Fashion Flashback: Yasmeen Ghauri

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Diversity and models of color appear to be all the rage on the current fashion landscape. But that was not always the case. Though there were a few models of color—or ethnic models as they were called in the 1980s—that headlined fashion shows in the 1980s and early 1990, with the exception of Naomi Campbell, Veronica Webb, Mounia, Coco Mitchell, Jenny Shimizu, Katoucha, and a few others, models with Nordic features were the order of the day.

Discovered working in MacDonald’s in Montreal when she was 17 by hairdresser Edward Zaccaria, Yasmeen Ghauri’s meteoric career as a fashion model was, perhaps, one of the most astonishing model careers of the 1990s. Yasmeen Ghauri was raised a Muslim by her Pakistani father who was not pleased that Yasmeen was pursuing a modeling career.

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Despite her parents’ disapproval, Yasmeen launched her modeling career in 1990 in Milan and Paris, later moving to New York City. Early in her career Yasmeen Ghauri had campaigns for Versace, Givenchy, Jil Sander, and Hermes, gracing the runway for Lanvin, Chanel, Jean-Paul Gaultier, and Helmut Lang.

By 1991, Yasmeen Ghauri had landed her first cover of Elle magazine and become the face of Anne Klein and Christian Dior.  Yasmeen was also photographed for the cover of Italian Vogue by Steven Meisel.  Patrick Demarchelier also photographed Yasmeen for Italian Vogue in 1991, calling Yasmeen his favorite model.  

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In 1992, Yasmeen signed a contract with Victoria’s Secret. In that same year, Yasmeen became the face of Valentino couture and Versace. In 1993, Ghauri the face of Hermes and Lanvin and was photographed by Gilles Bensimon for the cover of Elle.

Yasmeen Ghauri appeared in the 1995 documentary “Unzipped by Isaac Mizrahi.” A New York Times article described Ghauri as, “coffee skinned Yasmeen Ghauri [who’s] hard to get gaze was bellied by the ball bearing swivel of her hips.”

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Yasmeen Ghauri walked in her last show—the Yves Saint Laurent—in 1997. She is married to attorney Ralph Bernstein and they have two children Maia and Victor.

—William S. Gooch

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