Last updated on 2 October 2017
Tatjana Patitz (born 25 May 1966) is a German supermodel and actress who achieved international prominence in the 1980s and 1990s representing fashion designers on runways and in magazines such as Elle, Harper's Bazaar, and Vogue. Patitz is one of the "big five" supermodels who appeared in the 1990 music video "Freedom! '90" by George Michael, and is associated with the editorial, advertising, and fine-art works of photographers Herb Ritts and Peter Lindbergh.
In his 2015 book Models of Influence: 50 Women Who Reset The Course of Fashion, Nigel Barker reflected on Patitz's modeling career during the height of the supermodel era in the 1980s and 1990s, writing that Patitz possessed an exoticism and broad emotional range that set her apart from her peers. In her 2012 memoir, creative director of Vogue Grace Coddington regarded Patitz as one of the original supermodels and a must in photographs and on the catwalk. Harper's Bazaar wrote, "Indeed, Patitz's features almost confuse. Like Garbo or the Mona Lisa, the inexplicable gifts of line and luminescence defy definition." Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour stated that Patitz had always been one of her favorite models. Patitz's work bridged the eras of the exhibitionist 1980s and the minimalist 1990s in an enduring way, as Barker concluded, "The most lasting images of her are when she was really looking like herself."
Today, Patitz is an avid horsewoman who continues her lifelong passion for animals and the environment by campaigning for ecological causes and animal rights. Her self-described eclectic and bohemian design aesthetic for residential architecture and home design in her adoptive home state of California has been recognized internationally.
Patitz was born in Hamburg, Germany and raised in Skanör, Sweden. She learned to ride horses at the age of seven. During the summers, she found respite at her family's summer vacation home in Mallorca, where she participated in horse camps.
In 1983 at the age of 17, Patitz entered and became a finalist in the Elite Model Look (formerly known as Elite Models' "Look of the Year" contest), and based on a Polaroid, she was placed third by Elite Model Management founder John Casablancas. Patitz won a contract and moved to Paris to begin working as a model. Though not an immediate success, by 1985, Patitz worked regularly and at the end of that year, she modelled for the cover of British Vogue, her first major cover.
That year she began to work with photographer Peter Lindbergh with whom she cultivated a 30-year collaborative relationship which contributed to the launch of the supermodel era. In his book, 10 Women, Lindbergh wrote, "I admire Tatjana because she always stays herself. She's very soft, but at the same time she's very strong and knows how to stand up for what she thinks, and it's always very enriching to be with her. It's impossible not to admire her and over the years not to be just a little bit in love with her.
Patitz's work in Europe led her to New York where she worked for Vogue and such photographers as Irving Penn, Helmut Newton, Steven Meisel, Denis Piel, Sheila Metzner, and Wayne Maser. She also worked with Gilles Bensimon at Elle and Francesco Scavullo at Cosmopolitan.
The December 1985 issue of Vogue featured Irving Penn's photograph, "Colored Contact Lenses", showing Patitz wearing contact lenses over closed eyelids. The image would later be featured in the 1992 book "On The Edge: Images from 100 Years of Vogue" as one one of the iconic photographs of the era.
In 1986, she appeared on two covers of the Italian edition of Vogue and continued to be featured in editorials in the American and British editions of Vogue. Patitz appeared in campaigns for Calvin Klein photographed by Bruce Weber, and in 1987 for Revlon's "The Most Unforgettable Women in the World" campaign photographed by Richard Avedon. Avedon also photographed Patitz for her first cover of American Vogue (May 1987), which is regarded as one of the definitive covers of the 1980s. Vogue began regularly including Patitz's name on the pages of fashion editorials as early as 1987, familiarizing readers not only with her face, but also with her personality.
During this period, Patitz met Los Angeles-based photographer Herb Ritts, with whom she shared another significant and enduring collaboration in fashion, fine art, and commercial work, like a muse playing any role he suggested - mermaid, sprite, surfer girl, plainswoman, movie star. Ritts said of Patitz, "Her features are a bit off; she's not a typical, commercial beauty, but when I shoot her, I'm never bored. Her looks have power, strength, intensity."
