Claudia Schiffer

The model, muse and global fashion icon reflects on the seven journeys – physical, emotional and spiritual – that have shaped her life and work

Illustration by Tina Berning

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1. Paris, 1987
One evening in 1987 I was at a nightclub in Düsseldorf when out of the blue I was asked by a complete stranger if I wanted to be a model. Of course I thought it was a joke and asked him if he meant my best friend, who to my mind was a far better candidate for the job. The stranger insisted he meant me, so I just assumed they were making a big mistake and they’d soon come to realize it. But before long I found myself in Paris. I didn’t speak a word of French at the time, so I opted for the tactic of pretending to understand, saying “Oui” a lot, and making the most of what I thought would be a very short-run thing, in a world I could never believe I’d ever be a part of. I have never been so happy to be so wrong. My career took off and I had suddenly found a place where I felt safe and was becoming the model I’d dreamed of being – although it only worked when I had a camera pointing at me. When I first heard the term “supermodel” I couldn’t help laughing because it felt so apt; there I was playing at being Superman while I was working, when in real life I was actually Clark Kent.


2. Rome, 1994
In the early 1990s, Valentino and photographer Arthur Elgort had the idea of doing a La Dolce Vita shoot for an advertising campaign, inspired by Anita Ekberg’s character in the Fellini film. It was one of those chaotic, crazy moments where life imitates art. There were crowds of people and paparazzi and TV crews following us non-stop as we shot in some of the city’s most iconic spots. Valentino has his atelier in the city center, and for one picture I had to stand on the balcony and wave. I looked down and there were thousands of people waving back at me.


3. Los Angeles, 2008
Shooting the Yves Saint Laurent campaign with photographers Inez and Vinoodh in the Hollywood Hills was another pinch-yourself moment. It’s rare to be able to get close to the iconic “Hollywood” sign, let alone pose against it. The shoot centered on the letter “Y” of the sign (Y for Yves). It was a beautiful day and the view over Los Angeles was remarkable. It changed the way I would see the city forever.


4. Garmisch-Partenkirchen 2015

This magical Bavarian resort is one of my favorite places for skiing. I discovered it when my husband [director Matthew Vaughn] went there to film Eddie the Eagle.


5. Amalfi Coast, 2017
I love the Amalfi Coast in Italy; we went there on our last family holiday. There are so many beautiful little towns as well as the larger ones like Positano and Sorrento. We went to Capri while we were there – it’s so beautiful and the atmosphere is so relaxed and fun, like an old movie.


6. Milan, 2017
When the call came through from Donatella Versace, I didn’t hesitate. It was a tribute for Gianni, and the perfect reason to do a final runway show. To keep the show secret, Donatella booked us all into separate hotels around Milan. Backstage, she arranged for each of us to have our own little make-up room, our own team, a Versace bathrobe with our name on it, and a handbag with our initials on. It was the sweetest welcome. Everyone backstage was half in tears before the show even started, remembering Gianni.


7. Berlin, 2017
I left Germany when I was 17, so every time I go back it feels like a homecoming. Last year I was honored to be awarded the Fashion Icon Award at the BAMBI Awards in Berlin. It was such a full-circle moment, especially because I had received the BAMBI Shooting Star Award when I was 21. When I was just a teenage girl, in Rheinberg, I would daydream about being a fashion model, a fashion designer, seeing my name on products, winning a BAMBI. And today, all of this has come true. I say this not to boast, but to say to all the young dreamers that I’m living proof that if you dare to dream, if you work hard, if you behave with integrity and never give up – amazing things can happen.


Claudia Schiffer, written by Claudia Schiffer is published by Rizzoli