One of the original ’90s supermodels, Tatjana Patiz, has died at the age of 56.

written by Scotty Andrew, CNN

Her agent has confirmed to CNN that Tatjana Patitz, who rose to fashion fame in the ’90s as an animal-loving model with a keen eye, has passed away. She was 56 years old.

Her agent, Corinne Nicholas, told CNN that Pattiz died Wednesday of breast cancer. She is survived by her son, Jonah.

The German-born supermodel appeared on dozens of covers of Vogue and countless other fashion magazines starting in the 1980s. Her most iconic cover, which she shared with fellow supermodels of her generation, inspired George Michael to include it in his music video for “Freedom! ’90.”
Where other supermodels of her time were known to command the public eye, Patitz preferred a quieter life surrounded by nature, especially the wild horses and western lands they lived on. Still, she was impossibly chic and effortless, Anna Wintour, global managing editor of Vogue, said in a statement to the magazine.

“Tatiana has always been the European icon of style, like Romy Schneider meets Monica Vitti,” she said.

Tatjana Patitz walks the runway for Chanel’s Spring-Summer 1991-1992 Ready-to-Wear show during Paris Fashion Week in 1991. credit: Victor Virgil/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images

Born in Hamburg, Germany and raised in Sweden, Patitz was discovered in 1983 when she was a finalist in the “Elite Model Look” competition, where the heads of elite agencies chose her from a pool of unknowns. (Cindy Crawford was also a finalist that year, per Elite.)
However, her career did not take off until the late 1980s. It was around this time that she became a muse for photographer Peter Lindbergh, for whom she was a model until 2010. A now-infamous 1988 photo shoot for Vogue took Patitz and other models on a beach in Santa Monica, California, as they strutted in the sand in matching white T-shirts.
Then came the famous 1990 cover of British Vogue, which was also photographed by Lindbergh-Patitz, one of the “original” models of the era, appearing alongside Christy Turlington, Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell and Linda Evangelista. The image prompted singer George Michael to portray women in the video for his single “Freedom! ’90” which has also become a cultural artifact.
Patitz (second from right) hangs on longtime collaborator Peter Lindbergh's shoulder, along with models Karina Alexander (left) and Milla Jovovich, in 2016.

Patitz (second from right) hangs on longtime collaborator Peter Lindbergh’s shoulder, along with models Karina Alexander (left) and Milla Jovovich, in 2016. credit: Fraser Harrison/Getty Images

Patitz was, at the time of her rise, considered “extraordinary” compared to other dominant models, according to a 1990 Harper’s Bazaar story: “Indeed, Patitz’s features are almost disconcerting. Like Garbo or the Mona Lisa, her inexplicable gifts of line and brilliance defy definition.” Her insight gave her a slightly more ethical outlook, according to feedback from those in the industry.

Photographer Matthew Rolston said of Patits in that 1990 story, “There’s a depth, an emotional quality to it that’s really extraordinary.” Not only was her appearance beautiful, she said; It was unforgettable and evocative.

Patitz has appeared on more than 130 magazine covers in her lifetime, according to Elite. She was just one face among a sea of ​​models at Vogue’s 100th anniversary in 1992, all dressed identically in white jeans and white T-shirts buttoned at the midriff. And in 2016, she was featured in the cover of a black-and-white Italian Vogue photographed by Lindbergh.

Tatiana Patits in Germany in April 2022.

Tatiana Patits in Germany in April 2022. credit: Gisela Schober/German Select/Getty Images

A lifelong animal lover, she was photographed on horseback for a 1989 Vogue spread and has also donned several wide-brimmed cowboy hats. She also appeared with her son, Jonah, in a 2012 photo shoot at their home in California.

Off the runway, Patitz has been passionate about advocating for animals, even since her early modeling days, as noted in her 1990 Harper’s Bazaar profile. She told Mexican magazine Milenio in 2021 that she has campaigned for California’s legislation to protect wild horses and participated in the American Campaign. Wild Horse, which works to protect public lands. She continued to work in fashion throughout her 40s and 50s, but she chose her projects “very eclectically,” she told 63 Mercedes-Benz magazine in 2016, and in those projects she would try to “combine my work as a model with my profession as a protector of nature and animals.”

Patitz tells Milenio that she prefers to live a less prestige life than her models and enjoys “being surrounded by nature, away from concrete and noise” with her son and their animals. She was less present in the public eye than her contemporaries, and when she moved to California rather than the modeling hub of New York, her legacy was not as widely recognized as theirs.

“She was a lot less obvious than her peers — she was more mysterious, more mature, a bit more approachable — and that had her own appeal,” Wintour told Vogue.

in tweetInc., the Peter Lindbergh Foundation, which is sharing photos from the late photographer’s archive, paid tribute to Patitz for her “kindness, inner beauty, and outstanding intelligence.”

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