Claudia Schiffer on being competitive, life after 50 and how she’s not ready to retire yet

By Lucy Cleland

4 years ago

C&TH meets the iconic super as she celebrates her 50th birthday

As Claudia Schiffer turns 50, she shares her thoughts on age, indulgences and interiors with C&TH’s editor, Lucy Cleland

C&TH Meets Claudia Schiffer

Claudia Schiffer

Claudia wearing Ulla Johnson and pictured with her ‘Cloudy Butterflies for Bordallo Pinheiro’ collection

You’ve just entered your sixth decade. What does age mean to you?

I think age should be celebrated and revered. There’s a reason we have cakes and parties on our birthdays, and I feel the same way about getting older each year. I am so happy to be turning 50 and have never felt more confident or happy in my life. I don’t try to look  or feel younger, I embrace now.

What did you want to be when you were a little girl?

A vet. I have always loved animals; growing up I had a dog called Sultan, a budgie called Puckie and a mouse called Nikima.

If you could give advice to your 15-year-old self, what would it be?

Enjoy every year as with experience comes confidence. Learn from your mistakes and constantly grow. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else, no one is perfect, everyone is different, learn to love your imperfections as they make you who you are. Just concentrate on being happy and healthy and the rest will follow.

How has the prism of age made you reflect on some of your choices?

I have always enjoyed getting older as it comes with more confidence and I hugely appreciate the position I’m in now. I’m very lucky to love what I do and to be able to pick and choose my projects. I’m also enjoying the different avenues my career has taken including roles where I am designing or curating collections.

How would you describe being a model in the 90s?

It was insane… like being like a rock star. You couldn’t get to your car unless a path was carved for you. People would cut holes into the fashion tents and try to take pictures of us. We had security at every fashion show to the extent that security was even employed to guard my underwear! When I was out on the runway I’d home back and my underwear would constantly be gone!

Did you have to learn to say no or were you always able to stand up for yourself and make your own choices?

Me and the other girls [Claudia Schiffer, Naomi, Linda, Cindy et al] were on the cover of every magazine and in every campaign. We lived and breathed it and we developed unprecedented control over our careers. Also, although we could be competitive, there was a lot of camaraderie between us too. We looked out for each other and we weren’t afraid to speak up.

The fashion world has come under scrutiny for its practices when it comes to sustainability and labour. Has this influenced you and how you shop and consume?

I think we see increasing numbers of brands within the industry looking at ways to produce and operate more sustainably, but of course there’s still a long way to go. We all need to make decisions that reflect what’s best for the next generation. It’s a sad state the planet is in and there are simple steps we can all take to make a difference. I’m careful about what we dispose of, including clothing, because I’m more aware than ever of the life cycle of clothes and the incredible number of things we needlessly throw away. I wear a lot of vintage and I’ve kept many pieces from my career. I am the kind of person who finds it difficult to part with things. Each piece is, after all, a memory, so I want my daughters to wear everything that I have, and it feels good to give them a legacy.

Claudia Schiffer

Cloudy Butterflies box, €110. Both vases, €2,000. Photo: Emma Waight

What qualities do you think have made you successful?

I would probably say that I’m tenacious, intuitive – I do follow my instincts.

What would your best friend say about you?

That she can count on me when she needs me.

What principles do you instil in your children?

I teach my kids to be independent thinkers and to go for their dreams, regardless of what people think. And to be kind and gentle.

What are your indulgences?

On a day when I feel like indulging I love eating traditional, old-fashioned German stews that my mother used to cook for me. Other favourites for special days or weekends are [included in] an all-Italian buffet of pizzas, risottos, pastas, Parma hams and burrata with Sassicaia red wine.

What is your current beauty regime?

In term time I wake up early with the kids and need to get them ready for school, so I like a routine that’s straightforward and it tends to be the same regardless of the season. I use Bamford products. I start with the Cleansing Balm followed by the Refining Exfoliator. Depending on how dry my skin is, I mix my Moisturising Cream with different oils – Bamford’s Restore, Awaken and Life Elixirs – and massage them into my skin. I then use a little of the Triple Action Eye Cream and, if I think I need extra hydration, the face Serum, which really leaves my skin feeling soft and nourished. In the evening, after a meditation session with my Calm app, I’ll use the Nourishing Mask while I have my evening bath with B Silent Night-Time Bath Concentrate and Daylesford’s Detox Bath Salts.

