Photography by Andrew Macpherson
Styling by Robert Behar | November 20, 2014 | People
In the ’80s, Cindy Crawford took the modeling world by storm. These days, the DeKalb native is still turning heads—not just as a beauty, but also as a philanthropist, designer, and working mother of two. In an exclusive interview for Michigan Avenue with her friend and frequent collaborator, legendary fashion photographer Victor Skrebneski, Crawford candidly reflects on her early modeling days, her design partnership with Art Van Furniture, and her continued love for the city of Chicago.
VICTOR SKREBNESKI: So what is your favorite place in Chicago, besides my studio?
CINDY CRAWFORD: [Laughs] Your studio is probably one of the places I’ve spent the most time. What I love about coming back to Chicago is trying new places—the last couple of times I’ve come back, I went to Girl and the Goat, and that whole area is just changing so much. Every time I come back to Chicago there’s some new, hot area to check out. And then I also just like to walk around. Even walking Oak Street or Michigan Avenue—all of that brings back so many memories.
Do you shop here?
You know what’s funny? I’ve kind of lost my interest in shopping. I haven’t bought anything for 30 years. It’s funny because, as you know, I was just back at your studio in the spring and I was kidding [your assistant] Dennis [Minkel] that it’s the same coffee cups from 20 years ago. And I love that. I think when you get older you invest more in things that you really love and can have for a long time.
I agree. Do you miss Chicago at all, living in California?
I miss the people. I definitely miss being close to my mother, my sister, and my grandmother.
Does your mother ever go to California?
She does, and then we tend to get together at Christmas. But I will say DeKalb was such a great place to grow up, and Chicago was a big city for me. We would take the train in at Christmas to see the Marshall Field’s displays and the lights, so Chicago was my first big-city exposure. And then I moved to New York, so now living in Malibu—it’s definitely not the city. I don’t even have those types of city clothes anymore—it’s jeans and flip-flops. I miss a little bit of the hustle-bustle of city life, like when I go to New York or Chicago. But after a week of that I’m so happy to come back to Malibu and eat dinner at 7 o’clock.
So what’s your design philosophy for your Cindy Crawford Home collection?
I think if there is a philosophy it’s definitely that style is style, and you don’t have to break the bank [to get it]. I’m not a designer, but I’ve worked with so many talented people, and the collection has drawn on what I’ve learned and what appeals to me and incorporates that into an accessible collection. I think my aesthetic is an updated look at traditional. Our [new] partner in Chicago is Art Van; the line itself isn’t new, but Cindy Crawford Home at Art Van is new.
[Speaking of design,] is it true you spent your first paycheck on wallpaper?
It’s true. It also coincided with my older sister moving out of my bedroom—I always shared a bedroom. She went to college, and I got to decorate for the first time. And I remember going out and getting wallpaper and bedcovers—I wasn’t allowed to change the rug—and I got blinds, too. Everything was coordinated. I would not necessarily choose the same things today, because they were very much through the eyes of a 16-year-old girl, but what I loved was that it was the first time I got to define my own aesthetic in terms of my environment.
And that was at home?
Yeah, that was at my parents’ house. And then, my first Chicago apartment, which was down the street from your studio...This is actually a really funny story. I ordered a sofa from Jennifer Convertibles, where you got to order your sofa and pick your fabric, and you needed to order by phone, but I didn’t realize you needed to measure the opening of your doorway. So they bring the sofa—eight weeks I’ve been waiting for it—and it won’t fit into my apartment. I learned a very valuable lesson from that experience.
Navy blue and mustard double cashmere coat with waves ($14,795), dress (price on request), and gold leather collar ($450), Agnona. Neiman Marcus, 737 N. Michigan Ave., 312-642-5900. Rococotte black suede toe pump, Christian Louboutin ($895). 58 E. Oak St., 312-337-8200
How do you think the modeling world has changed since you started modeling? Or has it?
I’m only in my little world, so I don’t really know. Once you’re in front of the camera, it’s probably not any different—except that for me as a model, the digital experience is very different. Because—and this is not the way you shoot at all—for a lot of these people, now the focus of the shoot is around the monitor, not around the set. So I think for a model, a little bit of the performance aspect [is missing]; now everyone’s around the monitor and I always say, “I’m over here, come pay attention to me.”
Everybody today is a photographer, because they have all those little telephone cameras. And when you go to a restaurant, all you see are flashes ’cause people are [taking selfies].
In a way it democratizes fashion and photography—even my son is playing around with filters, and it’s amazing what kids can do even on their phone in the back of the car in 10 minutes. Years ago it used to be I’d sit next to the retoucher and it would take three hours to take a spot off. And now there’s nothing to it. When I’m working today, you can tell the people who were working before digital and the people who weren’t. The people who were working before digital still care about making sure everything goes perfectly, and the skin looks perfect, or whatever. But the young people who never had it are always like, “Oh we’ll just fix and retouch it.” And they’re right. I always say, it’s not that one’s better or worse; it’s just a different art now.
I’d say so, too. Now what about your daughter [Kaia]? Did you give her any advice if she’s going to be into modeling? Does she have any beauty marks like you?
No, she does not. My son, Presley, has one.
His is on his cheek. It’s a little higher than mine. It’s on the other cheek, too—on the other side, and a little higher.
Oh my gosh. Remember when you first started modeling, and you asked, “Should I take [the beauty mark] off?” and I said, “Absolutely not— [legendary Vogue model] Jean Patchett had it forever.” Remember that?
Well, the first agency I went to in Chicago told me to take it off.
I said don’t listen to them.
Thank god you did say that.
And how! That was a great photograph. It was the headshot in Vogue, wasn’t it? That was your first picture for New York.
