"I don't live my life through the prism of the past"
The worlds first supermodel, Jean Shrimpton, began modelling at the age of seventeen and became the muse of one of the top sixties photographers. She popularised the mini skirt, causing a scandal when she appeared in one at the 1965 Melbourne Cup.
Jean Rosemary Shrimpton was born in England, 1942, and brought up on her fathers farm. After a brief stint in secretarial school and a failed screen test it was suggested that she attend an academy for modelling. By the age of seventeen she was gracing the pages of high fashion magazines. Whilst working for Vogue she was sent on assignment with photographer David Bailey. Bailey's images of her revolutionised fashion photography and he and Jean soon began a relationship. Jean quickly became the most photographed, famous model of the day appearing in all the major magazines and was instrumental in popularising modern clothes and hairstyles. Her relationship with Bailey however was marred by his constant infidelities and she eventually left him for actor Terence Stamp. Jean and Stamp were claimed to be the most photographed couple in swinging London, though Jean later claimed to hate the limelight and confessed she was dissatisfied with her work as a model. In 1965 she and Stamp travelled to Melbourne, Australia, where she caused a scandal by appearing in a white mini dress at the Melbourne Cup. The still conservative Australians were shocked by this youthful way of dress that had become relatively normal in Britain. In 1967 she took a foray into acting, starring alongside singer Paul Jones in the film Privilege.
Known as 'The Shrimp', a name which she hated, Jean gave away modelling in her early thirties. She opened an antiques store and became interested in literature and photography. In 1979 she married photographer Michael Cox with whom she had a son, Thaddeus. In 1990 her ghost written autobiography appeared, she admitted that she had only agreed to it in order to have repairs made on the Abbey Hotel she and her husband owned in Cornwall. Today Jean continues to manage the hotel with her husband and occasionally gives interviews though she remains reluctant to talk about her past.
Jean's gamine looks did for modelling what Audrey Hepburn's had done for film a decade earlier. 'The Shrimp's' boyish figure and doe eyes were both envied and emulated. Many were amazed at her inherent naturalness in front of the camera. Without Jean there would have been no Twiggy or Penelope Tree. Though Jean's personality was not as accessible as Twiggy's, she was youthful and captivating, bridging a divide between upper and lower classes.
The images David Bailey took of Jean revolutionised fashion photography. Their work reflected a joie-de-vivre present for much of the decade. Fashion was no longer the domain of expressionless models and clinical settings, fashion was now a world of youthful experimentation. Not only fashion photography but fashion itself was catered towards youth and colour. Young women felt they could relate more to these new models from their own worlds and backgrounds.
Jean's ethereal beauty changed the world of modelling forever yet she always knew there was more to life. Her interests were wide ranging and she was determined to keep her private life private. She was always professional in her work but had an air of mystery about her that fascinated the wider public. Jean's work opened up a world of fashion for the young and inspired a generation of young women to pursue their own fashionable dreams.
"I am a melancholy soul. I'm not sure contentment is obtainable and I find the banality of modern life terrifying...But Michael, Thaddeus and the Abbey transformed my life"