Tatjana Patitz, whose death at age 56 was reported by Vogue on January 11th died of breast cancer according to her agent, Corinne Nicolas.
“She is survived by her son, her sister, and her parents. We are all devastated by her passing,” Nicolas shared in a statement with PEOPLE. “She was a compassionate soul, kind and generous of heart and an avid advocate of animal rights. One of the major causes she supported was the conservation of wild horses.”
Patitz was one of the first “supermodels,” along with Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, and Christy Turlington. She had a big impact on the modeling industry in the late 1980s and early 1990s, appearing on some of the most famous magazine covers and music videos of the time, before stepping back to care for animals and raise her son, Jonah Johnson.
After she worked with the famous photographer Peter Lindbergh in the late 1980s, the famous German supermodel became very well known. But it was the famous black-and-white cover of British Vogue in January 1990 that put her on the map.
After she did the cover shoot with Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell, and Linda Evangelista, George Michael asked her to be in his famous “Freedom ’90” music video. It was one of the most memorable music videos ever made because all five models were in the spotlight and lip-synced to Michael’s song. Patitz told The New York Times in 2016 that when he made the video, he was “in his own zone.”
“I am proud of my wrinkles. I worked for each one and they belong to me. Growing older is beautiful. You become wiser and more mature. For me, giving away or changing that gift is not an option…Beauty means being a good person and being there for others. RIP Tatjana Patitz. pic.twitter.com/CB62nclhRK
— Kris Kosach (@KrisKosach) January 11, 2023
“I had to kind of slide up and down the wall for part of the day. The feel of the set was so run-down, this big, loft kind of vibe. There was another setup with me laying on a chaise lounge with a black smoking jacket. I think I may have had a bustier on. And I was smoking, even. People still smoked in videos then and even in films.”
In the years that followed, Patitz was on the cover of Vogue six times and walked many runways. Over the years, she worked with designers like Chanel, Donna Karan, Vivienne Westwood, and many more. The supermodel walked her last Milan Fashion Week show in 2019 with Etro for the brand’s Autumn/Winter 2019/20 show.
Anna Wintour, chief content officer of Condé Nast and global editorial director of Vogue, said in a tribute to Patitz that her unique beauty is what people remember most about her.
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Wintour said of Patitz after hearing about her death, “Tatjana was always the symbol of chic in Europe. She was like Romy Schneider meets Monica Vitti.” “She was far less visible than her peers—more mysterious, more grown-up, more unattainable—and that had its own appeal.”
After hearing of Patitz’s death, countless people in the fashion industry and beyond paid tribute to her, including Crawford, who had known and worked with Patitz since the beginning of her own career.
Crawford shared a photo of herself and Patitz on her grid, as well as a few throwback photos on her Instagram Stories. “We were babies together in the fashion industry and I feel like we grew up together,” Crawford wrote.
“Such terribly sad news about Tatjana Patitz, she was undoubtedly one of the greatest models of her time and a truly lovely person. We chose her to feature in our video for the song “Skin Trade” in 1987 /1 pic.twitter.com/cqgC1KBDuC
— Duran Duran (@duranduran) January 12, 2023
“We were in so many shoots together and backstage at shows. I found her soft-spoken, sensitive, kind, inquisitive and, who could ever forget those piercing eyes. Her love of animals and nature was infectious. Sending my condolences to her family — especially the son she adored.”
Patitz was born in Hamburg, Germany, on March 25, 1966, but he grew up in Sweden. In November 2004, she gave birth to her son, Jonah. Vogue says that Patitz loved all animals, but horses in particular and that she was an ambassador for the American Wild Horse Sanctuary.
Patitz lived in California for a long time and raised her son away from the public eye. Donations can be made in Patitz’s name to Return to Freedom, a national group that works to protect wild horses, to honor her life and work.
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