Saturday, January 4, 2014

Exclusive Interview - Tess Hellfeuer

German beauty Tess Hellfeuer may have skipped the Spring/Summer 2014 collections however her stunning debut at the preceding Fall/Winter 2013 collections backed by a raft of editorial and campaign bookings have kept her firmly on the radar of key industry watchdogs. The twenty year old Berlin native pierced through the haze of runway rookies via an Alexander Wang semi-exclusive during New York Fashion Week followed by a finely edited list of 26 show bookings including for Louis Vuitton, Marni, Dries Van Noten, Giles, Fendi, and Trussardi. Hellfeuer's penetrating blue eyes, flawless peaches and cream complexion, and metamorphic runway quality made her one of the key standout new faces of the Fall/Winter 2013 season. Where other newcomers may have fallen short, Hellfeuer parlayed that initial runway traction into key editorial and blue chip campaign slots signalling the arrival of a true top model contender.

In the relatively short space of a year, Hellfeuer has racked up an impressive list of editorial clients including Vogue Italia, British Vogue, French Numéro, W, Dazed & Confused, and Love Magazine. Money talks and so does Hellfeuer's Fall/Winter 2013 campaign bookings for Trussardi, Chloé, Neil Barrett, and H&M which have fast-tracked the Berlin native to the top of the modelling ladder. In an industry inundated with pretty faces, it is Hellfeuer's unwavering professionalism, her ability to breathe life and emotion into the images that she inhabits, and her genuine 'what you see is what you get' persona which set her apart. With the Fall/Winter 2014 collections fast approaching, IMA chatted exclusively to Hellfeuer about her meteoric rise, modelling's life lessons, and her love of Germany's other most sought after attraction her hometown of Berlin.  

Tess Hellfeuer
Image courtesy of Place Models

Inoubliable Model Army (IMA): Hi Tess, thank you for chatting with IMA! You appeared on IMA's Top 10 Newcomers List for the Fall/Winter 2013 collections but were noticeably absent during the recent Spring/Summer 2014 shows. What have you been up to of late and was skipping Fashion Week a conscious decision on the part of your management team at Place Models and New York Model Management?
Tess Hellfeuer (TH): Peace Leute, thank you for this interview, I feel very honoured! Recently I've been travelling a lot again. I'd been sick and decided to skip the Spring/Summer 2014 season so as not to risk my health. However the old Tess with tonnes of energy is back, maybe with even more energy, and happy about my health so that I can do my job well.

IMA: You made your international runway debut as a semi-exclusive for Alexander Wang during the Fall/Winter 2013 collections before moving on to rack up a show tally of 26 show bookings. What were your most memorable moments of that debut season?
TH: The whole one and a half months were memorable. I enjoyed most walking for Marc Jacobs and Louis Vuitton.

IMA: Would you mind sharing your backstory with IMA?
TH: I'm a twenty year old 'Berliner-rotzgore' (from Berlin) and have always lived there. I have been modelling for about one year and was scouted on the streets of Hamburg by my agent Yannis Nikolaou. It is actually really funny because after I finished my school last year I wanted to travel around the world with my best friend, but she signed up for university and I couldn't imagine travelling alone. So we visited a few German cities and our last stop was Hamburg where I was scouted. You can imagine what my initial reaction was... I signed my contract on the same day ;-)

Louis Vuitton - F/W 2013
Photographer - Yannis Vlamos
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Peter Pilotto - F/W 2013
Photographer - Yannis Vlamos
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Dries Van Noten - F/W 2013
Photographer - Filippo Fior
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IMA: IMA was based in your home city of Berlin for three amazing years! What do you love most about Berlin and where are your favourite haunts?
TH: Berlin in summertime is Awesome. We have more than three lakes in the city where you can swim, parks where people hang out playing sports and having barbecues, and partying at night. And we have a lot of history which you can find at almost every corner. Berlin has many different faces and there is always something new to discover. I love especially the Gorlitzer Park, Mauerpark, Bergmann-Kiez, and cafes like Melitta. Berlin has a great art scene with a lot of young international artists. I'm really happy that my friends and family are in Berlin and always when I go back I have an amazing time. And not to forget the party scene in Berlin which is for me the best!!!

IMA: Since your debut you have emerged as a key campaign contender having landed Fall/Winter 2013 campaign slots for Trussardi, Chloé, H&M, and Neil Barrett!
TH: Yes and I never expected that! But it's great and a big honour to be a face of a brand. And when all the pictures are out and I see myself in a magazine or on billboards it is kind of weird. It's interesting to see which pictures make the final selection, and if I look at the images I remember how I felt and with whom I worked, and I know the whole process of collaboration on the shoot.

IMA: You've also displayed incredible versatility in a spate of editorials for French Numéro, Vogue Italia, British Vogue, Love, W, Dazed & Confused, and Twin. What do you enjoy most about the editorial component of modelling and is there an editorial shoot that stands out as a great personal achievement?
TH: Editorials are always interesting. It's like a little story, it starts with the location, then the people involved and the clothes, the hair and make-up. In the pictures I always have a woman in mind, who would wear the make-up and the clothes, and how she would move to evoke an emotion. I had a really strong feeling for the Numéro editorial and I really enjoyed shooting it. But every shoot has been an unmissable experience, so they're all kind of a great personal achievement for me!