Are you more comfortable in town or country?

We’ve chosen to live in the countryside. We’re in the midst of rolling hills, fields and farmland. I love the calmness and being surrounded by nature and wildlife. Even when it’s raining, just watching the formation of the clouds is amazing.

Are you conscious of what you put in your body?

Yes, I make an effort to eat seasonal, local, organically grown fruit and vegetables, which are free from pesticides, and meat and dairy from organic farms like Daylesford. My treats are chocolates and, every once in a while, a great red wine or my favourite Léoube rosé.

When it comes to your home interiors, how would you describe your style?

In our Oxfordshire home, the modern design includes strict architectural lines and a lot of open space and glass, which led us to create an interior that softens. I prefer not to work in a structured way with interior designers where everything is decided and laid out. I like finding one chair and working out what goes with that and building it up, because then it’s about you and who you are as a family. I’ve also collected glassware, ceramics and porcelain for years, as well as contemporary art and mid-century vintage furniture. Our home is a mix of ’50s, ’60s and ’70s pieces, from Scandinavian style to Bauhaus German. Architecturally, it’s the polar opposite of our Suffolk home, where we still spend our holidays, which is an Elizabethan house.

You’ve collaborated on an interiors collection, Cloudy Butterflies by Claudia Schiffer for Vista Alegre and Bordallo Pinheiro. What inspired this?

Yes, I have a glassware and ceramics collaboration with the heritage Portuguese brands Vista Alegre and Bordallo Pinheiro, which has just launched globally. Growing up near the Rhine in Germany, surrounded by countryside, I often drew inspiration from nature like butterflies and clouds. So when I developed the vases for Vista Alegre, I chose naturalistic colours that really explored that sense of bringing nature into the home. For the ceramic pieces I decided on a more detailed and decorative design in the figurative style of Bordallo Pinheiro. Both collections sit well together and it’s a long-term collaboration, so there will be more pieces coming out throughout this and next year, with a continued theme of nature and unique colours, also exploring different shapes and dimensions.

Claudia Schiffer

From left: Cloudy Butterflies vide poche €95, and fruit bowl, €120. Photo: Emma Waight

You also worked on a capsule collection with Être Cécile – what are your favourite pieces?

The collaboration is inspired by the effortless feel of ’60s and ’70s style icons like Sylvie Vartan and Jane Birkin. Like Être Cécile, I love that everyday, cool, French-girl aesthetic and my everyday ‘uniform’ tends to be denim coupled with great accessories and really easy separates like the Être Cécile ‘COUCOU’ skinny knit or one of the cotton tees in the summer, such as one in grey with a favourite ’90s editorial shot by Herb Ritts. I also love the sweatshirts like the navy version,
which references my nickname, Cloudy, in a multi-coloured and embroidered cloud shape.

Would you now choose interiors over fashion?

I love them both and I think they’re very interconnected. I’m also really interested in contemporary art, which I’ve been collecting for years.

Will you ever retire?

I’m very lucky to love, and to be able to pick and choose, my projects. I’m enjoying the different avenues my career has taken, including curating roles and design collaborations with partners I admire. That was a natural next step for me, and I look forward to more new experiences and projects. I love what I do and hope to continue for a long time.

What 50th birthday wishes did you make for the next decade?

The biggest plan is to keep my family safe in these crazy times. I’m curating an exhibition on ’90s fashion photography [opening] at the Kunstpalast Museum in Düsseldorf in March 2021, which will include a host of incredible photographers from Helmut Newton to Herb Ritts.

And, finally, how will you be marking the occasion?

I’m incredibly excited that brands including Aquazzura, Balmain, Dolce & Gabbana, Isabel Marant and Versace, as well as Bamford, Barbie, Frame Denim and Lucie Kaas are releasing limited edition and one-off pieces in celebration of my birthday, launching this September and October. From a taste and style perspective to a shared ethos on embracing age, health and well-being, these are all brands that are special to me, so I’m thrilled. Select items and sales will go towards a number of charities from Unicef, for whom I’m a UK Ambassador, to Heads Together and Humanitas Ricerca.