As the decade progressed, Patitz's career escalated and she was credited with expanding ideals of female beauty. Patitz and a select group of individual-looking, business-minded, high-profile fashion models emerged and came to be known as the original supermodels. A photograph showing Patitz with them laughing on the beach was taken by Peter Lindbergh for Vogue during this period. Simply titled "White Cotton Shirts", the image, now regarded as an iconic fashion photograph, was accompanied by an article that singled out Patitz for her "astonishing presence", praising her "uncosmeticised womanliness, new and important in the 1980s."
||At just shy of six feet tall, Teutonically self-composed, and dominating any room she cared to walk into [sic], Tatjana was the biggest beast in the seething jungle; Vogue amplified the comparison by fixating on her lynx-like eyes, impossibly blue and curved around the temples like a cat's. - From Vogue Model: The Faces of Fashion
In another 1988 Vogue article titled "Tatjana: Million Dollar Beauty", Patitz's creative team shared their impressions of her: "In pictures, her sensitivity is what comes through; something delicate, fragile, exciting. It's a strange mixture of lazy sensuality and moments of intense emotion," said John Casablancas, president of Elite Model Management. "It's hard to get a bad picture of Tatjana. She's very photogenic, which is very rare, and she looks different in every light," added photographer Patrick Demarchelier. "While some models develop one look, she has many."
Her versatility was exemplified by the changing of her hair color and style with each passing year during the late 1980s, from short-haired brunette to tawny mane to long and blond. For an April 1989 editorial titled "Earthly Powers" in British Vogue, hair stylist Didier Malige cut and restyled Patitz's foot-long blonde hair into a cropped shag just above her shoulders. "Once I cut my hair - I cried for two months," Patitz told Esquire magazine. "People said, 'We can't believe she cut her hair.'" But the move won Patitz covers of British and French editions of Vogue featuring her new look. The pinnacle of that year came in July and August when Patitz was awarded with consecutive covers of US Vogue - two months in a row. It was an unprecedented achievement for a model of that time and an innovation for the recently revamped Vogue under the leadership of new editor-in-chief Anna Wintour. This period was the zenith of Patitz's career, known as "the era of Tatjana" in the fashion industry.
During this period, in an effort to live a healthier and more balanced lifestyle, Patitz began slowing down her modeling career to focus on other creative pursuits such as writing, acting, and meditation. She relocated to California and made Los Angeles her homebase. The move afforded Patitz, who had always searched for creative and spiritual growth, the time and space to develop other aspects of her life.
||"I don't want to do anything for fame or money or glamour or anything like that...I think people are coming to a higher awareness in the world. Everything is polluted - the oceans, the forests...and people are killing each other all over the place without realizing that we all belong together and have to share this place. Maybe I'm dreaming, but I'm hopeful." - Tatjana Patitz, Model Magazine, December 1989
In the final months of 1989, Patitz was photographed with other top models in two portraits that would become key images of the supermodel era of the 1990s: "Stephanie, Cindy, Christy, Tatjana, Naomi, Hollywood, 1989" by Herb Ritts; and Peter Lindbergh's cover of the January 1990 issue of British Vogue.
The 1990s began with Patitz on the January covers of both the American and British editions of Vogue. She shared the British Vogue cover with Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, and Christy Turlington; the portrait of the five women is regarded as the cover that sparked the supermodel phenomenon of the 1990s, helping each woman attain global appeal. Photographed by Peter Lindbergh, the cover inspired pop star George Michael to cast Patitz, Crawford, Evangelista, Turlington and Campbell in his music video for the song "Freedom! '90" which was directed by David Fincher. Michael did not appear in the video; instead, each woman would lip-synch the song in Michael's place. Patitz and her co-stars were already top stars in the fashion world but were now gaining major recognition for their beauty and charisma outside of it too. The music video was programmed into heavy rotation on MTV, going on to transcend the worlds of pop culture, music, and fashion in the 1990s and remaining influential in the decades to come.
Settled in Los Angeles, Patitz continued to manage her modeling career while studying acting. She work mostly with Ritts, Lindbergh and Maser but was sought after by the industry's leading female photographers such as Peggy Sirota, Ellen Von Unwerth, Pamela Hanson and Sheila Metzner as well as new photographers such as Mario Sorrenti and Juergen Teller. Los Angeles-based photographers Phillip Dixon and Matthew Rolston also frequently photographed Patitz for Harper's Bazaar. Rolston said of Patitz: "I look for more than beauty. There must be a memorable quality. Tatjana has it more than anyone else. She sticks in your mind. There's a depth, an emotional quality to her that's truly extraordinary. She's very dear, charming and extremely feminine. She's very open and her priorities are natural things - animals, the sea, the environment. That's what's so interesting about her. She's not what she seems."
