During this Haute Couture week in Paris model Irina Kravchenko made a large number of shows, managing to participate in several defiles on the same day, and our editorial staff chose her as a Couture model of the season. Just after the end of the week, we were able to talk with Irina, before her departure for New York.
Please tell us a little about yourself. How did you become a model?
More than 4 years ago in Kiev, Ukraine. A schoolmate of my best friend, Julia Romanosvka (now a photographer in France), saw my photos and invited me to a small shooting. We made amateur photos «just for fun». After that, we shot several online magazines. She has long tried to persuade me to go to a modeling agency. Thus, she signed me in for an interview. We went together to see Stas Yankelevsky, a director of L-Models agency, they took me and almost straight away I worked at the Ukrainian Fashion Week and, three months later, I was in New York.
It is said that being beautiful and tall is enough to become a model. But how to become a famous model?
Well it doesn’t depend on you really. Everything is in hands by casting directors, stylists and designers and you could never know what “beetles” are in their heads, what character type and what mood they want to see this season. You can never be sure why one girl is chosen and another not – I do not speak of some body parameters, it is more about appearance. However, a certain trend can be traced.
Have you ever thought, dreamed about being a model?
Never even imagined?
No, no, never imagined. Although I was invited, when I was 15. Where my mom worked, there were “model courses” and she signed me in. They taught make-up and organized fitness classes. I went there for fitness, I loved it. We were photographed as well. Mom later confessed to me that they wrote to her, invited to model agencies, but my mother refused. Before going to NY, I was losing weight for about a month. Not to say that I was sitting on a rigid diet, just followed what my fitness coach told me, that’s all.
Your mom didn’t mind?
This time she didn’t mind, I was 23 already and were making decisions myself.
Does she support you now?
She always supports me. She may have her own point of view, but always from a positive side.
So, your first show was in Ukraine. Do you remember it?
Oh, sure. It was for the BEVZA brand and was called “Cats”. My first show and the first one where I “flashed” my bare breast. I felt very uncomfortable.
What was the most interesting and unusual show?
It was a show of Louis Vuitton by Marc Jacobs. His last show for Louis Vuitton. And the last show I did in this season for Couture – Guo Pei. It was magnificent.
And this is exactly our next question. It was very beautiful and probably very hard. Tell us please a bit more.
For the moment, this is the most memorable show. Actually, at the fitting I tried on three dresses, but at the end they chose the most difficult one for the show. They still needed to shorten it, because heavy ornaments hindered walking, fabric got stuck under the feet that was plainly dangerous considering the shoe platform height. However, the major problem was not the dress. When they gave me the crown, I thought, it must be held as an accessory. We didn’t try it on. There was nothing to fix it on, it is not of the size of a head, but much smaller.
Indeed, we can see on the photo that it is much smaller, how was it fit?
It seemed to me that the crown weighs two kilos at least. When I came to the show itself, I was very late. They were making the makeup and hair at the same time. Let me talk about the hair first: they made me braids, then attached a special cap, secured by pins, and put on a wig that became a base of the crown: just several tiny wires. The crown itself was attached with elastic rubber bands, very tightly fixed, but all kept on my own hair. I was thinking: if I tip, shall I just fall or try to catch the crown to save my hair. The rehearsal was already difficult, but not so bad as at the show. The crown gave other feelings. I could turn my head, but I were not able to bend over, it pulled my hair so hard. The makeup was finished only when I was all “done”. The shoes we so high that I needed to half-squat while they were adding final touches (“tears” made from a transparent lip gloss).
When I started the catwalk, I was getting more and more nervous, because I was not being able to look down and with this height of shoes it is very hard to balance. A feeling like in the old times, in Noble Maidens schools, when they made you carrying a stack of books on the head without dropping. The podium was in the shape of «U» and, at some point, I realized I could not stand the stress, so I just stopped and closed my eyes for a moment, and then started off again. I do not know whether this moment can be seen on a video. After the turn, I paused once again. And on the final walk, the end of my tail-sleeve got caught under the podium, quite funny because I was the first in the line. At first I thought that the girl behind me stepped over it. So, I turned around and asked her for help, she was not able to bend over at all, so special her dress was. Just like that. Then I addressed a person in the front row and asked him to help. He starred at me without moving. Finally, someone came running, unhooked me, and, smiling, I turned around and carried on. My dream to become an elf from The Lord of the Rings came true!
Are you getting nervous when you wear very long dresses, because many models do?
Yes, I do and it may happen that I stumble. At the Zuhair Murad show the second dress was so long that I held it while walking although I was supposed to let it go. It was a little too long in the front and I needed to arrange it all the time.
They say that models fall quite often at Zuhair Murad shows. Is that true?
I don’t know, I didn’t trip anybody. But last season I stumbled bad. Those who saw me thought I would fall, luckily it was far from cameras.
Do you feel the difference between Couture and pret-a-porter?
For me Couture is more romantic, feminine, this is where you can feel yourself princess in a fairytale.
