A change of gear

The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Fashion - - CONTENTS - Natasha Silva-Jelly

Laid­back au­tumn style for a mel­low road trip with the model An­dreea Di­a­conu

‘I got to have a thou­sand scoops of ice cream to get that one shot… I en­joy food and last year I was re­ally into ex­ploratory cui­sine’

‘I could have bought ev­ery­thing from the shoot. We stayed two nights and it was re­ally re­laxed and fun. It didn’t feel like work’

‘I love go­ing on hikes, swim­ming in lakes, driv­ing to dif­fer­ent places and be­ing in the woods… I used to run but now I just surf’

Rub­bing shoul­ders with the beau­ti­ful peo­ple is now all in a day’s work for An­dreea Di­a­conu, the 24-year-old Ro­ma­nian-born face of Gucci, Dolce & Gab­bana and Bel­staff, who has called New York’s Soho home for the past four years. ‘I see Christy Turling­ton at my cof­fee shop,’ she says. ‘She seems like such a nice per­son, but I get shy and don’t look at her.’ Di­a­conu was 11 when she was spot­ted at a lo­cal pool in her na­tive Bucharest. ‘I was against mod­el­ling at first but I fi­nally caved in af­ter the agent who scouted me of­fered me €50, as I was des­per­ate to en­ter this karate com­pe­ti­tion,’ she re­calls. Her first run­way show was dur­ing Lon­don Fash­ion Week, aged 15, and other jobs fol­lowed while she fin­ished school. At 20 she made the de­ci­sion to head for the Big Ap­ple and make a ca­reer of mod­el­ling. ‘I love liv­ing in New York,’ she says. ‘Ev­ery­body is in­ter­est­ing – they in­flu­ence you in dif­fer­ent ways. I also love go­ing to amaz­ing places, like Ar­gentina, Mex­ico and Spain, and meet­ing new peo­ple. Mod­el­ling def­i­nitely opens doors to many other things.’

As for her ul­ti­mate pinch-me mo­ment? ‘The first time I shot for US Vogue – I didn’t ex­pect that. And when I got con­firmed for Mario Sor­renti for Ital­ian Vogue, I was like, “What the hell, is this real?”’

Earn­ing a rep­u­ta­tion as one of the most in-de­mand mod­els of the mo­ment does not come with­out sac­ri­fices. Di­a­conu, who speaks five lan­guages (Ro­ma­nian, Span­ish, English, French and Ital­ian), had to drop out of the Univer­sity of Bucharest, where she was study­ing PR and com­mu­ni­ca­tions, and she ad­mits to hav­ing suf­fered burn-out early in her ca­reer.

‘I was trav­el­ling ev­ery sin­gle day,’ she says. ‘I wasn’t sleep­ing, I didn’t have any friends, and my brain stopped work­ing. I ra­tio­nalised it by telling my­self that I was young, that I could do this, and that peo­ple work in hos­pi­tals for 20 hours a day. But I ended up sick and want­ing to quit ev­ery­thing.’

Hav­ing had a month-long hia­tus three years ago – and some much-needed sleep – Di­a­conu main­tains that she is now able to strike the bal­ance be­tween work and life. She ap­peared on the Septem­ber is­sue of Amer­i­can Vogue last year, along­side a num­ber of It-mod­els dubbed ‘The In­sta­girls’ for their mas­sive

‘I ac­tu­ally hate think­ing about what to wear, and when I’m not work­ing I’ll be make-up-less ex­cept for maybe a bit of mas­cara’

fol­low­ings on so­cial me­dia – in­clud­ing Cara Delev­ingne, Kar­lie Kloss, Ari­zona Muse, Joan Smalls and Edie Camp­bell – and has fronted cam­paigns for Ralph Lau­ren, Céline, H&M, Chloé and Vic­to­ria’s Se­cret. But in her down­time you will find her surf­ing at Rock­away Beach in Queens, where her boyfriend has a house, and tak­ing gui­tar lessons – ful­fill­ing a once-unattain­able dream.

‘I grew up in a very mod­est fam­ily with my mother and grand­mother,’ she says. ‘It was a reg­u­lar child­hood en­joy­ing the sim­ple plea­sures in life. The only thing that made me sad was that I wanted to take clas­si­cal pi­ano lessons or learn to play another in­stru­ment, but that cost money so I couldn’t do it.’

