Irina Shayk has been one of the most in-demand models for nearly a decade. She was the first Russian model to appear on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue, has walked runways for everyone from Miu Miu to Marc Jacobs, and has appeared in high fashion campaigns for just about every luxury brand imaginable. But back in 2007, she was just an aspiring model in Yemanzhelisk, Russia—that is until Intimissimi came around. Upon spotting her at a local fashion show, the Italian label known for their innerwear and undergarments tapped the then unknown to become the face of the brand. The rest is modeling history.
Twelve years later, Shayk's career may be quite different than the mid-aughts, but one thing hasn't changed: she's still with the brand. "I’m going to be 33 and every time I work with new people, it’s really exciting, of course, but it’s always so good to work with your team because you know how the hair and makeup is going to be, how the photos are going to be, what the client wants," the model said recently. "And it’s fun."
Shayk was gearing up for a brand new Intimissimi shoot on a sunny date in late December, but she could recall her first ever campaign with the brand a decade ago. "I’m like, 'Oh my God, I look so young,'" she said, laughing. "I look at it, and it’s me, but it’s not me. Now I feel like I’m bringing something different on set. You bring more confidence. When I look back at that first campaign, it was more the girl who was learning to become confident."
As she sat in hair and makeup, the 33-year-old model reflected on her career, how being a mother (to daughter Lea De Seine, with partner Bradley Cooper) has changed her, and how she prepares for the red carpet.
How many campaigns have you done with Intimissimi at this point?
It’s been so many years. They are actually the ones who discovered me, in Moscow. I was shooting a campaign for this department store and they came on set because they were looking for a replacement for Ana Beatriz Barros. They saw me and asked me if I wanted to be the new face of the campaign. I was like, “Of course.” They signed me for six months and since then, I’m still here. For the past four years, I’ve been an ambassador. I’ve been with them for 10 years, I think.
Do you remember the first shoot you did with them?
Oh my God, yes I do. It was in New York with Enrique Badulescu. I literally didn’t know what to do, because it was my first lingerie shoot. But with Intimissimi, it’s not about being sexy and push up bras. It’s all about being modern and sophisticated. That’s how women are right now. You can be sexy, but you don’t have to show it with your lingerie. It’s all about your inner-sexy, and what you bring from the inside out. I was really afraid of how it was going to go, because it was a huge campaign in New York. I was frightened. But it went well and they stuck with me for another 10 years. [Laughs.]
How important is the idea of having confidence, rather than just being sexy, to you?
We live in the 21st century and with everything that’s going on in the world, people always ask me what it means to be sexy, and sexy is not about wearing a push-up bra and red lipstick and high heels. Every women is sexy in her own way. It’s something that comes from inside of you. You don’t have to go out there and show it—though if you want to go out there and show it, it’s totally fine. When you see a woman dressed in a suit and sneakers, I think she’s sexy. It’s about your character, how you move, how you talk—that’s sexy to me. It’s not about a push-up bra to your neck and you can’t breathe. It’s something more classy and sophisticated and modern.
What makes you feel most confident?
Definitely comfortable underwear. When you wake up, that’s the first thing you put on. The most comfortable underwear should feel like a second skin. You don’t want to be stuck in an uncomfortable bra with wire sticking into your skin. What makes me feel confident is feeling good in your own skin. Love your body, embrace your body. It’s self-confidence.
Did you always have that, or was it something that you had to learn?
Of course you have to learn! I’ve gone through stages and phases. When I was 15, I was skinny and kids always made fun of me. I wore high heels and they’d say, “Sticks walking.” I think we all go through stages in life, and it’s a great thing because it’s a learning process. You learn about your character, yourself, how to be confident, and how to stick with your decisions. Sometimes it’s hard, but it’s all about the learning process. When you fall, you get up and keep walking. It’s like babies—that’s how they learn to walk.They keep falling and falling, and then they are walking. It’s just life.
Since becoming a mom yourself, how has that changed your confidence and how you view life?
I always say that being a mom is one of the greatest things in the world. I don’t think it’s changed my life. It did change in a way to make me better. Family is the most important thing in the world.
Has it changed your style at all?
