Any hardcore fashion fan in the aughts knows that Irina Lazareanu was one of the It-girls. Not only was she the muse of Karl Lagerfeld, Marc Jacobs and Nicolas Ghesquière, she also had Kate Moss, Pete Doherty (to whom she later got engaged to), and Amy Winehouse on speed dial. Decades later, the Romanian-born and Canadian-raised model is publishing Runway Bird, a book that chronicles her illustrious career and provides insights into her rock‘n’roll lifestyle, which is now enjoying a resurgence via the indie sleaze trend.
“I spent two years writing – a lot of it was during lockdown,” explains Lazareanu of putting the book together. “I reached out to everyone that I featured, so it became this wonderful combined effort. The greatest thing about [the ’00s] is that it’s the last generation before social media, so there’s this community spirit.” Each segment delves into the model’s relationships with those who influenced her, from renowned photographers and musical luminaries to other models of the time.
Judging by the intimate holiday snapshots in Bali with Kate Moss, Lily Cole and The Clash’s Mick Jones, and the Polaroids on tour with Babyshambles, the model’s life was thrilling. Having graced every major runway – from strutting the Christian Dior by John Galliano shows, to closing Chanel as the bride hand-in-hand with Lagerfeld (a highly coveted moment for any model) – Lazareanu was at the forefront of fashion at the time. But, she says, “I felt like a bit of an imposter. Everything felt like a fluke, but it totally clicked in the moment.”
Her favourite editorial moments? “Working with British Vogue’s Edward Enninful was a huge deal, which I had to document,” she smiles, before adding how special it was to reconnect with the photographers Inez & Vinoodh and 93-year-old William Klein. Correspondence with Penny Smith, who shot the opening picture of the Babyshambles chapter, was done by letter, because the punk photographer doesn’t do phone or email.
Despite the book having a style focus, Lazareanu opens up about her experience as a child in Romania where she ended up in refugee camps. “I couldn’t address the trauma for so long – it took a certain amount of growing up for me to see that, too,” says the model. “Some people I’ve known for 20-plus years had no idea – I learned to be invisible, because that’s how you survive. But when I became a mum, my whole world changed. It was all worth it.”
Having stepped away from the industry for a number of years, Lazareanu is able to view the positive changes that have taken place. “Diversity, back when I was on the runway, was being a brunette,” she said. “Today, I see so many different faces, ages and body types – it feels like an exciting time. Also, the conversations around mental health and addiction are open unlike ever before, which is incredibly important.”