Supermodel Heidi firmly believes that age and income should be no barrier to looking fabulous. She has just created a showstopping party range that looks a million dollars but can be picked up with the weekly shop.
I am in a situation that would make me the envy of every man I know. I am squeezed on a sofa next to Heidi Klum – supermodel, Victoria’s Secret Angel, TV presenter, mother of four and ex-wife of musician Seal. Heidi has a new incarnation: fashion designer to the masses.
‘I want to break into every woman’s circle,’ she announces boldly, a determined glint in her eye. We are at a party, held in a grand schloss outside Berlin, to unveil her second line of affordable fashion for budget supermarket chain Lidl, which, like Heidi, is one of Germany’s most popular exports.
To prove her point – that good clothes needn’t cost more than, well, 15 euros – she orders me to ‘Feel them!’ referring to the black faux-leather trousers that adorn her terrifically long legs. And so it is that I find myself with my hand, momentarily, resting on Heidi Klum’s thigh. And I must admit: the cut and quality does seem excellent.
‘My entire outfit costs less than 70 euros,’ Heidi beams proudly. On her top half, she wears a silk camisole the colour of mulled wine, with a black sequined jacket – ‘my favourite piece’. On her feet are a pair of black satiny platform sandals with a bow, which make her seem even more statuesque than she is.
While outside rain falls heavily on the life-sized gingerbread house built near the villa to help foster the ‘Christmas-glamorous’ theme of the party, inside all is shiny and bright: rooms decked out with baubles; rails of Heidi’s clothes on glorious display; waiters scurrying about serving prosecco. Adding to the glamour are PR girls, models and influencers, who are mingling, on-message, in the various outfits that can be put together by mixing-and-matching Heidi’s pieces, not one of which costs more than £25.
This collaboration follows on from the success of Heidi’s first line for Lidl’s esmara clothing range. That one was more killer suits in bright colours and heavy on the leopard print, inspired by her early modelling years spent in New York City, where the collection launched during Fashion Week back in September.
Her latest is, once more, aimed at ‘real’ women (a term she sprinkles into conversation and which I take to mean those on a budget), and comprises a capsule wardrobe for Christmas and New Year parties. There are velvet blazers, shimmery minis, sequined shift dresses, silky tops and a jumpsuit with cut-out shoulders and a cinched waist that I covet.
‘We all have so many events to go to at this time of year,’ she sighs – and I nearly point out that most of us probably don’t have quite as many as she does but, yes, dressing for the festive season can be overwhelming. ‘Right? And why should it cost a fortune?’
The stylish pieces on display represent quite a feat from a woman who gave up her chance to study fashion design. After she left school, Heidi was accepted to a fashion college in Düsseldorf, but at the same time she won a local modelling competition, and thought, ‘I can’t not give this a go.’ She has since become one of the world’s most successful models, regularly appearing on Forbes magazine’s list of the highest earners.
Heidi has also had quite the television career – she currently presents America’s Got Talent, alongside Mel B and Simon Cowell, has presented and executive produced Germany’s Next Top Model since 2006 and been Emmy-nominated for Project Runway, which she has presented for 13 years.
She subsequently had a three-year relationship with art curator Vito Schnabel, 31, son of the artist Julian, but this relationship is now over – though this topic is not up for discussion, for what it’s worth, she doesn’t look heartbroken.
Heidi has dabbled in fashion over the years: shoe collaborations with Birkenstock and New Balance, jewellery, baby clothes and lingerie (she took over the Intimates line from Elle Macpherson, with whom she shares the moniker The Body). ‘But,’ she says, ‘nothing on this scale: making pieces for 10,000 Lidl stores in 27 countries. That’s a bit different: a great opportunity and a challenge.’ And it’s something she wants to do more of.
‘Someone said to me, “This Lidl stuff is fun, but when are you going to do real designing?” I was offended! I said, “This is as real as it gets.” Real is real women, who come in all sizes. The runway is not real. Why design a piece that costs thousands of pounds and will probably be worn by only ten women?’
She insists that she does not have a target customer or think that age has any bearing on how people should dress. ‘Maybe people are looking at me, thinking, “You’re still wearing miniskirts at 44?” I’d say to them, “Yeah, because that’s who I am and that’s my choice, to rock the look. If you don’t want to, that’s your choice.”’
Heidi describes her personal style as ‘eclectic: I can be many different people. This is why fashion is so powerful and what I love about it. If I have a meeting, I am all business. I want people to respect me. But there are days where all I want is to be in comfy, baggy boyfriend jeans and trainers, and that will be my vibe for that day.’
