SAO PAULO - Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen will strut her stuff on the catwalk for the last time Wednesday, putting a gold-plated seal on the runway career that launched her to stardom.
Bundchen, the world's top-earning model, will take her final sashay down the catwalk at Sao Paulo Fashion Week (SPFW), the same event where she made her debut 20 years ago.
The 34-year-old Brazilian bombshell announced last month she was retiring from runway modeling, saying she wanted to spend more time with her husband, New England Patriots star quarterback Tom Brady, and their two children, Benjamin and Vivian.
"My body tells me if what I do is worth it, and it asked to stop. I respect my body, it's a privilege to be able to stop," she told Brazilian newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo.
She will continue modeling off the runway and promoting her lingerie line, Gisele Bundchen Intimates, launched in 2011 for the Brazilian label Hope.
Her final runway show, for Brazilian label Colcci, is a symbolic return to her roots.
Bundchen and SPFW were both just starting out two decades ago when she had her first show there, taking the runway for local label Zoomp at 14 years old.
Today, the twice-yearly event, which opened Monday, is the largest fashion show in Latin America.
It was the start of big things for Bundchen, who went on to model for major fashion houses such as Alexander Wang, Balenciaga, Carolina Herrera, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Valentino, Versace and Victoria's Secret.
Height of career
According to Forbes magazine, she has been the highest-paid model in the world for the past eight years, with US$47 million (S$64 million) in earnings last year.
Only recently, she signed her largest ever contract - worth more than US$25 million, according to Forbes - with US sports apparel firm Under Armour.
"It's marvelous she's leaving the runway at a moment when she's at the height of her powers. It's an intelligent decision," said Dilson Stein, the talent scout who discovered Bundchen in 1994 during a modeling workshop in the small city of Horizontina, in her native state of Rio Grande do Sul.
Bundchen began her career when the so-called "heroin chic" of pale, angular models like Kate Moss was the prevailing aesthetic in high fashion.
By 1999, she became the face of what Vogue magazine, splashing her across its cover, called "the return of the sexy model."
Stein remembers being wowed by the willowy girl of German descent, with her long blonde hair, sun-kissed skin and athletic build.
"I saw something in her. I knew she would be the great model of the future," he told AFP.
Bundchen is now expected to turn her focus to print ad campaigns.