She’s nearing 40 and the mother of two children, but even in her own estimation, Claudia Schiffer is looking better than ever. The supermodel discusses shyness, settling down in Suffolk, and the secrets of seemingly eternal youth
There aren’t many women who could honestly and confidently say they feel and look better at 39 than they ever have before. In fact, Claudia Schiffer may well be one of just a handful.
The others are most probably her fellow supermodels, who, defying the traditional diktats of the fashion world, are back dominating the glossy magazines and advertising campaigns with not a wrinkle or body flaw in sight.
At a time when just about every older woman on television is being replaced by a twentysomething, when we are going to ever greater lengths to maintain our youth, and when there’s an influx of young models from ever more exotic places, they are defying all the odds and demonstrating extraordinary staying power. Christy Turlington was on the cover of last month’s American Vogue, Linda Evangelista fronted a recent Prada campaign, and still represents L’Oréal, while Schiffer herself has just been announced as the face of the new Alberta Ferretti fragrance.
"We were very lucky," Schiffer admits. "Back when we started out, only models featured on the covers of magazines and there were just a select few girls around. Now there are thousands of girls trying to make it, and they are competing with singers and actresses for every campaign and cover. We managed to make a name for ourselves - that is the key to long-term success nowadays."
It helps that Schiffer looks as though she might still be in her twenties. If she has wrinkles, you barely notice them, grey hairs are nowhere to be seen and her famous body seems untouched by cellulite and gravity. In fact, it is apparently in even better condition than it was in her catwalk days. "In my twenties, I had no idea," she chirps. "I never set foot in the gym and I ate whatever was available at the moment I was hungry. Today I eat only organic food and try to exercise three times a week. I go power walking and I do Pilates, which has made my body more toned and elongated my muscles. I also actually lost a lot of weight after I gave birth. Sometimes your metabolism speeds up a lot, so I am thinner today than I ever was, which is great because now I can eat more food."
As well as a career still going at full steam, a body every woman envies, sparkling blue eyes and bouncing blonde locks, she has a film director/producer husband of seven years, Matthew Vaughn (Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Stardust), two beautiful children (Casper, 6, and Clementine, 4), and divides her time between her homes in London and the English countryside. If it all seems unbelievably, almost sickeningly, perfect, that’s because it is. But it hasn’t always been.
By her own admission, Schiffer was a shy and nervous 17-year-old, lacking in confidence, when she was discovered in a Düsseldorf disco. "Modelling was amazing for me," she recalls. "It was like therapy. My shyness is still there, but after you’ve had people telling you how fantastic you are every day, and being on the cover of magazines, it brings you out of your shell. I would never want to be in my twenties again; I like myself so much better today."
That shyness is reflected in the way the couple remain mostly out of the limelight. She admits her husband, just like her, is a private person and they are rarely seen in West End restaurants or on red carpets, preferring to spend evenings in together and weekends at their house in Suffolk. "I am happiest when I am in the countryside with my husband and kids. I don’t care what I look like, don’t wear any make-up and spend all day in jeans and sweaters. Even when my friends come [Sting and Trudie Styler are regulars, as were Madonna and Guy Ritchie before their split], everyone turns up at the breakfast table in their pyjamas without having brushed their teeth - that is my real life," she says.
Before marrying Vaughn, whom she met on a blind date in Los Angeles, Schiffer had her fair share of heartache, notably two failed engagements - to magician David Copperfield and to entrepreneur Tim Jeffries. She struggled to find someone to settle down with - surely that wasn’t due to a lack of offers? "A lot of the time, I found, the men who did have the courage to approach me were the wrong ones. It was the men in the background who were actually more attractive, but they obviously felt they couldn’t go there."
Now she’s found Vaughn, she’s keen to make family a priority. Any movie ambitions she once had have now been set aside: "Marrying a film director is a big reason not to be involved in that world. I don’t want to be in the same business as him. I want to be the supportive wife at home." And the work she does take on has to fit around her children. Her little girl is just starting school, so Schiffer has cleared her schedule for two weeks so that she can drop her off and pick her up every day. "Modelling is a great job to have because I can make sure I am never away from the kids for more than a few days." And, she continues, "That also means the days that I do work are special and exciting."
Despite modelling for more than 21 years, it is clear Schiffer remains passionate about fashion, and has no intention of walking away from it in the near future. "I will continue as long as people still want me," she giggles. "And although I assume I won’t be able to carry on modelling indefinitely, I will always be involved in the fashion world. If that is not in front of the camera, I will be nurturing talent or collaborating with designers."
Considering her popularity and staying power, it’s unlikely the offers will stop coming in any time soon. The reason Alberta Ferretti chose Schiffer as the face of her fragrance is precisely because she has established her name in the world of fashion and, as Ferretti puts it, has "become a beauty icon ... A woman whose sensuality comes from her unique personality."
The fact that she doesn’t seem to have aged a day must, surely, also have something to do with it. As she has shunned Botox and ruled out any surgery, there must be some secret to her seemingly eternal youth? "Moisturise," she says, "drink lots of water, eat organic food and try to be disciplined - not too many French fries, easy on the mayonnaise and definitely stay away from Starbucks frappuccinos. I used to have one every morning, but now I only allow myself a small one every couple of weeks."