“What is sexy?” asked Russian supermodel Irina Shayk. Of course, if anyone were to know the answer to that question, it’s her. She’s been on the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue, and she’s appeared on numerous covers and editorials, including quite a few in W shoots—perhaps most memorably one especially racy photoshoot shot by Mert and Marcus. So, let her break it down. “It is not red lips, push-up bra and high-heels,” she declared. “It is some spiciness that you have inside. You can be sexy in conversation, you know? It is a charisma, it is part of your character—that what is really sexy to me.”
Shayk was chatting about the word while in Verona, Italy, prepping for a big night with the Italian lingerie giant Intimissimi. If the brand name doesn’t ring a bell, perhaps you haven’t been to Europe recently. They have over 500 stores alone in Italy, and over 1,300 stores throughout the world, and they are set to open over 30 locations in the United States by 2018.
Intimissimi offers simple, yet refined underwear styles, which Shayk herself has been wearing since 2007, when the then unknown model was cast in their campaign. “They were the first lingerie brand that discovered me, back in Moscow,” Shayk said. Ten years later, Shayk is starring in their latest campaign once again. One thing that has changed in the past decade? “My self-confidence,” Shaky said. “I had just starting modeling, ten years ago, and I was very insecure about myself. To be in front of the camera wearing lingerie, it’s not easy no matter what size dress you wear. I was really insecure I didn’t know what to do. By working with Intimissimi, I learned how to move in front of the camera, how to be comfortable in my own skin. I learned about my body, and I learned about myself.”
The only other thing that also has changed in Shayk’s life: motherhood, having given birth to daughter Lea de Seine in March, with partner Bradley Cooper. “Motherhood is part of being a woman,” she said, and it certainly is not going to deter her from her modeling work. Nor does she feel that having a baby should change how the world views a woman. “It doesn’t really change if you’re sexy, and after baby, you’re not sexy. Every woman brings her sexiness in her own way.”
Shayk’s own way—when it comes to dressing, at least—is styling innerwear pieces as outwear. She has certainly picked up a few styling tricks over the last ten years. “Yesterday I was wearing this black sweater, and it had an open back. I said, ‘You know, I’m not going to wear a normal bra, it’s boring. So I wore this mini lace bra top from Intimissimi, and had the lace peak from the back. Everyone was like who is this sweater from?” she said. “I think nowadays you can have lingerie and wear it as an evening dress, as a little gown with a cool jacket. I think you just have to have fun with it.”
That evening, Shayk would join Katie Holmes and Chiara Ferragni for an evening of ice skating at the Arena di Verona, a Colosseum-like amphitheater in the city’s center. Italian classical tenor Andreas Bocelli wowed fans as Olympic champions figure skated around the amphitheater’s rink in Ferragni-designed lingerie-inspired Intimissimi costumes. Soon after, she’ll be in New York for the brand’s Manhattan flagship store opening. “When you are walking down the street in New York, you always see these sexy ladies and they are wearing these little shorts, t-shirt, and lipstick, and I’m like, oh my god, that’s amazing,” she said. “They don’t care about being size zero! They want to show their body and celebrate their shape. And that’s the kind of woman I really admire.”
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