With big eyes that melt you with their sincerity and were once the object of childhood ridicule until she grew into them, Irina admits, “I have recently learned that I am an extremely fragile person, I feel a lot…I am always open and I never wear a mask.” Irina’s family has gone through too much to not know what is important in life, especially when it comes to telling the truth. When she was four years old, she and her parents were political refugees from Romania who knew firsthand what it was like to fear for your life based on your beliefs. As a result, Irina feels an obligation to be outspoken when necessary about anything, including the pitfalls of modeling, despite consequences that could affect her prominence as a supermodel (she was once booked for ninety runway shows in one season).
This same bravery and sense of uninhibited fervor goes for everything Irina does. She turned her passion for beat poetry and rhythmic literature into songs with the help of Pete Doherty when she collaborated with the Libertines at fourteen years old and today, among many other projects, she is designing her own line of clothes based on what she feels is a need for the quintessential women’s three-piece suit and she is jamming on stage with Sean Lennon and others with her new endeavor, Operation Juliet. Irina refers to her successes as “improvising,” but her talent and honesty are real and never more apparent than in her iconic sense of style. Her dad, who sometimes still speaks in whispers, an affectation left over from his past, had a resounding impact on Irina when he told her to be herself because everyone else is already taken. When you see her sprawled on a daybed in a couture hippie dress, extraordinary sheepskin bohemian coat and legit Mongolian boots, you get what a tasteful, cultured and confident free-spirit she is.
On any given day, it could be 1885 or 1929 when it comes to Irina’s distinct visual expression. She is an avid reader of books with details so vivid that one can imagine themselves in them, like Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast. The novel is about Paris in the ’30s and it’s as if Irina stepped out from the pages when she wears an embroidered princess coat and a long silk dress from the exact place and time of the legendary author’s book, paired with a turn of the century embroidered artist’s coat layered with a ’20s-inspired Chanel embellished headpiece. She is an amalgam of all of the characters in search of the perfect expression of their artistry in Woody Allen’s most recent film, Midnight in Paris. Irina has such a passion for the city of creativity and romance that she too walks around at night and writes at a bar on the top of Montmartre, where she listens to the stories of an old man who says that he is Ernest Hemingway. However, she would most likely be in the exquisitely beaded ’20s dress that she’d like to get married and buried in, but “hopefully not on the same day.”
Karl Lagerfeld’s excitement for the artists and muses of past centuries taught Irina most of what she knows about where to look for influence as a designer. But for me, Irina is of that stature herself with her eclectic doe-eyed androgyny. She not only wears a tie with a button-down shirt and glen plaid blazer à la Diane Keaton, but takes it to a level of hyper-diversity with jodphurs, a leather corset belt and a Greta Garbo-like hat. She rocks the masculinity of Katherine Hepburn in oversized Balenciaga palazzo pants, but with with the delicacy of a ’20s cloche hat and a checked vintage blazer. Following in the footsteps of her writer activist father and grandfather in an authentic military blazer over an Ossie Clarke dress, Irina thinks for herself. This is epitomized by her sense of outrage when someone criticized her in an article for not being afraid to wear the same thing twice: “the most ridiculous line ever written…I don’t know anybody who doesn’t wear the same thing twice.” When you have a soulful connection to everything in life, including your clothing, it’s not disposable.