No. Not at all. Sometimes [people] will be like, “Oh, she’s a mom and she’s wearing this?” I’m like, “Give me a break, girl.” Again, we live in the 21st century. Just because you are a mom and you have a baby doesn’t mean you have to change and dress different. Keep expressing yourself and who you are.
What is your personal go-to for bras?
My favorite styles are triangle bras. I love the lace bra. I always wear. I’ve been living with this bra for… five years? Every time I run out of them, I’m like, “Please send more.” My favorite colors are black, blue, white and nude. Those four colors have stuck with me. They’re lace but not too lacy. The difference with Intimissimi triangle bras is they aren’t very sporty. It’s very modern and classic. I’ve never used push-ups bras, because I think less is more. I like something very comfy.
How many bras do you think you own?
I have so many bras. But I’m really good at giving them away when I get new ones. My friends always call me. I’ve been so lucky, that I feel like it’s good to give some away. But what’s really funny is I still have one of my first bras that Intimissimi ever gave to me. I think it’s probably eight or nine years old. I still wear it.
How do you keep it in top shape?
I know people wash bras in little bags, but I’ll be honest, I’m bad at that. But the quality is so good, it’s still great.
Do you have a special section of your closet just for bras?
I have drawers. I keep moving bras from drawers to boxes, and now I have so many boxes. I’ve been giving them away. Some bras are really close to my heart though, so I’ll keep them. I’m like, “Maybe it’s for my daughter.”
When it comes to thinking about what you’re going to wear on the red carpet, how much do you think about undergarments when selecting a look? Do you like to wear bras with gowns?
Oh, no. I’ve been doing fittings with Versace for upcoming events and they were like, “We think it’s a little see-through.” I was like, “No, it’s not.” Again, it’s just about how you feel confident. I love corsets. It depends on the dress, but usually I go no undergarments. Sometimes with an evening dress, it’s necessary to do a little push-up. For the dress I had a fitting for recently, the bra wasn’t perfect and I told them, “Let me run home, I’m going to get my Intimissimi bra and you guys can insert it.”
How far in advance will you plan your looks for awards season?
I’m very last minute. I’m kind of terrible. But I think when you plan something last minute, it’s always better. You don’t overthink it.
Are there any red carpet looks you haven’t worn that you want to try?
Not really. Sometimes when I look at my red carpets, I always wear the same category of dress, but it’s because I feel like it’s me. So, no, I don’t think so.
How do you prepare for an underwear shoot like this?
I’m really terrible. I’m kind of embarrassed to tell you. Yesterday [hairstylist] Harry Josh texted me, “What’s your hair inspiration for tomorrow?” I was like, “I’m actually eating a cake…” My housekeeper made a cake and I actually brought it to set today, because it’s a typical Russian cake. I haven’t worked out in probably a week. I’m pretty bad. But, yesterday I went to an Infrared sauna. This is my new obsession. My friend introduced me to it. It heats you up from the inside. You get rid of toxins from the inside out. It makes you really sweat, but it’s not workout sweat. I go once or twice a week when I’m in New York, and I feel like that’s my workout because you can burn 600 calories. But I’m not going to lose 600 calories. When you go, your skin, everything, you feel better. You have to try it. You’re going to be obsessed. I’m telling you right now.
What else are you really obsessed with right now?
Well, I’m Russian, so I do a Russian sauna at least once or twice a week. It’s different because you get hit by a hot broom, and it opens your pores and cleans your skin. Then you jump in a cold plunge and the difference in temperature makes your skin tighter. It’s a Russian ritual that I’ve been doing since I was a kid. And I don’t believe in facials. I really don’t. I don’t believe in going somewhere and pay someone $300 to rub cream on your face. I believe in facials with machines, like microcurrents, so it’s actually a microcurrent for your face. My latest obsession is in London called FaceGym. They have one in New York, I think. It’s literally the best thing ever. The woman comes and does a workout for your face. When you leave, you really feel like your face is lifted.
How do you keep your energy up on set on a day like today?
Cake! That’s why I brought it with me. A good amount of cake. I’m trying to stay away from coffee because I think it makes you so dry, especially in the winter. When I wake up, I have a hot glass of water and with lemon, and one cup of coffee and definitely some cake.
Do you bake cakes?
No, I’m a really bad cook. I just eat cakes.