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Claudia Schiffer: it’s harder for supermodels today


September 6, 2007/11.05

Left: A perfect example of the global fashion story: Claudia Schiffer herself modelling H&M, as featured in Lucire in 2000. Photographed by Max Vadukul.

I’m glad someone agrees with me when I said earlier that the great global fashion stories seem to have deserted us—unless you drag in a supermodel from the 1980s or 1990s. And that someone is the ultra-smart Claudia Schiffer.
   Schiffer, whom Lucire Paris bureau chief David Patin interviewed once, is one of the smart supermodels: a shrewd business-minded woman who didn’t need her publicists to draft a bunch of answers for her.
   She told Fivetonine that the competition from movie celebrities and singers had become too strong, preventing a group such as hers—which included Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford and Linda Evangelista—from emerging. The only exception, she believed, might prove to be Gisèle Bündchen.
   While the supermodel phase came not just with a bunch of ultra-marketable girls, but with other talents in the fashion and beauty businesses (such as Oribe Canales) aligning at the same time, Schiffer has a point.
   My earlier viewpoint was, ‘Is it the ? In the 1990s, there was a feeling that we, as a human community, could . Corporations had done it, so why could we not create a global community ourselves? Have we lost that steam in the 2000s? …
   ‘But ?rms are continuing to globalize, so is the relative absence of such stories an attempt to hide that?’
   With Schiffer’s viewpoint, we can probably paint a clearer picture of the mid- to late-2000s media environment.
   I still think there is a cyclical trend. For the last two years, technology has made it very “fashionable” to have things outside one’s corporate banner: the American networks uploading programming to YouTube, in order to look indie; and people like me blogging outside our corporate domains. There is an intention to look local, think global, the theory being that if we look like we are not corporate sell-outs, we can be adopted by people who will make us corporate sell-outs—or hide the fact that we already are.
   It might be a cynic’s view, but how else can you explain well established businesses and celebrities setting up an outpost on MySpace? (It is a position that I believe is beginning to reverse, however.)
   In issue 23 of the New Zealand master edition of Lucire, I remember running a lovely image of clothing, with a male and female model. In the background, almost as a secondary thought, was the new Aston Martin V8 Vantage Roadster. The picture was supplied by Astons. That may be an extreme example, but the fact is that everyone is getting in—and has been getting in—to the fashion market.
   Why else would Mercedes-Benz sponsor New York Fashion Week? Because the Stuttgarters recognize that cars are fashion items. And everyone else has wanted a slice of that cake for a long time.
   A lot of my early contract publishing work in the late 1980s and early 1990s centred on glamorizing the mundane, using fashion publishing tricks, so there is nothing new under the sun.
   Let’s call it the democratization of fashion, the secrets of making something look good being gradually opened to more people.
   While there’s still a world of difference between a great fashion shoot and an utterly crap one, technology has enabled more people to create good stuff than 10 years ago.
   And the other industries have ?gured out that fashion’s glamour-halo effect can sell, so why not adopt its ideas? Beyoncé Knowles, Jessica Simpson and Julia Stiles have enjoyed covers of late, in a market that once would have shown the classical models such as Schiffer, Campbell or Turlington.
   Those who proclaimed the end of the 15-minute celeb in 2005 had better revise their thoughts, because it doesn’t look like this phenomenon is going away in a hurry. Ask Paris Hilton.

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