Glamor icon of the 1990s: Schiffer shows Schiffer’s decade



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A decade as a glittering festival: In the 1990s the Cold War had just ended, champagne flowed in the luxury industry and advertising budgets grew immeasurably. It was the final phase of the analogue era when nameless photo models became highly paid supermodels who chose their star photographers. The most famous images remained in the collective memory as visual icons.

Portrait Claudia Schiffer – Photo: Lucie McCullin © 2021 Cloudy Film Limited

The supermodels gave autograph sessions and appeared on talk shows in front of millions of people. No other person was as present in this era as Claudia Schiffer. The “Captivate!” (Fascinating / Enchanting) is now paying homage to “her” decade in Düsseldorf, the fashion photography of the 1990s.

The exhibition was put together by Claudia Schiffer herself, now 51 years old and mother of three children. It is her first job as a curator. The show will be shown from this Wednesday in the Museum Kunstpalast and can be seen there until January 9, 2022.

The shy beauty from Rheinberg am Niederrhein advanced to the highest paid and most photographed supermodel in the world at the end of the 1980s. It appeared hundreds of times as a motif on the glossy covers of the magazines.

A picture of the show perfectly sums up the spooky 90s, which ended as abruptly as it came: It shows boatmen and model colleagues like Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista and Kate Moss who pose together dressed in gold as “gold girls”.

In 1987 Schiffer was discovered in the Kö-Disco “Checkers” in Düsseldorf, now she has set a temporary monument for herself in the city with the show. “We wanted her to be a contemporary witness with her subjective view of the 90s,” says Museum General Director Felix Krämer. From his point of view, the decision turned out to be “a stroke of luck”. The London-by-choice not only brought her private collection to the show, but also, as a door opener, collected quotes from celebrities and photos from institutions that would hardly have responded to a request from the museum itself.

From the Schiffer’s perspective of the Schiffer decade, the show makes no secret, on the contrary: Schiffer wrote the texts in the first person, recorded the audio guide himself and she is also well represented on the 150 large-format photos.

“As supermodels, we became symbols of self-made success in an era that advocated female ambition and was fueled by sex, power and glamor,” Schiffer writes about her decade.

George Michael’s “Freedom” can be heard from the speakers. In the 90s, the models posed self-confidently almost or completely naked – without arousing suspicion of sexism. The decade presents itself with noticeably fewer taboos and less political correctness than today.

Claudia Schiffer was and is the perfect surface for the luxury industry. She brought the Versace dress in which she came on the market as a Barbie doll to the exhibition in its original size.

“Supermodels were a creative and commercial force. In the recession of the early 90s, I think we helped keep the glamor and optimism of fashion alive when the designer market was in decline,” the 51-year-old analyzes. “When the economy picked up, the supermodel’s role was to project a brand’s image around the world at a time when fashion was expanding around the world.”

In contrast to the perfectionist staged luxury glamor of the 1980s, the 1990s wanted to celebrate spontaneity. With all the greater effort, the appearance of the snapshot is staged, masterfully by Mario Testino: life as a party.

There is no dark side in Schiffer’s show. Sexual assault, the suffering of underweight, underage models or the working conditions of those who manufacture the sinfully dearly advertised products? Nothing. Only photographer Juergen Teller sets an anti-commercial counterpoint when he makes models look like heroin junkies and takes pictures of the “Versace” brand with lipstick smeared on bare skin. Back then, the “heroin chic” sparked a debate about the extent to which fashion photography was partly to blame for the phenomenon of anorexia among young women. It is that small part of the show in which Schiffer cannot be seen.

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