And what do you like more?
I like Couture more. Because it is less stressful than pret-a-porter. Though last season at Maison Margiela they damaged my hair, the hairstyle was very complex with bouffants, ironing and spray, it was very difficult to repair them after.
How do you recover after work? Have you got any beauty secrets?
I use oil hair masks or just cut my hair shorter. Honestly, I have tried so many things, and there are no secrets. Go to a countryside in summer and use cucumber peels, fresh strawberries and diary cream if you are not allergic. Another advice: try a needle therapy (acupuncture) in Japan. They’ve got face lifting massages. First they do a neck and shoulders massage, and then insert needles in particular points on the face. It does not hurt. I tried and really enjoyed it.
Couture week has just ended and very soon a fashion week in New York starts. And then London, Milan and Paris non-stop. How do you keep up with this rhythm?
It is impossible to keep up. I just come home and “turn myself off”. If there is time to sleep – I would sleep. A good sleep is the best treatment.
Do you try to rest, to sleep at a backstage?
No, it’s impossible there.
What brands did you work with? Who else would you like to work with?
Margiela, Alexander Wang, Valentino, Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs. I like very much Rodarte, Narciso Rodriguez. I think I worked with everybody I dreamed to walk for. Though maybe Victoria’s Secret – no harm in dreaming. Nowadays situation has changed in modeling, and having done a famous designer’s show does not guarantee they will take again nor that you will do other big shows. Our job is not stable. I noticed one thing: if something doesn’t work, we fall into a depression, apathy, everything is bad. But the very next day you take another show, and soon everything is forgotten. But it is sometimes hard to focus on a good moment and let go previous worries. Anyway, I manage.
What do you prefer: fashion shows or shootings?
Shootings. Because this is creativity and fun. I like when I can contribute into the shooting idea something from myself. Before a shooting we discuss the concept within which we work. It is not always immediately possible to fully convey the idea, but gradually you are getting into the process. The main thing in the work of a photographer and a model is mutual understanding. If you cannot find a common ground – it will be hard work. And this will resemble more a mechanical process than a creative one.
Did you participate in any extreme or unusual shootings?
Once I had an editorial shooting in India. Not something extreme but rather unusual. It was a small village close to Jaisalmer, a tourist destination city. I remember we were driving across the plains, where there were only a few bushes and tailless peacocks running around. Cows everywhere (yes, everywhere), and I saw blackface sheep. Such cattle and sheep breeds I’ve never seen before. It was very dirty, a lot of plastic garbage. Very unusual to see almost all women in sari. I had a feeling that we went 200 years back in time, women were collecting firewood on the plains, carrying it on their heads. Those people seemed to live in mud huts, sometimes spending nights by bonfires. A daytime temperature there was 30 to 35 degrees Celsius with +15 at night. For the shooting, we were getting up at 4 am, meeting the sunrise at the location. Local sunrise impressed me very much, the sun is huge there, it still stands in front of my eyes. Desert plains around you, huge cactus bushes and rare fowl. It is very beautiful there, I would love to come to India once more.
Also I’ve been to Cartagena in Columbia. It was very humid and hot there, unusual tropical plants, I saw a hummingbird there. The shooting location was on a small island and we were getting there on a yacht. It was so beautiful there!
Among the fashion capitals, which city do you like most?
I like Paris a lot, although most of the time I spend in New York.
Many models finishing their career stay in New York. Would you consider moving to New York?
I am based in New York. It is fun, but a bit hard for me in terms of a lifestyle. No wonder they say that megacities do not sleep. I like more tranquil and green cities. And there pace of life is too frantic for me.
And where is a better with work?
New York, Paris.
Do you work in your home country, Ukraine? We know you were chosen as a face of the Ukrainian Fashion Week recently.
Yes, I do. I like very much our Ukrainian fashion now; I think it came up to a very good level thanks to our designers. I wear with pleasure clothes of Ukrainian designers: Litkovskaya, MARCHI, RITO, ARTEMKLIMCHUK.
Do you like going shopping?
Depending on my mood. There are certain brands and stores that I love and where I go: & Other stories, COS, Zara, Uniqlo, Aritzia… But I do not buy clothes often, only when I really need something.
Do you think over the clothes you put on for casting? Do you wear black and skinny as casting directors advise?
Agencies prefer that we wear simple, well-emphasizing the figure clothes. There is no specific dress code. Only to beginning models that can recommend what to wear on the casting. Yes, I’m thinking over the clothes. Usually I take a few things that are perfectly combined in color and style with each other or just look good on their own, like dresses, for example.
How do you spend your free time (when you got some)? Have you got any hobbies?
I like drawing and recently I started embroidery. Also, I tried ceramics and liked it a lot. In reading I prefer esoteric, fantasy and fiction books, I came back to classics and now trying poesy.
Do you have a dream? Can you share it with us?
I have many and some of them are magical: I want an invisible cloak and a broom. A broom and red hair – that’s what I need!