Discover the story of Irina Lazzariano, a model ambassador for Chanel and a former refugee

The New York Times – Life / Style – Lately Paris fashion weekModel Chanel He had a strange feeling of deja vu. Not because she was chosen as an ambassador for Chanela brand that I discovered in the early 2000s and turned into one of the most sought-after women of today, and a favorite of Karl LagerfeldAnd Marc Jacobs And Nicolas Ghesquiere; musician friend Sean Lennon The ex-fiancée of bad boy rocker Pete Doherty; and “little sister” Kate Moss. Not until after his book was just released, called a style diary from that time with fashion tips and selfies runway bird (Podium bird, free translation). But because Russia had just invaded Ukraine, the scenes of the refugee influx into Europe were all too familiar, reminding her of her childhood, when she and her parents were forced to leave Romania. Her father had just called to say, “It’s happening again.”

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Irina Lazzariano, at friends' apartment, during Paris Fashion Week in February 2022.
Irina Lazzariano, at friends’ apartment, during Paris Fashion Week in February 2022. take photo: Dmitriy Kostyukov

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Lazzariano, 39, now lives in Montreal, where he immigrated with his parents in 1989. (He has an almost three-year-old son, River, with a guitarist Drew McConnell.) I was in Paris, shooting a cover Vogue Czechoslovakia – His first in nearly a decade. According to her, the contrast between her reality and the events just a few hours away, near her homeland, made her think: “Maybe I did not deserve the life that I lived.”

A life model is often compared to a fairy taleA way to transform Cinderella from difficult circumstances into pop culture princesses. Lazareanu was not the only model that emerged during the crisis in Eastern Europe at the turn of the millennium. Other names include Natasha Pollyfrom Russia; Carolina Kurkova, from the Czech Republic; And Carmen Casfrom Estonia.

But the truth of her story, which Lazzariano does not describe in detail in the book, is much less interesting than it appears, according to her. Instead of talking about it, it describes how it was discovered by Lagerfeld At the age of 21 (she came to an audition wearing a peasant skirt, white Tibetan wool shoes, and a traditional Roman embroidered blouse) and in the year she gave nearly a hundred performances.

Model Irina Lazzariano on the French Vogue calendar in 2008.
Model Irina Lazzariano on the French Vogue calendar in 2008. take photo: disclosure

Lazariano and her parents left Romania in 1989, when she was six, just before the dictator’s fall. Nicolae Ceausescu. His paternal grandfather, Dumitro Lazzariano, was imprisoned for several months in the late 1950s for his participation in communist movement resistance is called iron guardwhich started after World War II. She said that her son (Irina’s father) Constantin Lazzariano, an engineer, had been under surveillance by Romanian intelligence for a long time informing him that the devastation and death caused by two earthquakes (in 1977 and 1986) was partly due to state neglect.

Lazzariano remembers always standing in line with his mother to get rationed food. There was no food or electricity. The lights just went out.” He also remembers his parents keeping the water running and whispering because the house was full of eavesdropping. One night, her father came home just before dawn, blood on his face. “My mother said he tripped over a bag of tomatoes,” Lazzariano said.

The next morning they packed their bags, left their apartment in Ploiesti, near Bucharest, and headed to their grandparents’ farm in Rieste, to the north. Lazzariano stayed with his grandparents while his parents crossed the border into Serbia, where they had relatives. It was the last time my mother saw her father. But since they left me behind, the government thought they would come back.”

Irina Lazzariano showing off Karl Lagerfeld's creations in Paris in 2008.
Irina Lazzariano showing off Karl Lagerfeld’s creations in Paris in 2008. take photo: Pascal Rossignol

Lazzariano spent the next ten months with his grandparents, who grew corn, surrounded by chickens, cows, and horses. “Once in a while, the guards would come over to check if I was still there.”

At that time, there was no control of the border between Serbia and Yugoslavia. Yugoslavs were free to travel, but Lazariano said that many people with Romanian passports had to resort to bribery to board vehicles crossing the border.

Their parents bribed a bus driver to take them from Serbia to Austria, where they arrived refugee camp from Traiskirchen and obtain temporary asylum, provided that they apply for citizenship in another country. An Austrian agency contacted the Romanian government on their behalf to ask them to send their daughter. The price was a plane ticket “costing my grandparents’ savings,” according to Lazzariano.

Like other children, she took German lessons. His father was a construction worker and his mother, who was an accountant, now works as a cook in a local restaurant. Then his parents applied for a Canadian residence visa and were accepted. The family went to Montreal, where they were given free housing, a per diem for food, and lessons in French and English. “My mom used to take the cookie pie when we ordered soup in restaurants, because she thought they were cookies we needed to save for dessert.”

Irina Lazzariano sings with her friend Sean Lennon, son of former Beatle John Lennon, at the start of the Chanel show in 2007.
Irina Lazzariano sings with her friend Sean Lennon, son of former Beatle John Lennon, at the start of the Chanel show in 2007. take photo: Dylan Martinez

Lazariano’s lesson ballet, hoping to become a professional ballerina, but ends up injuring her knee. When he was 16 years old, some relatives suggested him to try a modeling career. She signed a contract with a local agency called Giovanni, then with Select (in London), with Marilyn (in Paris) and now represents her. global elite group.

Lazariano said the family felt very fortunate to be able to escape from Romania. “But I’ve gone from trying to be invisible to working in an industry where I’ve been asked to be a different person in every moment, to being inspiring.”

In the past 10 years, Lazzariano has returned to Romania three times, returning to visit the refugee camp his parents left, staying with his grandmother – who died a few years ago – and seeing his relatives again. Once, she was a guest DJ in a nightclub in Bucharest, where she played her father’s favorite anthem, It’s a long way to get to the top (if you want rock ‘n’ roll), from AC DCmusic he listened to at full volume when he took her to ballet lessons in Canada.

“We never saw any of these people again. When I was a refugee, very few people were able to escape. Now the mass displacement is in the millions. Will they be able to go back? What will you eat? Where will they live? How do you explain all this to the children who were weeks ago? Only a few were playing the piano, doing gymnastics and playing on the playground? Children in refugee camps won’t forget what they see. If they succeed, they will be lucky, Lazzariano commented.

Back during the Chanel show he wore a piece designed by Karl Lagerfeld.
Back during the Chanel show he wore a piece designed by Karl Lagerfeld. take photo: Pascal Rossignol

In Paris, Lazzariano attended an afternoon demonstration against the war in Ukraine. Later, I and a few friends took coats and blankets to Rue de la Pompe station on metro line 9, where a bus was waiting to take supplies like diapers, towels, tents, batteries and medicine to Ukraine.

Lazarano’s Ukrainian friends who were due to work at Fashion Week were unable to return home, and were trying to get the family out of the war zone. She had asked her publisher to donate 20 percent of the proceeds from the sale of her book to the Ukraine Peace Fund, a joint initiative of the Romanian Embassy and the United States.

“When I see pictures of children being taken out of the family, of people having to make the same decisions as my father, it is hard to sleep. Your whole world is crumbling: your identity, your loved ones, your safety. After such a situation, when will they feel safe in their bed again? It will take so long. Even what You think you’ll forget it ends up coming back to mind. The images and the sounds stay with us.”

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