20 Minutes With: Supermodel Claudia Schiffer

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German supermodel Claudia Schiffer is known for her sultry looks in 1990s Guess Jeans, Valentino and Chanel fashion campaigns.

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She became a fashion icon in the 1990s when Karl Lagerfeld shot her for a Chanel campaign—she fell in love with a Bridget Bardot beauty after seeing her on the cover of British Vogue. Lagerfeld was what Schiffer called his “magic dust”.

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Since then, Schiffer has been photographed for more than 1,000 magazine covers by some of the world’s most renowned photographers, including Helmut Newton and Ellen von Unworth.

She was a trailblazer of the supermodel era alongside Naomi Campbell and Linda Evangelista. She was an influencer before social media and defined natural beauty in a time of grunge fashion and analog photography, long before Photoshop and plastic surgery changed the game.

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Schiffer is now the editor of a new photography book called Be fascinated! Fashion Photography from the 90s, a survey of fashion imagery from the era with Prestel Publishing in the US on January 25, includes more than 200 shots of supermodels such as Schiffer, Kate Moss and Helena Christensen, taken by photographers including Jurgen Taylor and Mario Testino.

The book is attached to Schiffer, an exhibition curated at the Museum Kunstpalst in Düsseldorf, with prints of the book’s top highlights and running until Fall 2022.

51 year old Schiffer spoke to penta About women in fashion photography, analog versus digital, and their advice to influencers.

Penta: What was it like to be a part of a 1990s fashion enthusiast? You were one of the original supermodels.

Claudia Schiffer: Young designers, photographers, stylists, and art directors, as well as hair and makeup artists emerged and fundamentally changed the way we view fashion and design. There was an incredible fusion of the fields of fashion, music, arts and entertainment and it made the era dynamic, exciting – making the impossible possible. I really wanted to capture the visual experimentation and freedom of expression.

Where do you think all this came from?

The boom was fueled by a global appetite for fashion and a range of media from MTV to Vogue and legacy magazines including Harper’s Bazaar, and a new guard of style titles like The Face, Self Service, ID, and We Magazine. The 90s saw the birth of supermodels as well as superstar designers, stylists and photographers. and fashion. Wearing a Chanel jacket with vintage jeans, Body Con Alaia dresses and sneakers, a Marc Jacobs grunge or a Helmut Lang suit—it was a high and low mix of it that was personal, fun, and cool. It really resonates now, when so many young creatives are collaborating and doing things – building from the ground up.

What are some of the strongest pictures in the book?

Consider Kate Moss by Mario Sorrenti for Calvin Klein with art director Fabian Baron, or Mario Testino’s legendary series for Gucci directed by Tom Ford and styled by Karin Roitfeld – these campaigns became part of the genre conversation. The most memorable images are often provocative and challenge our perceptions of femininity. Look at the work of Juergen Taylor, he makes you look at beauty in a different way.

Naomi Campbell as shot by Peter Lindbergh for Vogue US in Los Angeles 1990 Be fascinated! Fashion photography from the 90s.

Peter Lindbergo

How different was analog photography compared to digital?

Well, everything was shot on film and tests to measure light, composition and color were in the form of Polaroids. Today, editing happens on screen and imagery can be consumed instantly via social media. In the 1990s, magazines were like the bible of fashion, with every cover and page eagerly dissected. Budgets were huge and literally shooting a location could last more than a week – a lot of friendships were made on these trips.

What was it like working with the iconic German fashion photographer Helmut Newton?

Newton had confidence, so you felt very secure and comfortable, and he was a perfectionist. Every photo probably took longer than most of the other photographers because every detail was carefully considered, yet allowed for their intelligence to shine in the effortless corrections. He had great taste, was knowledgeable in fashion, art and so many subjects and was always very knowledgeable in his opinion.

Looking at these old fashioned photos today, what do you see?

I don’t drown in nostalgia because it can hold you back from moving forward. I want to be my best at every age and that also means taking risks. Be fascinated! This is my first foray into curation and I really enjoyed the challenge of creating this exhibition with the fantastic team at Kunstpalst. I have also been working with two of the best artisan heritage brands in Portugal, Vista Alegre and Bordalo Pinheiro, on ceramics and glassware and this has been rewarding as well. In the fashion world, I recently collaborated with the wonderful brand Realization Par, which I discovered through my daughter Clementine, and I continue to work as an executive producer on films my husband makes.

Helena Christensen, Claudia Schiffer, Stephanie Seymour, Christy Turlington and Naomi Campbell.

Herb Ritts

Over the years, you’ve worked with female fashion photographers – which wasn’t always the norm. what was it like?

Fashion photographers Ellen von Unworth and Corinne Day were former models. She had a real understanding of the language of fashion and the modeling profession; The sense of collusion with the model gives nuance and a sense of knowing. Korine’s work has influenced a new generation. She had a talent for capturing hand gestures, her snapped photography posing awkwardly that rebelled against the artificiality and hypersexualized clichés of the ‘male gaze’.

What is it about the female gaze in fashion photography that is so arresting?

Ellen von Unworth has contributed an essay to the exhibition catalog, where she writes: “My photography is kind of reportage but it is heightened reportage. It is dramatic. It is exaggerated with style and positioning, but I Always like to create an image that has reality to it, something that doesn’t immediately look staged, so it can be like a stolen or captured moment on film.”

I can see an ongoing thread from female photographers including Toni Frisel who caught the outdoorsy American Girl the trend Von Unworth, Roxanne Lovitt in the late 1930s and ’40s (I’ve included many of her backstage photos in this) Be fascinated!) and 20th century talents such as Liz Collins, Cass Bird and Harley Weir.

What advice do you have for today’s young fashion influencers?

Treat everyone the way you want to be treated and don’t be afraid to make mistakes; If you learn from them, you’ll be fine

This article has been edited for length and clarity.


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