Carnegie Hall looks like the aftermath of a yak-shearing convention. Dyed wool-knit caps and frizzy gray hair pour into the lobby at the end of the Tibet House U.S. benefit concert—along with some sweater-vested Vampire Weekend fans and one anomalous gazellelike blonde, model Agyness Deyn, in head-to-toe black leather and lace. An arctic gust rips through the doors, practically flooring her. “I’m literally wearing nothing!” she says, laughing and clutching her legs for warmth. “This isn’t a dress; it’s just underwear and tights. So I’m a bit gutted by the cold.”
Deyn hadn’t meant to walk out of her East Village apartment (where she lives alone, incidentally, not with musician boyfriend Albert Hammond Jr., whom she is very happily dating, but to whom she is not affianced) wearing lingerie and a jacket. But she’s been on this tear of watching old movies and, after an afternoon of shopping for Brigitte Bardot and Audrey Hepburn boxed sets, had settled in to watch the Ed Wood tranny classic Glen or Glenda, whose main character spends a lot of time in lingerie. So Deyn decided to get in costume, too, and was prancing around her apartment in a vintage negligée when her friend rang to tell her to hurry up. “Then when I arrived, I was like, ‘Oh shit, I don’t really have any clothes on.’ ”
Being inappropriately clothed isn’t unusual for Deyn, a muse for Christopher Bailey of Burberry who stands out among fashion’s angular Eastern European beauties for her distinct downtown style. That style certainly got her noticed in November, when she was strip-searched in the Dubai airport while wearing a men’s Marc Jacobs tracksuit en route to the opening of the Atlantis hotel. “I was traumatized and really angry at Albert, who got strip-searched as well. I was like, ‘It’s all your fault! It’s because you look dodgy!’ ”
A TV panel on the BBC (shockingly) voted her “the most annoying person of 2008,” though this seems to have been mostly due to a controversial singing debut with the Five O’Clock Heroes and her seeming ubiquity. The British tabs document her every move, particularly when it involves snogging Hammond. By now, Deyn knows all the photographers camped outside her apartment. “Every morning I’m like, ‘Hello! Want a coffee?’ ”
When Fashion Week descends on Bryant Park next week, Deyn—who also turns 26 then—won’t be the freshest face on the runway, but she is perhaps the biggest name. She and Hammond star in a ten-page Valentine’s Day story in Vogue, featuring them doing “datey things,” like Hammond playing guitar for her under a tree. (“It’s nice to have those pictures, because you only get older, don’t you?”) In fact, Fashion Week has become so old hat that until her manager called, “I actually forgot it was on. I was like, ‘Fashion Week? Oh shit!’ I do like doing it. But you know when you kind of have it figured out in your head that you don’t want to do this forever?”
It’s not surprising that years of “constantly working” have Deyn dreaming of Caribbean vacations and bike rides. Tonight, at the benefit’s buffet dinner over at Roseland, she’s content to scarf down an entire plate of “chocolatey deliciousness” away from photographers and catch up with old friend Adam Green, the musician, who came by to show off iPhone pictures of him sledding with Weird Al Yankovic. And she plans on adhering to her new early bedtime (11 p.m., optimally), which, she’s discovered, has allowed her to do “lots of getting to know myself.” To that end, she’s barely had a drink in months. “I wanted to be present when I was out, rather than not remembering. Now I can’t drink more than a glass. Albert and I shared a bottle of wine on ‘date night’ and I was so wasted.”
The one vice she hasn’t manage to kick, however, is smoking. “I wish we could smoke in here,” she says, surveying perhaps the least cigarette-friendly room in history. A group of Tibetan monks, draped in red and yellow silk, are sitting a table away. “You think we should say hi?” she asks. “They probably don’t speak English, do they?”
Tomorrow, Deyn plans to see a hypnotist. “I feel like I’m playing mind games with nicotine. It’s like being in a bad relationship. English people say, ‘Treat you mean to keep you keen.’ Cigarettes treat you like shit. But you want them anyway.
“I don’t know,” she goes on. “Maybe I shouldn’t get hypnotized. I feel like it might be like The Wizard of Oz, where they get courage and a heart. He’s going to give me the ability not to smoke. But what if I don’t want it? What if I’m like, ‘Take it back!’ ” Deyn grabs her jacket. “Let’s leave, eh? I want to smoke.”
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