“Why would she do this to us?” wailed Anita Bitton, the fashion-industry casting director, when confronted with the news of Gisele Bündchen’s apparent retirement from the runway.
For 24 hours, what felt like half the Internet resounded with the question. Outlets including “Entertainment Tonight,” “Today,” CNN and The Washington Post had been announcing the runway retirement of the Brazilian supermodel whom Forbes has named the world’s highest-paid model many years running — except, say her representatives at IMG Models, it’s not so.
The rumors of her runway retirement, spurred by an Instagram posting by Ms. Bündchen, put her agents in the unenviable position of having to clarify that their ultra-marketable client isn’t swatting down future opportunities.
“We’ve had thousands of calls,” said Anne Nelson, Ms. Bündchen’s agent, who has represented her since 1998, first at Elite and then, from 1999 onward, at IMG. “There’s been a lot of things that were lost in translation throughout this whole process.”
Ms. Bündchen’s own words on Instagram, on top of an interview with the newspaper Folha de São Paulo, did seem to suggest a definitive break.
“Today after 20 years in the industry, it is a privilege to be doing my last fashion show by choice and yet still be working in other facets of the business,” she posted on April 15, before appearing in the Colcci show at Saõ Paulo Fashion Week.
Her husband, the New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, offered what seemed to be valedictory congratulations on Facebook: “I am so proud of you and everything you have accomplished on the runway,” he wrote, hashtagging his post #thebestisyettocome. (Ms. Bündchen and more than 125,000 others liked it.)
Ms. Nelson spoke on behalf of Ms. Bündchen, who was not available to comment. (IMG represents Ms. Bündchen in New York, London, Milan and Paris; her twin sister, Patricia, represents her in Brazil.)
She did admit that Ms. Bündchen doesn’t want to do runway shows in general, but said that she was only “clos[ing] the chapter on the Brazilian runway” and that she would consider every opportunity in the future; the runway would not be ruled out.
“It is important that we continue to work on all kinds of capacities within the fashion industry,” she said. “It’s also important that as her representative we bring every interesting opportunity her way. We’ll continue to do exactly that going forward.”
Star models tapering off their runway appearances is standard practice. Runway appearances tend to be poorly paid, if paid at all.
But the runway circuit ideally leads to recognition and ultimately the business’ most lucrative prize: ad campaigns. Ms. Bündchen, who appears in ads for Chanel, Stuart Weitzman, Pantene, Under Armour and Colcci, among others, has logged many.
In recent years, she has cut a relatively rare figure on fashion week runways, though she has made buzzy appearances at several, often those for which she also booked ads.
She is the face of Chanel No. 5, and appeared in its ready-to-wear show for spring 2015. She had the coveted closing position at the Balenciaga show for fall 2014 (designed by its current steward, Alexander Wang) and for spring 2011 (under its former head, Nicolas Ghesquière); those same seasons, she appeared in Balenciaga’s ad campaign. She closed the Givenchy show for spring 2012, and appeared in its ads that season, too.
“I think a lot of people will still want her on the runway,” Ms. Nelson said. “Will she want to do it? That’s a whole other story. It would have to come within an interesting angle, a unique opportunity. Will she do it? I can’t guarantee that. But that people will call for her, yes.”
The future holds no shortage of opportunities for Ms. Bündchen, and it’s unlikely her fans will see much less of her than before. She is booked to shoot a variety of projects, both editorial and commercial, Ms. Nelson said. A book chronicling her 20 years (to date) in modeling will be out this fall.
“She constantly reinvents herself and makes herself desirable,” said Ms. Bitton, the casting director, who has worked with Ms. Bündchen on shows for Alexander Wang and Balenciaga.
Besides, she added, “Who really wants to do runway?”