Runway Bird

By Valentina Kohli

If you could be a shady, fly on the wall in fashion’s most exclusive events, parties, and conversations, which wall would you choose? A frivolous fashion week with Kate Moss, meeting Amy Winehouse in a Camden pub, the dubious escapades of super models backstage or a pliant conversation with Yoko Ono? Runway Bird is a rock n’ roll tell-all book written from the insider, Irina Lazareanu a model exploring the lifestyle she lived and the beautiful people she met in the 1990s. From musicians, to supermodels, to up tempo parties, she unfolds a brisk view of her lifestyle.

Romanian born, Irina Lazareanu migrated to Quebec, Canada from a refugee camp in 1987. She was scouted by a model agency at the age of 17. She recalls that business was slow in the beginning. Subsequently, when Karl Lagerfeld took her under his wing, other fashion houses were quickly a-calling. She tells storied of behind the scenes of catwalk shows and photoshoots for brands like Burberry, Marni and Miu Miu. As well as recalling on a multitude of connections she made throughout her career, today calling them friends and even otherworldly creatures. 

Runway Birds is a thorough account of Irina’s support system, friends, and lifestyle as a super model. The memoir is loosely broken down into two segments, Under the Influence: Fashion and Under the Influence: Rock. These segments are further divided into subchapters named after her closest friends and brands she has worked with. The louche allotments of chronicles and testimonies organise your read and make up the fabulous life of a polished supermodel. 

The 1990s is a hard era to pin down. It was a golden era. Embellished with A-listers and supermodels who euphorically wore the ‘90s laudable designers and designs, out and about and on the red carpet. This era was illustrious, made only more illustrious by these celebrities. Their looks, their attitude, and their conviction that the fashion was iconic. When they look back, they feel nothing other than honour. 

In Runway Bird, Irina writes about the louche allurement of the 1990s and early 2000s, evoked through enticing A-listers, her “runway clique,” and favourite designers. Each chapter is a tribute coupled with disreputable rebellion against the conventions and norms of fashion. 

The middle of the decade brought to us Kate Moss, one of the first celebrated supermodels. Irina describes Kate as a bona fide style icon, stating that she personified a new era of rock n’ roll, rewriting the zeitgeist and inspiring a new generation. Kate Moss was more than a style icon to Irina, she was Irina’s fairy godmum during fashion week seasons, soothing and cementing confidence in Irina’s weakest moments. 

Have you ever envisaged yourself meeting the musician Amy Winehouse in a London pub laughing over beer-fuelled and dubious conversations? Subsequently going to a house party and competing over who knew the most Leonard Cohen lyrics? It would be a phenomenon. Irina writes that Amy was a subversive figure in fashion and music. Amy delivered what the moment did not even know it was asking for. A whirl of rock n’ roll and a matriarchal model. 

Although the glitzy side of Fashion Weeks seems glamorous, behind the scenes it is an absolute madness. Irina shares some of her best and worst experiences of being a model during these periods. She confesses the unforeseen hiccups and her escapades with her close model friends aka fellow runway birds. From Lily Cole to Freja Beha via Helena Christensen, Irina recounts their strength, wit, and charm as multi-hyphenates in a world where models were believed to be dull and doltish. 

Karl Lagerfeld during Paris Fashion Week – Autumn/Winter 2006-2007 – Haute Couture – Chanel Arrivals and Front Row at Pelouse de St Cloud in Paris, France. (Photo by Toni Anne Barson Archive/WireImage)

The Japanese artist, Yoko Ono redefined elegance with her attitude. Soft-spoken and detailed, activated and firm in her presence throughout her career and life. Irina portrays Yoko’s style and influence as grounded, with a rough edge presenting a seductive feminine complexity. It spawned the ‘90s fashion scene with relieving and forgiving, and empowering and enlightening leverage. 

As different as these creatives may be from each other, they unknowingly propagated a new wave. Rewriting the zeitgeist of fashion, music and life. They stimulated a louche generation of rock n’ roll enthusiasts who yearned for something different to align with their purviews in fashion, in music and in rockabilly. 

Irina captures her readers like prey in her web, unraveling each thread of silk in the web and conjuring the different planes of the 90s. Its glamour, its magnetism. Through these threads she uncovers a notorious web of rock n’ roll annexing fashion, music and art. 

Other women in the creative industry have chronicled their friendship and experiences. Archiving their life-experiences through words and photographs in their own books. Identical twins and America’s iconic musicians Tegan and Sara Quin look back at their 90s rave and grunge culture while discussing their humble beginnings in High SchoolA memoir about their high school experiences, dealing with their parent’s divorce and getting to know their identities and sexualities. 

The expanded second edition of She’s a Rebel by Gillian G. Gaar louchely delineates women in rock and pop over 6 decades, from the 50’s to the early 00’s. When the book was first published in 1992, it became an instant classic and the first book charting the full history of women in pop and rock ever written. The new edition includes a new preface by Japanese artist Yoko Ono as well as dozens new interviews and accounts on performers such as Bikini Kill, Sheryl Crow, Mariah Carey, Destiny’s Child and Christina Aguilera. 

Since the 90s, the digital world superseded any industry, and the fashion industry took this change with open arms. Online and offline modes of working have become entwined for professionals, figuring out how to best strategies their companies to fit into Web 2.0 and meet consumers’ standards. This is exactly what the book, Onlife Fashionexplains. The book weaves, what the authors believe are the consequential rules high-fashion brands should be guided by to generate success in today and tomorrow’s substantial online world. 

Onlife Fashion includes authentic and never seen before interviews with CEOs and executives from fashion’s most exclusive and sought-after brands. It is ‘an essential guide in the decision making of managers in the global fashion system in the coming years.’ Executives from Moncler, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, and more give insights into how brands should operate, network, and navigate their ecosystems in the volatile future of fashion business. 

Ever wished to be a fly on the wall or web per se, of famous celebrities and fashion executives? Spying on their conversations, experiencing their binding work life or getting business insights from top fashion executives? The books mentioned above give you just that and more. Chapter by chapter, book by book, you reside in the authors’ experiences, or you get insight on a particular matter. The information, knowledge and fashion events in each book can transport you away from the mundane minutiae of your quotidian tasks. Let’s get louche, let’s read. 

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