That was terrific.
And I think once Vogue left the mole, it was like, well, if it’s good enough for Vogue it must be good enough for everyone. The seal of approval.
What’s Presley doing then? Does he want to be a photographer or doesn’t he know yet?
He wants to surf and check out girls. He’s 15 and we live in Malibu, so he has a pretty good life.
You do a lot of charity work.
I [just went to Peru] for Omega Watches. They partner with Orbis, which is a charity that has an airplane, so they go and do eye surgeries in Peru and places where they don’t have access to great medical services. They’re doing a documentary, so I’m the host of the documentary...I also still do a lot of work in Madison, Wisconsin, at the American Family Children’s Hospital, which is where—it’s not the exact hospital where my brother Jeff was treated [before he passed away]—that hospital doesn’t exist anymore—but this is a new hospital that he would’ve gone to. I took my daughter there this fall because I host a reunion of cancer survivors every five years there [through a program called Kids With Courage], and we also do hospital visits. And it was just so great for Kaia to see that. It was really like I was passing the baton to her in a way, or starting to pass the baton, and just teaching her that she’s had a very privileged childhood, which comes with responsibility as well.
Do you still model?
Yes. For me, every time I’m in front of the camera, I’m modeling. So whether I’m selling skincare or doing Michigan Avenue magazine, to me that’s modeling. I still am able to put my skills to use—maybe with a little more retouching, but you know what I mean.
I didn’t realize you were a bowler. What is your high score?
Terrific. When did you start bowling?
I had it in P.E. at DeKalb High School. You can take bowling as first semester of P.E. if you have a car to drive yourself to the bowling alley, which I think is hilarious. But it’s funny because I rarely bowl, but once in a while, someone will have a bowling birthday party or something, and it’s amazing that it actually comes back to me. You also know I bake, because I used to bring food to your studio.
I remember that.
My best is strawberry rhubarb. If I want to get on my husband’s good side, I make strawberry rhubarb pie.
It’s been 30 years since you graduated from high school.
That’s just mean to say that it’s been 30 years.
[Laughs] I’m sorry. If you went back and saw your 18-year-old self today, what sort of advice would you give yourself?
You know, I think I would [tell myself] two things. One is, you’re good enough. I think young people— and adults—are plagued by our insecurities. [Mine was] coming to Chicago and coming to your studio and going to New York, and worrying that I didn’t belong or I didn’t deserve to belong, or whatever.
You did that when you first started, but you certainly don’t seem insecure now.
I think we all get better at our coping mechanisms, don’t you think? [Laughs]
The other thing I would tell my young self is to just let loose a little bit more and have fun. I was very cautious and careful—which probably helped lead to the career that I had—but there were a few times I could have had a little bit more fun. Also, for me coming from such a sheltered small town, going to the big city and being around all that craziness of the ’80s, it was easier for me to put my nose in a book and just kind of block it all out. I didn’t quite know how to navigate it, so I just chose not to. But looking back, I was like, Maybe I should have gone on Armani’s boat for a week, or do things that [I didn’t do because] I was afraid of feeling out of my league or in an uncomfortable situation. Look, in the end it worked out for me, and I have a great life. Actually Rande has brought more [of that out in me]; he’s fun, and I feel safe having fun around him, so I’m almost doing some of those things. We used to go to the South of France every summer with his friends, and I would be like, That’s my one week a year that I dance on top of a table every day at lunch.
I probably should have done it when I was 20 and things weren’t jiggling so much.
[Laughs] I could still pull it off at 35 or 40. Well, you did.
Yeah, well, now I’m not doing it anymore. [Laughs] Unless I know there are no cameras around.
Does Rande take pictures of you at stuff like that?
No, I think we’re both at the point right now where we want to live the moment more than document it.
That’s what I tell people. Do not photograph me. There’s a time in everyone’s life where you don’t have to be photographed anymore.
You know what? You still look great. My grandmother, both my grandmothers, are still living, which is amazing. My 92-year-old grandmother came with me to Europe last year, and she looks beautiful. I think we are the hardest judges of ourselves, which is unfortunate, because other people see the beauty of a life well lived.
Right. We take in every little detail. So how do you manage being a mother with being an entrepreneur, and all that goes with that? How do you make time in your life?
Well, the great thing about having kids is you don’t have to figure out your priorities anymore because you’re looking at them. It’s kind of great because it does prioritize your life in a whole new way. And you learn to say no more. I agree that you can have it all; I just think it’s really hard to have it all at the same time. So I just don’t do as many extracurricular things, because I always have something better to do, which is being home with my family.
photography by justin bare (Crawford and skrebneski); styling by robert behar/opus; hair by yiotis panayiotou using oribe; Makeup by shane paish/walter schupfer using dior; nails by whitney gibson using chanel; photography assistance by alex alMeida and paul rae; hair assistance by osvaldo delgado; video by nardeep khurMi; sitting editor: danielle yadegar; special thanks to anne kiM; beauté: Marc Jacobs Genius gel foundation in Fawn Light ($48), Enamored Hi-Shine lacquer in Blanche ($18). Marc Jacobs Collection Chicago, 11 E. Walton St., 312-649-7260. Dior Diorshow Brow Styler in Universal Brown ($29) and Diorshow mascara in Catwalk Black ($25). Saks Fifth Avenue, 700 N. Michigan Ave., 312-944-6500. Charlotte Tilbury Kissing Nude Kate lipstick ($32). Oribe Royal Blowout Heat Styling Spray ($59), Imperméable Anti-Humidity Spray ($39), Grandiose Hair Plumping Mousse ($35), Dry Texturizing Spray ($42). Neiman Marcus, 737 N. Michigan Ave., 312-642-5900
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