15/03/2019 - Lifestyle
The photographer, the pop star and their models
Of course, there had been Twiggy. But it was a black and white photo of five young women in Giorgio di Sant'Angelo bodysuits and Levi’s jeans in Watts Street (SoHo) Manhattan, taken in late 1989 by the German photographer Peter Lindbergh that changed for good the image of models in the fashion world.
British Vogue put it on the cover of its first issue of 1990, which was supposed to represent the image of women in that new decade. Lindbergh had just revitalised the dominant style and aesthetics in the world of fashion. In relation to a book devoted to him, the publisher Taschen wrote that “Lindbergh has brought a humanist touch to his photographs by highlighting unadorned natural beauty, in a world where touch-ups are constant and where the mind and personality are, like the look, ‘formatted’.”
A few months later, the singer George Michael, who has since passed away (2016), vouched for these models in their role as real personalities by recruiting them for the video of his song Freedom. The Top Models were born: with character, presence and a dreamlike naturalness. Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, Tatjana Patitz and Cindy Crawford were the first representatives of a wave that has not diminished since. From Claudia Schiffer to Giselle Bündchen, Kate Moss, Cara Delevingne and Gigi Hadid: the phenomenon of the Top Model was made to last.
Between the penultimate and the last decade of the previous century, Peter Lindbergh had thus introduced, with a minimum of means and make-up, a decisive shift in the way women’s beauty was envisaged in magazines, while fashion sets moved from beautiful neighbourhoods to the street, quite simply.
It was not without reason that Lindbergh chose SoHo rather than the Upper East End in New York...
Liz Tilberis, the editor-in-chief of British Vogue at the time, was delighted with Lindbergh's work, believing that it was perfectly in line with her appeal to visualise what would become the woman of the nineties. And to do this, the photographer had chosen not just one woman but five.
At the same time, George Michael, who had just released his solo album Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1, decided not to appear in the video clips of his songs. With the director of Freedom, David Fincher (who had already made video clips for Madonna, Billy Idol, Aerosmith and Paula Abdul), he invited the five Top Models who appeared on the cover of Vogue and has since become famous, as well as four male models (John Pearson, Mario Sorrenti, Peter Formby and Jean-Ange Chiappini) to visually lip-sync the lyrics of his song. The models, then contracted to the agency Elite, were paid $15,000 per day of filming.
It was not the first time that models featured in music videos or album covers (Roxy Music, Duran Duran and Billy Joel had preceded George Michael), but with them, these ladies always represented the love of the singer in question. With George Michael, they literally replaced the singer.
From then on, not only were Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, Tatjana Patitz and Cindy Crawford established in their role as Top Models, but they also became superstars. Gianni Versace immediately recruited Campbell, Evangelista, Turlington and Crawford for his fashion show that same year. They aptly ended the show by lip-syncing George Michael’s Freedom song...
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