If you like to consume dinner in the presence of women strutting around wearing couture pasties and thongs, then Cipriani 42nd Street was the place to be on Thursday night. Lingerie super-designer Carine Gilson held her first runway show in twenty years, along with “bedroom” latex designer Atsuko Kudo, at Lingerie NY, a benefit for Seven Bar Foundation, which provides microfinancing to women. (Basically, they offer financial services to women in third-world countries who don’t have bank accounts or other means of financial empowerment.) Michelle Rodriguez D.J.-ed and Modern Family’s Sofia Vergara was there to lend support to ladies of Colombia who would receive the foundation’s aid. “Sometimes not everyone is lucky to find a wealthy husband,” she said, before cooing that she wanted every piece of lingerie in the show. “Maybe if they sew them all together, then they’ll fit me.” Liya Kebede walked in a tasteful robe amid a lot of bare butts and barely covered breasts, along with a very sassy Crystal Renn, who wore a black latex dominatrix outfit and walked a poodle down the runway with her. We spoke to Renn after the show about being naked in front of strangers, her famous weight loss, and more.
Is this outfit all latex?
It is incredible. Because you know when you walk in shows, anything can be picked for you, and you may not have the same taste as the person putting you in and it’s not your job to say anything. But today is a different day. I have to say I really love this outfit and I definitely have a dark side and would absolutely wear this out. This is very me.
You’ve just got pasties on underneath that jacket?
Yes. I find the whole thing very sexy. When people wear short skirts and all that, that’s not my type of sexy. This is my type of sexy, which is why I think they picked me for it. And a lot of people, I find, want to put latex on me for shows. I must give off some dominatrix-type energy. I’m like, “What is the message people are trying to say by hiring me all the time as the dominatrix?” But the great thing about this is it could be worn feminine. I could really girl this up. But I wouldn’t. I would keep it just as is.
Would you walk out on the street wearing just pasties as a shirt?
Here’s the thing: If you asked the average person how they feel nude in front of a lot of people, I think they’d feel uncomfortable. Me at this point, I mean you just push through. I mean there are images of me, because as a model, I mean, you’re showing your body. My entire career has been speaking about the body and being proud of my body. And I’m all for showing it. To wear as much clothes as I’m wearing now, it feels very natural to go either way.
How do you feel about people saying you may have lost too much weight?
But then if I gained weight for them, that would be called a binge-eating disorder. And, you know, a lot happened to me in the last year. About a year and a half ago, I had a lot of personal things going on. And I went hiking and I wanted to get my shit together. I wanted to take care of myself. It had been eight years since I’d worked out. I’d suffered an eating disorder and I used to exercise eight hours a day. But I’d recovered. It’s time to change things, to give it a chance again. I guess you could say that through my life changes and what was going on, I wanted to make some changes in my life and taking care of my health was one of them.
What are you doing differently now than in the past?
Well, I’m so active. In the past, I avoided exercise because it brought back terrible feelings. I wasn’t ready. And I was scared that maybe I was going to be addicted again. That’s a fear that goes through your mind, whenever you’re getting over an addiction or a disease like anorexia, yeah, I absolutely was worried. But then I guess you could say my life changed in a really drastic way. For one, there was a split-up that I went through that was very difficult, and I thought, “You know what? I need to be in a good place. I need to find me again.” So I went with my grandmother to Patagonia. One of the things on my list was to go to this place, after seeing it in a Vogue issue with Caroline Trentini. I said, “I’m going to go there.” And I went backpacking for three weeks and I came back and I had lost some weight. And basically I’ve been traveling ever since. This is just how my body is now. It’s great. I have to be honest, when I was a size 12, I was just like, “This is how it is. Just accept it, like, love it. And I did.” And then to have it change all over again, it’s kind of been an adjustment for me. It’s been strange, actually, because it’s not something I’ve been trying to do.
What size are you now?
I would say an 8-to-10.
What’s your workout routine like?
I think I probably have a good relationship with the exercise that I do do. I’m taking care. I’m just in a really good place. I do hiking. I do yoga, but nothing crazy, just in my house. It brings me peace. And a lot of meditation. All of that stuff. Because I tend to be a stressed-out person. I’m a perfectionist, I cannot lie. And I found out that I cannot change that about myself, but what I can do is learn to manage it and channel it in a better way. If this had happened eight years ago, I would have freaked out and I would not have known what to do, and I would have failed miserably. Somehow timing is everything, and luckily it’s happening now, where I am, I think, capable to take on the work that I do.
How was walking in Paris? You were in Chanel, Jean Paul Gaultier, and Zac Posen.
Here’s the thing: I really don’t think that it has to do with my weight. I know that people looking from the outside, of course they’re going to think that. They want to think that. They want to say, “I told you so.” But in the past year, I’ve made a lot of big changes in my life and I’m happier than ever. And I think I’m probably in the best place I’ve ever been.
What was it like getting cast by Karl?
Inside, you die. No, I’m kidding. But what a great honor. I mean, when I was a child, 14 years old, looking at fashion, what do you know? You know Chanel. That is the first one. And I remember being a young model, 16 years old, going into my agency the first day, “When am I going to see Chanel? They’re in Paris? Why am I not in Paris?” Every day, I was asking about this. And it took me getting healthy and getting comfortable in myself seven years later and I get Chanel. Irony? I think so.
What does Karl say to you?
At this point, he says hello. We did a show together, we did a campaign together, we partied together, we did another show together. Now it’s becoming like a relationship, and it’s wonderful to see. He is a talent. And to hear the man talk about all his, like, adventures and his life, it’s incredible. I guess you could say that one of the reasons I do my job is to meet people just like him.
And tonight you walked the runway with a poodle.
I have to tell you, at first I was nervous. I’m no dog whisperer. I’m not Cesar [Millan]. But I knew right before the show that I was going to be fine, that even if the dog was going to be hysterical, I’m not going to be hysterical. I’m going to own this. And I think it was the outfit, to be honest with you. I was nervous inside, and then I put on the outfit and nothing mattered.
You said that at home in Williamsburg, you mostly wear flannel. Are you changing into that now?
No, I’m going to save that for when I’m actually at home. No one should see that except the people who work at Variety. No, I’m wearing Rick Owens. It’s a clothes version of this.
Do you have any tips for wearing lingerie?
I could tell the truth and say that often I’m not wearing bras or underwear. Being someone who doesn’t tend to wear undergarments — and I’m so sorry for anyone who might be offended by my eccentric ways — but when I do wear it, I make sure it’s a special occasion, and I wear it as a special thing, feeling special, so therefore the effect is stronger than ever. As opposed to every day, feeling the effect. Special times, special measures.
Some women feel uncomfortable walking around in lingerie.
They do? Obviously I don’t. But I will say this, when I was really, really thin and starving myself and I thought, basically, stick-thin was absolutely the only way to be beautiful, yeah, I hated wearing lingerie. Didn’t want to be naked on sets. God, a runway? Absolutely not. I would have called my agent and run home. I think it’s about setting your standards to something that’s attainable. You know, don’t set a size zero as someone you look up to in lingerie. Look for someone who kind of looks like you. You can be beautiful at any size, and that matters. And then the lingerie, that’s just the accent. It’s really about the person inside who should feel beautiful and confident. The lingerie is just an extra touch.