The iconic Renate Zatsch – One of the most published faces in the 70’s, immortalized by Adele Rootstein as one of the companies world famous mannequins. Renate, also known as Renata, worked with many notable friends and artists; among them Karl Lagerfeld, Helmut Newton and Antonio Lopez. She shifted form modeling to “behind the scenes” at designer Jil Sander. While always looking forward, by the early 90s Renate moved on into PR where for an extraordinary 23 years she helped build the legendary Karla Otto PR agency in Paris.
As one of the most published faces in the 70s you’ve worked on so many editorials and shows, do you recall a particular favourite?
Oh this is a hard one. I did so many great jobs as I was able to constantly change. But I do remember the shows for Chloé designed by Karl Lagerfeld were lots of fun with Pat Cleveland and Donna Jordan.
And there was this one show for Yves Saint Laurent that I’ll never forget. Mr. Saint Laurent was so sweet and nice to me. The same when I did the fittings in his Atelier for that show. I had a very elegant and different look at that time, hair cut like a bob, I think he liked that I was different.
From 1973 to 1978 I also worked a lot in Italy. There were some amazing shootings for Italian Vogue with Gian Paolo Barbieri. Gian Paolo was fantastic, he is such a gentleman and his photos are beautiful. I did the first advertising campaign with him for Armani and Gianni Versace. Gianni was sucg a wonderful person. So sweet and generous. I remember so well that we all used to drive at night with Donatella Versace to Florence to do his show. I have great memories from my Milano time. So many talented photographers, interior designers, artists etc.. A very creative time.
The Italians loved me. They said I looked at that time like Silvana Mangano, my face especially.
How did you end up in fashion?
I grew up in Germany in a little town called Bad Honnef 15 km from Bonn. I always loved fashion, there was a fashion school in Bad Honnef and I became very good friends with the girls at the school.
Unfortunatly my parents did not have enough money to put me into this school. Maybe better for me as the girls had all very wealthy parents and were not too motivated. except for partying a lot and getting drunk!!!
But I became a very good friend of the young Dutch teacher there for fashion design. She was more like a real artist but did the job to make money. With her I went to Holland for the first time. To Rotterdam and Amsterdam.
I loved her. We were quite crazy. Anyway I got inspired a lot by her. I was about 17.
How was it to work with Helmut Newton at Lago di Como for his first book? What do his pictures mean to you?
To work with Helmut at Lago di Como and spending 5 days there, it was quite special and a great experience. As I am german and Helmut enjoyed to speak his laguage with me, we got along very well. I felt honoured to work with him as I admired his pictures and to be in his first book White Woman which came out in 1976....
I am also in his book " Pages from the Glossies". And he signed it for me.
He for sure is one of the greatest fashion photographers ..an icon..
How was Paris to you when you started modeling there?
It started when I met fashion illustrator Antonio Lopez through Karl Lagerfeld in Paris. Once I met him we kind of never separated even though I lived in London and he in Paris at that time. Must have been in 1973.
I was always hanging out with Antonio, Juan, Paul, Donna Jordan, Corey Tippin, Pat Cleveland and later came Jerry Hall in the group. Every night Club Seven where Karl and Yves hanged out too. Crazy times. (Palace came much later).
In the daytime I went to castings, worked doing shows and shootings and at night we all got nuts. What a great time.
We really had fun. That’s all we were looking for. Money was only there to be spend right away. We were young and sexy.. All of us!! Usually we all stayed in Antonio's apartment. He did many illustrations of me at night, always working in the night. Karl was always around too and his boyfriend Jaques.
It was a crazy time back then in Paris, thank god I had my home and boyfriend in London, so I was saved from the drugs.
Your fittings moments with Karl Lagerfeld for Chloé where favourites right?
Yeah loved those fittings with Karl, still at his apartment in rue de L’Université. We got along very well, both speak German. His mother was always sitting in a chair next to where he worked, so sweet. And she was happy too, we were speaking the same language. At this time Karl designed the collections for Chloé. Beautiful clothes, très "osé" (bold). Black long see-through dresses, so elegant.
Wonderful moments to watch Karl in full creativity and he could draw so amazingly beautiful. He was just so fast and he still is I guess.
Then the Rootstein company made a very memorable mannequin after you. I have always been curious about the legendary Rootstein mannequins. How did this happen and how was this creation process?
Adele Rootstein had seen me in many photoshoots and shows. She had a great eye for choosing models and celebrities. In 1978 I posed every day 3 hours for 3 weeks in John Taylor's Atelier for my version of the Adele Rootstein mannequin. I loved the artist. He modelled me exactly how I was. Just longer legd.. Standard size.
One day when I was in NY, where I modeled a lot from 1976 to 1979, I walked by then famous department store Bendel with my boyfriend and I looked in the windows and nearly had a heart attack.. I was about 8 times in those huge window displays. Just me.. Fantastic.. we were shocked. We walked in the store and in this minute a guy comes up to me screams out loud: oh my god it's you!! It was a fun moment!
Given your long business career first as a successful model then for many years operating at the highest levels in PR, can we conclude you have always been keen in looking forward ?
Yes for sure. I have been always looking forward. It was quite natural for me to go on into the fashion PR business after my model career.
What made you take on PR?
Actually before starting at Karla Otto I worked freelance for a few years for Jil Sander. Taking care of finding accessories for her collections, then working in her showroom in Hamburg and Milano. Then I met Karla Otto in Milano where I lived from 1981 to 1986 and we became friends. She just started with a tiny office there. When I moved back to Paris in 1987 with my daughter I met Karla again in Hamburg at Jil Sander. Jil had approached her to become her PR in the Milano office.
In 1991 Karla asked me to find her an office in Paris as she wanted to open a PR agency there too. I found a beautiful office and then of she asked me to come work for her. Really not my idea at all to work in an office.. I was a free bird always working freelance. I said I’ll try.. and finally stayed 23 years helping to build Karla's office and work with the clients and VIP’s. It was a lot of work but a very fulfilling life.
Now the industry changed a lot. The internet, cellphones changed - everything. More speed, more clients, more shows more events... Actually the event and celebrity business changed a huge amount the PR business.
And globalisation of course too... If you want to be successful you have to be known worldwide. I find it kind of a very hard business now. For sure most of the fun is gone...