||Like other famous beauties before her, Tatjana Patitz possesses a certain extraterrestrial quality, an aura of exquisite otherworldliness only too effortlessly capable of freezing mere mortals in their tracks...She's the fitting embodiment of the nineties ideal: a cool customer who know what she wants and knows how to get it. Rarely have blonde hair and blue eyes managed to look quite so exotic - with her trademark world-weary gaze and her loose-limbed aristocratic bearing, Patitz often seems as if she's just been awakened from a divinely decadent dream. - ELLE (April 1990)
As the decade progressed, Patitz continued to work in advertising campaigns and on runways for such top fashion houses as Chanel, Versace, Salvatore Ferragamo, Valentino (fashion designer), Karl Lagerfeld, Helmut Lang (fashion brand), Donna Karan, Jean Paul Gaultier, and Vivienne Westwood. Most notably, Patitz was the long-standing face of Jil Sander, representing the designer's minimalist style for a generation of fashion readers  in era-defining ad campaigns photographed by Nick Knight.
Patitz also shared another cover with the supermodels of the era for the centennial issue of American Vogue (April 1992) photographed by Patrick Demarchelier.
Patitz appeared on over 200 magazine covers worldwide, including seven covers of American Vogue and thirteen covers of British Vogue. French, Italian, German, Spanish, and Australian editions of Vogue have also featured Patitz on their covers and in editorials photographed by photographers such as Max Vadukul, Sante D'Orazio, Mikael Jannson, Arthur Elgort, Hans Feurer, Walter Chin, and Javier Vallhonrat. In advertising, Patitz won an exclusive cosmetic contract with Germaine Monteil makeup and perfumes.
Regarded as one of the "Original Supermodels", she remains in demand periodically returning to the runway for select designers, such as Jean-Paul Gaultier and Chanel.
Patitz has appeared in international television commercials for Cartier, L'Oréal, Revlon, Levi (jeans), Corsa, Dupont, Pantene, Dockers, and Ralph Lauren.
Acting and other appearances
In 1987, she appeared in the Duran Duran music video for the song "Skin Trade". She then moved to California to begin a career as an actress. Her first appearance was a brief one as a murder victim in Rising Sun (1993). Following this, Patitz made several appearances on television series, music videos, and films. Her largest role was in the 1999 thriller Restraining Order.
In 1990, Patitz was featured in George Michael's "Freedom! '90" music video, along with Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista, and Naomi Campbell.
In 2000, she appeared in the Korn music video for the song "Make Me Bad".
Along with Michael J. Fox, she appears in the 2011 Carl Zeiss AG calendar, photographed by Bryan Adams in New York City in the summer of 2010.
In 1989, Patitz went to live on a ranch in Malibu, California where in 2009 she was reported to have four horses, four dogs and two cats, commenting "I needed nature around me". She has a son, Jonah, who was born in 2004, and is separated from his father, a marketing executive.
Patitz is vegetarian.
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- ^ Okwodu, Janelle. "Now This Is a Supermodel". Vogue (www.vogue.com). Conde Nast ("As the long-standing face of Sander's eponymous line, Patitz came to represent the designer's minimal elegance for a generation of consumers"). Retrieved 10 August 2016.
- ^ "Nick Knight Exhibition". www.LikeYou.com. likeyou artnetwork: ("Nick Knight has continuously empowered women through his imagery. In "Sander" (1997) the model, Tatjana Patitz, remains strong, fierce and feminine despite her downward gaze and obscured face. Juxtaposed with the sheerness of the fabric and delicate colouring, Knight's image for the Jil Sander 1992 campaign celebrates the balance of women's strength and fragility, and like the designer Knight set the standards for 1990s minimalism through sophisticated lines" ). Retrieved 11 August 2016.
- ^ Rosen, Miss. "Fashion, Art & Photography Meet in the Work of Nick Knight". www.craveonline.com. CraveOnline Media, LLC, an Evolve Media, LLC company. Retrieved 11 August 2016.
- ^ "The Gang's All Here: 7 Iconic Group Model Vogue Covers". www.vogue.com. Conde Nast Publications. Retrieved 12 August 2016.
- ^ Olivier, Dana. "Executive Fashion And Beauty Editor". www.huffingtonpost.com. Huffington Post. Retrieved 10 May 2016.
- ^ Okwodu, Janelle. "Vogue.com Fashion News Writer". www.vogue.com. Vogue. Retrieved 10 Dec 2015.
- ^ Okwodu, Janelle. "Now This Is a Supermodel". www.vogue.com. Conde Nast. Retrieved 10 December 2015.
- ^ "Michael J. Fox proves he's still laughing in the face of Parkinson's disease as he hams it up for new calendar", The Daily Mail, 18 September 2010.
- ^ Tatjana Patitz at International Vegetarian Union
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