British Vogue - June 2013
Photographer - Karim Sadli
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French Numéro - November 2013
Photographer - Anthony Maule
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Vogue Italia - October 2013
Photographer - Emma Summerton
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IMA: Casting trend are veering towards a sophisticated mature beauty with many German models including yourself, Josephine Van Delden, Esther Heesch, Anna Ewers, Franzi Mueller, and Kati Nescher placing Germany firmly back on modelling's radar. Why do you think German girls are so popular at the moment in modelling and what is your perception of a modern day German beauty?
TH: Honestly, I have no idea why German girls are so in trend! I can only speak for myself. I love my job, I have only been late twice, I always give my full 100 %, and am always myself. Maybe that's why people like working with me ;-). But I noticed that all Germans are kind of real, they're not faking something, they're just who they are... natural and beautiful even without make-up or the right styling.
My idea of a modern beauty is a very pure and untouched woman, with a  nice smile and a sparkle in her eyes.

IMA: You've shared lens time with a prestigious line-up of photographers; Patrick Demarchelier, Paolo Roversi, Sølve Sundsbø, Daniel Jackson, and Karim Sadli. Are you able to shed any unique insights that you have gained as a model from these collaborations and are there any key industry figures that you would dearly love to work with in the future?
TH: Working with Karim was a lot of fun! I met him for the first time at the British Vogue shoot and he said, "Ok, tell me something, let's talk..." Because he wanted me to be totally natural, no model posing, just catching me in what he called it "off moments". I also really liked Daniel Jackson's way of working, it's hard and fun at the same time. For the future, I would love to work with Steven Meisel, his pictures are great!

IMA: Branding is a big catch phrase in modelling at the moment with agents encouraging models to utilise social media (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook) to raise their public profiles. How do you find the right balance between establishing a public profile that is attuned to your fan base whilst also maintaining your own personal private life?
TH: Very easy; my fans are my fans, they love me because of the job I'm doing. My friends are my friends. So, as long as I"m working I use various social media. As soon as I'm home, I throw my phone away and concentrate on my private, real life.

Tess Hellfeuer
Image courtesy of Place Models

Philosophy - F/W 2013
Photographer - Oleg Borsiuk
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IMA: Where do you see yourself in 10 years time and which profession would you like to fall back on as an alternative to modelling?
TH: Happy :-)!!! You never know what's going to happen but I hope I'll be in Berlin. And if I change my mind about modelling, I'd like to do something in environmental development.

IMA: A big misconception about modelling is the level of rivalry and competition between the girls. Who are your closest model besties and what do you do in your downtime together?
TH: Of course, because there are so many pretty girls out there and everyone wants to get the job. An mostly only one gets it! But more or less, we're all in the same boat and it's not our decision. We can represent ourselves in the best possible way but in the end it's up to the client!
When I'm free, I mostly hang out with Dutchies like Steffi Soede, Marly Warnier, and Liza Schwab. And do things that young women our age generally do ;-).

IMA: The modelling industry requires a level of maturity, commitment, and professionalism that sometimes forces models to grow up quickly. What have been the most valuable life lessons that you have acquired as a result of your industry exposure and what advice would you impart to young girls wishing to explore modelling as a career?
TH: Yes, that's true. Models are always the youngest in a team and you work with much older people and have to be professional all the time. It was hard for me in the beginning but I learnt to handle it. I always do my job as best as I can but nevertheless I don't pretend to be older than my 20 years. In addition, I have the feeling that people like the young way of thinking and behaviour, so I try to keep the child in me. This, I would say to every young girl starting out in modelling; never give up your personality, stay true to yourself, and grow up in your own tempo!

Esther Heesch & Tess Hellfeuer
Chloé - F/W 2013
Photographer - Patrick Demarchelier
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Neil Barrett - F/W 2013
Photographer - Daniel Jackson
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Trussardi - F/W 2013
Photographer - Karim Sadli
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IMA: You relocated to New York earlier this year. Was it a culture shock initially and what are your general perceptions of the city?
TH: I'd never been to New York City before and I was really excited! I fell in love with the city the first evening I got there. I went out for a walk and everything seemed so immense. Wherever I looked I couldn't believe my eyes. NY is a great city, with a lot of contrasts, great lights, and a feeling I can't explain. So many people rushing about in the street, there's so much diversity and this I find extremely inspiring. It's true that you can live your dream in that city (as long as your dream IS living in that mega-city)!

IMA: How has your fashion sensibility evolved as a result of your industry exposure, and which three designers are you currently loving?
TH: Before I started modelling I was very girly, now I'm more raff and yes I have some designer pieces which I love to wear with basics. I try to keep a balance between fashion and my own style. My favourite designers at the moment are Valentino, Isabel Marant, and Yves Saint Laurent.

IMA: Your mother agency Place Models has been strategic in guiding your career path to its current stratospheric level. How would you describe Place's management philosophy and what has been the most insightful advice that you have received from your agents?
TH: My agents at Place Models; Yannis and Jan-Eric are very nice, trustworthy guys, and know exactly what they are doing! They want the best for the girls and not only for their careers. The nicest thing I heard from them is that they will always stand behind me. And so I trust them 100%.

IMA: What makes you "Inoubliable" (Unforgettable)?
TH: My discipline, my 110%, and having fun on the job. I'm interested in everything, I'm very open and quite mad ;-)!

Tess Hellfeuer
Image courtesy of Place Models

Special thanks to Yannis Nikolaou at Place Models. For more information on Place Model Management, please log onto

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