In our ongoing series, Model in the Spotlight, we get up close and personal with the world's leading male models.
Modeling can knock you off your life path, but it can also help you find your way onto the right one. Such is the case for Tim Schuhmacher, who had just moved to Berlin intent on studying architecture when he was discovered working in a coffee shop. Now the young German, who this season has been seen in campaigns for Calvin Klein's Platinum Label (in the photo above) and Dior Homme (in the video below), has his sights set on giving acting a try. Spending so much time in front of the camera over the past year has helped his confidence, and so did opening Prada's Spring 2014 show last summer. Still, at just 20, Schuhmacher readily admits that he has plenty of time to figure out what lies ahead. "I want to model as long as it works out and then see," he says. "I'm still at the age where you have to find yourself and figure out what you want to do."
Hometown: Karlsruhe, Germany
Agency: VNY Model Management
How were you discovered?
After I graduated from school, I moved to Berlin to work at my grandpa's coffee shop, and after about three weeks this lady came in and was staring at me the whole time as I served her coffee. Then she asked me if I was a model and I laughed and said, "No, no, no," and she asked if I was interested in it. At first I didn't want to do it because I thought it wasn't my world, but my parents told me it would be a nice experience, so I called her back and said I wanted to try it. I sent in some pictures and then everything went pretty fast. After one week I went to London and I went to all the castings with just one sheet of paper with some Polaroids on it.
What were you planning on doing in Berlin?
At first, I was just going to work in my grandpa's coffee shop, but I actually wanted to study architecture. Now everything has changed because of modeling. I've seen more and now I know that I want to act. I'm still very interested in architecture, but I just don't think I'm made to sit at a table all day drawing. I was always interested in acting, but before, I was too shy. I didn't think I would do well and there was some confidence missing, but modeling has helped me. Now I know how to be comfortable on camera and I know that world a bit better.
How did you first become interested in architecture?
I went to school for product design for two years. I was always interested in creative work and I wanted to do something where people could interact with the final product. But I learned that you are just working on things like bottles for product design, so I decided that wasn't my thing. Maybe I could do chairs and furniture, like Vitra or Alessi, but I wanted to do something bigger, so I thought about trying architecture. My grandpa also used to be quite a good architect, and I was interested in his work when I was younger.
What's the most memorable modeling job you've had?
Opening the Spring 2014 Prada show. I was very excited, standing in the queue in the first position and counting the seconds to go out. That was my first show, and I was nervous because I was the first one who had to go out and I had never walked the runway before. It was crazy. I did looks for them for one week before the show and they didn't tell me that I would open until the day before the show. [Stylist Olivier Rizzo] grabbed me and said, "You will open the show, congratulations." I actually didn't know opening was a big deal. Of course, I knew a little that it was a good position, but I didn't know what it means to open Prada. That was when it all started to really work out. I will never forget that moment.
What expectations did you have for your modeling career before you started?
I didn't think I would get anything, actually. When I went to London, I did some good magazines, like Hero and Wonderland, but I was never into fashion so I didn't know what they were. I had a friend who used to be in fashion and I always asked him, "Tomorrow I'm doing Hero magazine, is that good?" and he'd tell me, "Yeah, that's really good. Awesome, man." I never guessed that I would get a Calvin Klein campaign or something big like that because I thought you had to be muscly and perfect-looking, but it's not like that.
How does it feel to have a job that you have so little control over?
Sometimes it's kind of hard. I sometimes think maybe it's better not to think about it and just do it. I would call myself creative, and sometimes there's some things I would do in a different way, but that's not my place. They booked me as a model, so that's my job.
What's the most interesting place you've visited for work?
I shot something near LA in this park called Vasquez Rocks that was really interesting. It was cool to see those big mountains and rocks in the desert because we don't have that in Europe. I felt like a cowboy. On my first trip to LA earlier, I shot for Dior Homme, and that was cool because it was so close to the Hollywood sign. We took a car up to this house and I went out on the balcony and there was nothing between me and the sign.
What are you going to buy with your earnings from modeling?
I want to buy a nice flat in Berlin. Then it's going to take a long time for me to buy all the furniture because I'm really into design. I know what I want and I have a lot of ideas and I'm very picky. So maybe after a year, I want to take a half-year off to do that when I have more money. That's really what I need. I want to buy a nice flat and nice furniture.
What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
After I got scouted, when I was still working at the coffee shop, one night we held a party for Lenz von Johnston, a well-known model-turned-fashion designer who was launching his own brand. I went up to him and asked him for some advice because I was just starting, and he was a bit drunk already and he just said, "Go with the flow." I did that, and it worked out pretty well. I think that's the best way to do it, to just do whatever comes up. I think a lot of guys think about it too much.
• • •
—Jonathan Shia, follow him @JonathanShia