Given her hum­ble be­gin­nings, fi­nan­cial free­dom is hardly sec­ond na­ture to her. ‘If I go to a friend’s apart­ment and they leave the lights on, I’m the first to go around turn­ing them off,’ she says. ‘And when I eat, I al­ways have to fin­ish the whole plate.’ Be­ing a sought-af­ter model has also taken a bit of get­ting used to. ‘As a child I was tall and skinny, and I was teased for the way I looked,’ she says. ‘I used to pray that one day I would have big arms and a fat bot­tom.’

Surely she has sexy down now? ‘My boyfriend makes me feel sexy, and I like feel­ing sexy when it’s ap­pro­pri­ate,’ she says. A lover of the out­doors, she en­joys ‘hikes, swim­ming in lakes, driv­ing to dif­fer­ent places and be­ing in the woods’.

For her, our cover shoot in Up­state New York was heaven. ‘I could have bought ev­ery­thing from the shoot,’ she says. ‘We stayed two nights and it was re­ally re­laxed and fun. It didn’t feel like work. I also got to have a thou­sand scoops of ice cream to get that one shot.’ De­scrib­ing her style as ‘sim­plis­tic’, Di­a­conu says she can’t re­sist a great vin­tage find. Ex­po­sure to high fash­ion was not in her DNA. ‘I came across Puma and Adi­das, but they were prob­a­bly fakes,’ she says. ‘I ac­tu­ally hate think­ing about what to wear, and when I’m not work­ing I will be make-up-less, ex­cept for maybe a bit of mas­cara.’

Di­a­conu says that she has a ‘nice group of friends’ to go out with, but eating out is more her thing, and most nights you’ll find her at Navy, a cosy neigh­bour­hood restau­rant where the em­pha­sis is on fresh veg­eta­bles and seafood. ‘I re­ally en­joy food,’ she says. ‘Last year I was re­ally into ex­ploratory cui­sine, like ba­con with choco­late. I used to love run­ning and I would work out a lot, but I got so hun­gry I had to stop, so now I just surf. I go back to Ro­ma­nia two or three times a year and love driv­ing around. I have a sense of se­cu­rity there, and my grand­mother makes sure I have ev­ery­thing my heart de­sires.’

Di­a­conu also sup­ports chil­dren’s char­i­ties, do­nat­ing to St Jude Chil­dren’s Re­search Hos­pi­tal in Mem­phis, and con­nect­ing any­one she can to Art and Abo­li­tion, an or­gan­i­sa­tion fo­cused on end­ing child sex slav­ery in East Africa. ‘There are so many is­sues with chil­dren be­ing af­fected by con­flict,’ she says. ‘Some of them have no ac­cess to wa­ter and it’s heart­break­ing. I wish I had greater in­sight on how to help in a way that’s not in­tru­sive.’

White cot­ton vest, £26, Calvin Klein (house­of­fraser.com); white cot­ton briefs, £7, Deben­hams (deben­hams.co.uk)

Left navy Su­per­star track jacket, £55, Adi­das (adi­das.co.uk); black flared jeans, £195, MIH Jeans (mih-jeans.com); pink All Star train­ers, £47.99, Con­verse (of­fice.co.uk)

Above wool sweater, £335, Saint Lau­rent by Hedi Sli­mane (ysl.com)

Above right camel cash­mere turtle-neck, £635, Chloé (chloe.com); camel suede flares, £949, Frame Denim (sel­f­ridges.com)

Above flo­ral turtle-neck, £70, Top­shop (top­shop.com)

Right cream shear­ling coat, £2,255, Ralph Lau­ren (ralphlauren.com); black suede miniskir t, £75, Top­shop, as be­fore; black bra, from £90, Eres (eres­paris.com)

Left brown Wolfie faux-fur coat, £295, Whis­tles (whis­tles.com); striped jumper, from £40, Saint James (bou­tique-saint-james.com); blue flared jeans, £195, MIH (mih-jeans.com); black Greek Fish­er­man hat, £20.50, Aegean (vil­lage­hat­shop.com)

Above clas­sic Western shir t, £60, Levi’s (levi.co.uk); stone-washed cor­duroy trousers, £370, Chloé (chloe.com); train­ers, as be­fore

Above right tan suede and shear­ling drifter coat, £1,700, Coach (coach.com); blue denim jacket, £1,500, Acne (acne.com); black-and-white striped short-sleeve lurex sweater (just seen), £155, San­dro (san­dro-paris.com)

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