself as a woman who has lived really happily, and it shows in my facial expressions,” she said. “I don’t mind a few lines, but I think good lighting helps a lot.” Click below to view FASHION‘s May 2012 photo shoot with the legendary model.

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