John Casablancas, a titan among modeling agents, died of cancer on Saturday in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He was 70 years old. The Elite Models founder had a recognized eye for talent and produced the group of models that defined the 80s and 90s: Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford and Linda Evangelista.
Born in New York in 1942, Casablancas went to boarding school in Switzerland and bounced around several European colleges before founding Elite Model Management in Paris in 1972. His outsized influence on the fashion industry and rise to the top model is evident in the legendary list of models who debuted at Elite, in addition to Campbell, Crawford and Evangelista: Claudia Schiffer, Paulina Porizkova, Heidi Klum, Gisele Bündchen. In 1983 Elite created The Look of the Year, a modeling competition now known as the Elite Model Look. Competitors over the years have included Lara Stone, Diane Kruger and Petra Nemcova.
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Under Casablancas’ tutelage, models became bigger stars in their own right by showing some personality and becoming more than just a pretty face. He also encouraged his daughters to flaunt their sex appeal in a very different approach to traditional 70s modeling agencies, which were more motherly towards their clients. Under his leadership, Elite became a global juggernaut and its models commanded stratospheric charges; as an evangelist famous noted“You don’t wake up for less than $10,000 a day.”
While Casablancas worked hard, he also played hard. He developed a lothair reputation for his antics with younger models and had an affair with Stephanie Seymour when she was 15 and he was 41 and married. Known to be quite competitive with other agencies, it has withstood frequent accusations of poaching within the industry. In 2000, he resigned from the high profile modeling group amid allegations of sex and drug use between agency management and the models they represented, although Casablancas himself did not been involved.
At that time, he had come to believe that he had created some kind of monster, tell the Telegraph“One of my biggest regrets is making the supermodel. They can be impossible… The girls never thanked me for it. I’ve had enough.”
He leaves behind his third wife Aline Wermelinger, to whom he was married for 20 years, and five children, including Julian, the leader of The Strokes.
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