‘Maybe I come across as not so nice because of this, but I think it is better to be straightforward, and it is a trait I appreciate in others. Why, for instance, would you tell someone they look good in something if it’s not true?’
She is extremely close to her parents, Günther and Erna, who, though based in Germany, often travel with her and are here at the party. ‘They are coming back to Los Angeles with me tomorrow,’ says Heidi. ‘For ten days.’
When I ask if either of her daughters might follow her into modelling, she looks horrified. ‘I don’t speak too loudly about it because I don’t want them to get ideas! They need to be kids. Right now, my elder daughter is applying to high schools. She is so busy studying; the last thing I am going to say is, “Hey, do you want to be a model?” It’s trendy right now,’ she says, ‘daughters of successful models becoming models themselves.’ I can’t help but think of Cindy Crawford and Kaia Gerber, though Heidi is too diplomatic to point the finger. ‘But my kids are busy with their hobbies and tutors and tests.’
However, Heidi is quick to say that she is not anti-modelling. ‘Not at all! I still enjoy it, and it is so easy compared to the other things I do: you go to a shoot, you have a team doing your hair and make-up, you smile for the camera, you lie on the beach. What’s hard about that?’ she shrugs. ‘When I think about how much goes into my work on the various television shows: hiring the photographers, deciding what the girls will wear, what challenges they will undertake, what I should say about the contestants to be truthful but not unkind.
It sounds exhausting – the kids, the decisions, the juggling of projects, the travel – although Heidi admits to having a fair amount of help. ‘It is,’ she nods. ‘I am tired most of the time. If I have a long day I am still up at six the next morning, because that’s when the kids get up, and there’s breakfast to be made.’
What outrages Heidi is when the media reports, ‘Oh, Heidi Klum, lying on a beach somewhere.’ She has flown straight to Germany for this launch from the Dominican Republic, where she was filming Germany’s Next Top Model, but the assumption – on the basis of a few bikini shots she posted on Instagram – was that she was on holiday.
When does she get downtime, then? ‘Downtime?’ She looks confused. ‘Ah, right. No, there’s not much of that. Sometimes I have to force myself to go away to recharge my batteries, because when I am home there is always something that needs to be done. No one ever leaves you alone.’
Next on her travel list? ‘I want to take my children somewhere like India or Haiti. I have travelled a lot to those places through my charitable work with Unicef and Amfar. My youngest just turned eight. I didn’t want to expose her little body to vaccinations, but now I think it would be OK. I want them to see poverty and how people live.
‘There is an image I can’t get out of my mind: in Haiti, where they don’t have money for incubators, I saw this very premature baby wrapped in a plastic bag with its head sticking out; it was placed underneath a desk lamp to keep warm. Seeing something like that makes you appreciate what you have so much, and it is very different to see it for real rather than on television.’
Heidi is perhaps an anomaly in Hollywood for her determination to keep her children grounded. Her ‘number one rule’ is that she and the children sit down to dinner together every night. ‘If I’m working, someone else will prepare the meal. If I’m not, I will. I love to cook and invite people to my house.’ Heidi and I have met just before Thanksgiving and she tells me: ‘Mel B and her kids are coming for Thanksgiving – she and I are very good friends – and I will cook an 18lb turkey, stuffed with sausage and breadcrumbs, yams with marshmallows and brussels sprouts with bacon.’
There are no fad diets in Heidi’s low-fuss household, where schnitzel features regularly on the menu and the only rule governing food is that it must be fresh, not processed. ‘We cook fresh every day and use vegetables grown in our garden. The important thing is that we sit down together and talk about our days. We eat at 6pm on the dot. That is important, because the bedtimes are stacked: one child at 7.30pm, one at 8, one at 8.30 and one at 9, so if dinner slips, we have a snowball effect and the next day you see the dark circles under their eyes. I am quite German about the timetable.’
Heidi is also strict when it comes to mobile phones – which are not welcome at the table – and social media. ‘I think it is amazing what our phones can do, but it is also scary, especially social media. It’s a choice, though, a pressure we put on ourselves. If you choose to be part of it, you have to know what comes with it. Not everyone is going to love you if you put yourself out there. That’s why it is so important to have time face to face with people you love; there is no substitute.’
- The esmara by Heidi Klum #LetsCelebrate collection is now be in all Lidl stores. For stockists, go to lidl.co.uk