Dilys Price: The 86-year-old skydiver turned Helmut Lang model

By Gemma Ryall
BBC News

media captionSuper Gran Dilys Price is the 86-year-old parachutist turned model

Meet Dilys Price, an 86-year-old grandmother who is the world's oldest solo female parachutist - and now the face of a global fashion brand.

The teacher-turned-daredevil is not what you might expect from someone of her age - and now she can add being a Helmut Lang model to her CV.

As one of the stars of the fashion brand's 'Women of Wales' autumn collection campaign, she is seen dancing and laughing in a striking blue suit.

The photos and videos - which also feature an 86-year-old former funeral director and the 77-year-old mother of the late New Romantic singer Steve Strange - have been shared on social media and in fashion magazines, such as Grazia, i-D and The Pool.

image copyrightHelmut Lang / Alexandra Leese / Charlotte James
image captionStriking a pose: Dilys Price modelling for Helmut Lang in Cardiff

For Dilys, the campaign is giving her a platform to prove that life need not get boring with age.

"We're alive, we're still alive. We're alive until the day we die," she said.

"This is my mission now - to tell older people like myself to keep a passion. They have to be active."

Aged 54, divorced, bringing up her son and going through what she describes as a midlife crisis, Dilys decided to do a skydive for charity.

She had been scared of heights but as she floated through the air, she said a fire inside her was sparked - and she was hooked.

She decided to go to America to train - buying a trailer in Orlando, Florida, and later in Arizona - before going on to complete 1,139 solo skydives and parachute jumps all over the world.

She is no ordinary skydiver - with a background in drama and dance, Dilys specialises in air acrobatics and freestyling, saying "you just feel so free".

image copyrightGuinness World Records
image captionDilys Price setting her Guinness World Record for the oldest solo parachute jump (female)

Aged 80, the former Cardiff College of Education lecturer set the Guinness World Record for the oldest solo parachute jump (female) - a record she is proud to still hold - and once did a 28,000ft jump, for which she needed to use oxygen.

"Skydiving is my passion," she added.

"There you have the ultimate beauty of the sky."

She insists life is for enjoying and she says she will give anything a go: "We only get one shot at life".

image captionDilys was awarded an OBE for founding the Touch Trust charity

Which is why when she received a phone call out of the blue from the team at Helmut Lang asking her to take part in their new clothing campaign, she jumped at the chance.

"They came to my house in Cardiff. I live in a little end of terrace - a typical Welsh house - and in they came with these beautiful clothes. They hardly fitted in my house," she said.

"I enjoy charity shop buys - but here I was putting on these clothes with style.

"You felt you could move in them. They made me want to dance."

And dance she did - wearing a blue corduroy suit and then her skydiving suit paired with a Helmut Lang stole - as the team snapped away in the alleyway behind her home.

Helmut Lang Fall Women's 2018 WWW.HELMUTLANG.COM

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"I don't know what my neighbours thought," says Dilys. "They think I'm a bit eccentric."

The resulting images are part of the campaign celebrating women from Wales - the campaign's creative director Charlotte James hails from Merthyr Tydfil and Dilys says: "She wants the ordinary people to be brought into the good life."

Dilys - who has two young grandchildren - said she was proud to be part of it.

"It's lovely as my grandparents were miners and knew the poverty of south Wales. I am very Welsh and I feel very connected to Wales," she said.

"And here I was celebrating being Welsh in Wales wearing beautiful clothes.

"It's going to help older people because all of us are going to live so much longer that really we're not the small minority.

"We're still very useful in the world."

image copyrightWales News Service
image captionDilys Price started skydiving aged 54 and has not looked back

Dilys sold her parachute last week: "I'm 86 now and felt I should probably not be jumping out of a plane at 100mph."

But she insists she will keep active - she did a tandem skydive with former Wales rugby star Gareth Thomas earlier this year and she continues to travel to promote the charity she founded, Touch Trust, which provides "creative movement" programmes for disabled people.

"When you have fun and do something that brings you joy, it motivates you to keep active," she said.

"I think a lot of older people don't have that and now I want to help older people to be active and to have a sense of self."

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