Marpessa Hennink(12 July 1964) is a Dutch fashion model. She is best known for her work as a runway model, which earned her the moniker “The Catwalk Contessa”.
Marpessa Hennink was born in Amsterdam, Netherlands to a Dutch mother and a Dutch / Surinamese father of African ancestry.
From as young as the age of four, Hennink expressed an interest in fashion and began working as a model after she turned sixteen, having been discovered by a magazine editor in her native Amsterdam. This happened despite being rejected, deemed “too exotic” by the Eileen Ford agency during a casting call.
Amongst the many magazines that Hennink has been featured in are various international editions of Vogue, as well as other publications such as Elle, Glamor, Time, Vanity Fair, Marie Claire, L'Officiel, Harpers & Queen and Photo.
She credited the late fashion illustrator Antonio Lopez with recommending her to some of the prominent designers, such as Azzedine Alaia, and Karl Lagerfeld of the fashion house Chanel. Most notably, Hennink walked the runway for Dolce & Gabbana's first fashion show in 1985, at the beginning of their career as designers. The same year, she appeared in the music video for Bryan Ferry's song, "Slave to Love", directed by Jean-Baptiste Mondino.
Hennink went on to walk the runway for many other designers including Versace, Christian Lacroix, Valentino, Christian Dior, Gianfranco Ferré, Oscar de la Renta, Calvin Klein, Issey Miyake, Moschino, Claude Montana, Salvatore Ferragamo, Comme des Garçons, Lanvin, Thierry Mugler, Donna Karan, Trussardi, Mila Schön, Rifat Özbek, and Bruce Oldfield.
In 1987, Hennink was chosen by Dolce & Gabbana to star in the advertising campaign for their Fall / Winter collection. It was the first campaign for the label, and Hennink agreed to do it for free. The campaign was photographed in Sicily by Ferdinando Scianna of Magnum Photos. The photographs from the campaign made such an impression that Hennink came to be seen as an icon of Mediterranean femininity.
In October of that year, Hennink was named "Model of the Year" during the “Oscars de la Mode” in Paris. After which she was given the nickname "the Catwalk Contessa".
In 1993, after the publication of the book Marpessa, uno sguardo, by Ferdinando Scianna, Hennink retired from modeling, having also been put off by the arrival of the grunge fashion trend.
Upon her retirement, she moved to Ibiza, Spain, where she began a career as an interior decorator. She made a return to the fashion runways in 2004, where she closed the Fall / Winter show for designer Antonio Marras.
In 2005, Hennink gave birth to a daughter.
In January 2011, Hennink was chosen to walk in a special fashion show held by designer Alberta Ferretti in Florence, Italy. Then, in May 2011, she walked in the "Fashion for Relief" benefit show in Cannes, France. The following year, Dolce & Gabbana launched a line of made-to-measure clothing called "Alta Moda", and chose Hennink as the global ambassador for that line.
Marpessa Hennink speaks six languages. In her spare time, she enjoys interior decorating and photography. She considers Inès de La Fressange, Diana Vreeland, and Madeleine Castaing as her style icons.