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Caradise Revisited

ONE FROM THE ARCHIVES: CARA DELEVINGNE INSISTS SHE’S NOT AN IT GIRL. BUT CAN CHRISTOPHER BAILEY, MARIO TESTINO, AND 960,000 TWITTER FOLLOWERS BE WRONG?

It’s Sunday night in Paris, creeping up on 10 o’clock, and the mood is tense. Cara Delevingne, the girl everyone wants a piece of right now, is pacing a hotel room in her underwear, talking to her agent on the phone. Outside, an agency car is waiting to take Delevingne to a last-minute casting out in the twentieth arrondissement.

On the bed, there’s a key look from the Spring ’13 Christopher Kane collection, which Delevingne is meant to wear to a party under way on the other side of town, in Saint-Germain.

“They hate me,” she tells her agent. “I know they do! It’s pointless. They’re never going to cast me in that show.”

Delevingne storms into the bathroom. When she reemerges, phoneless, about a minute later, she looks grim. She shoots a glance at the Kane look so seething, you half expect the dress to disintegrate or burst into flames. But it doesn’t, so Delevingne leans against the wall, staring at it, sucking on her cheek and thinking. If she puts on her jeans, she’s going to the casting, which is almost certainly a waste of high-value Paris fashion week time; if she puts on the dress and heads to the party, she’ll not only be pissing off at least half a dozen industry VIPs, but she’ll also be signing up for a long night of air-kissing, small-talking, and posing for photographs, which is its own kind of hard work. Also, she’s really not that keen on the dress, which is made of rubber.

“I can’t,” she says at last, scrunching up her famous caterpillar eyebrows. “I just…I can’t.” And with that, Delevingne goes back into the bathroom. This time, she shuts the door.

The buzz around Cara Delevingne crescendoed to a roar this season. She walked thirty-nine shows, including those of such heavy hitters on the fashion calendar as Marc Jacobs, Burberry, Dolce & Gabbana, and Chanel. She seems determined to rank with the mainstays of the catwalk circuit. And yet the question lingers: Why? Delevingne is extraordinarily pretty, with sharp, doll-like features, but she’s small, and unlike her friend Karlie Kloss, she wasn’t self-evidently engineered by God to walk a runway. Nor, for that matter, is Delevingne one of those girls who endures blisters and 5 a.m. call times because she’s got fifteen siblings to support back in the recently democratized country she calls home, or because modeling is her one chance to get out of her hick town, date a rock star, and see the world. Not hardly. Cara Delevingne would be famous, or almost famous, or about-to-be famous, even if she’d never modeled at all.

“This is where he kept the gorillas,” Delevingne says, opening the door to a book-paneled study in London. “Can you imagine a gorilla in here?” She makes a monkey face and does a little monkey dance, and then resumes her tour of the £10 million town house in Belgravia where she was raised. The house has a backstory: It once belonged to John Aspinall, a society playboy whose passions in life were high-stakes gaming, from which he made his fortune, and cavorting with wild animals, in pursuit of which he spent it. It’s tempting to suggest that his spirit lives on in Delevingne. That of her own father, Charles, might account for some of her wild streak, too. Of the property developer, Tatler wrote that he “wears his lime-green Versace suit whenever the dress code allows.” The Delevingnes’ current wealth and social standing derive in part from Charles’ holdings and in part from the extended family: Cara’s maternal grandfather, Sir Jocelyn Stevens, was managing director of the Evening Standard and Daily Express in the sixties, and her grandmother, Janie Sheffield, a lady-in-waiting to Princess Margaret.

Cara still resides in the family home—to the extent that she resides anywhere these days—occupying a few shambolic rooms in the basement. The house tour includes a visit to her drum kit and a closet filled with high-tops, as well as a rifle through Delevingne’s collection of animal costumes. She zips on a panda-bear costume. “I like to wear it around the house,” she explains with a shrug.

The tour continues. There’s a stairway decorated with group portraits of Cara and her sisters, Chloe and Poppy. Chloe, 28, has a members’ club in South Kensington named after her. Poppy, 26, is a former model and Chanel ambassador. Both are tall, lithe blondes who take after their mother, Pandora, a scene-making London beauty back in the seventies. “Look at these amazing tits,” says Delevingne, holding up a framed eighties-era issue of Tatler. Pandora is on the cover, wearing a low-cut swimsuit. “I’m still waiting for mine to grow in.” She ducks a look under her panda costume. “Nope,” she adds. “Not yet.”

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