John Casablancas passed away in Rio de Janeiro yesterday at the age of 70 after succumbing to a battle with cancer. The Founder of Elite Models, Casablancas was largely responsible for ushering in the era of the supermodel having formed the careers of models such as Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Carol Alt, Linda Evangelista, Claudia Schiffer, Andie MacDowell, Iman, Heidi Klum, and Gisele Bündchen.
John Casablancas was born in 1942 in Manhattan to a well-off Spanish couple who made their fortune from a family textile-machinery business. As a young boy, he attended Le Rosey boarding school in Switzerland and went on to study at several European universities, though he never obtained a degree. He attempted various jobs in finance, public relations, and real estate, even working at a Coca-Cola factory in Brazil. It wasn’t until 1967, when Casablancas was living in the tiny Hôtel d’Argout in Paris, that he met 19-year-old model Jeanette Christjansen who, at the time, was being photographed by Danish photographer Gunnar Larsen—a man who had a reputation for taking bad pictures, but a great eye for beautiful girls. It was the young model’s unhappiness with her agency and Larsen’s insistence that Casablancas was a born agent that inspired him to launch “Elysées 3″, representing photographers and models. Later on, he created a new company with his Le Rosey classmate Alain Kittler and Elite Models was founded in 1972.