Russian top model Irina Kulikova is an industry MVP. Since making her debut on the Calvin Klein runway in 2007, she's served as a campaign face for the likes of Prada, Celine, and Marc Jacobs - who doesn't remember those classic MJ Daisy ads? She's also walked the Chanel runway more than a dozen times and graced the covers of Harper's Bazaar, Elle and L'Officiel.
Part of the wave of Russian Supers who emerged in the mid-2000s, (think Natasha, Sasha, Vlada) Irina remains an editorial fixture and a muse to the legendary Juergen Teller. Here, we go behind those images to find out more about the Moscow-based beauty - from her greatest modeling moments and style inspirations to her special memories of Karl Lagerfeld.
Hi Irina! Since making your debut at Calvin Klein in 2007, you've worked with many of the top names in the industry and walked all the major shows. What has been the highlight of your career so far?
I started modeling more than 10 years ago and was very lucky to work with lots of big names. It's hard to distinguish the main highlight of my career as I had lots of amazing projects with the most professional people in the industry. I shot a few Prada campaigns with Steven Meisel, walked for Chanel many times, met John Galliano, Alexander McQueen, did all these amazing shows, so all these moments were really important and exciting for me.
You've been in front of the lens of so many of the greats- Juergen Teller for Marc Jacobs, Meisel for Prada and Annie Leibovitz for American Vogue. Is there one photographer who stands out as a favorite?
My all-time favorite is Juergen Teller - the first time I met him I was only 16 years old and we went to Hawaii to shoot Marc Jacobs' fragrance and it was the most amazing trip ever. And since then we had so many different great trips together: we went to Greece, to Belgrade, he came to Moscow several times. We always have the best time together, he always takes me to best places in the world and its always such fun and I feel most comfortable shooting with him. He shot my mother for W magazine, he shot me and my friends in Serbia and I'm forever thankful for all these memories.
The fashion industry was incredibly saddened by the loss of Karl Lagerfeld in February. You've worked extensively on the runway for Chanel, do you have any special memories or anecdotes of working with Karl?
Yes, I worked for Chanel many times and I have very strong memories about Karl. One of the first time I worked with him was in Paris, I was still very young and I had 2 shootings in one day. I was shooting for one magazine first in the morning and after that, I supposed to shoot for Chanel Couture collection with Karl. The first shoot was running late and I was feeling very nervous because I knew that [the] Chanel team was waiting for me in the studio. So I felt quite awkward arriving at Chanel studio, being late. But I remember Karl being really patient and nice, saying nothing about me being really late. So finally we started the shoot, I felt very good and comfortable shooting with him.
How would you describe your personal style? Do you have any style icons or inspirations?
I was always inspired by Kate Moss'style, I think she is the most beautiful woman alive!
What goes through your mind before you step out on the runway?
Different things, depending on my mood. But nothing weird. Usually, my shoes are way too small, so I'm thinking about the moment when I will finally be able to take them off after the show!
If you weren't modeling, what would you be doing?
I also organize different events, mostly sports events. It's a thing that gives me adrenaline.
What has been the biggest change you've seen in the industry in the past ten years?
The fashion industry changed a lot. When I started, it was still the time of supermodels. I was standing in a line-up looking at beautiful women, classically beautiful women. They had perfect height, perfect bodies, perfect features. Nowadays we have a wider range of beauty. You can see different people doing fashion shows, being on the covers of magazines. I think it's a very interesting and specific thing for the fashion industry happening right now.
Do you have a favorite place modeling has taken you?
Hawaii was still the most amazing place I think. I was flying for 24 hours to get there from Moscow, but it was so worth it.
Finally, what's next for Irina Kulikova?
Well, nowadays I work a lot in Moscow, I work a lot in Europe. The great thing is that I feel more and more confident with modeling as I get older. Now I really understand what people want from me, I know how to get the better picture. I also work in a totally different industry as I organize sports events. I like to combine these two jobs, it makes me feel alive when I realize that I can be effective not only as a model.
Interview & Intro by: Reilly Sullivan - Special Thanks to Tim Neymatov @ Nik Model Management (Moscow, Russia).
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