Princesses of Prince Street

“I have never had such a nice bathroom,” said Nastya Zhelkovskaya, a 17-year-old Russian fashion model who was in town for fashion week. In August 2006, the slender blonde was standing outside her school in Moscow when a modeling agent approached. Now she was giving The Observer a tour of her new, temporary digs—a two-bedroom, second-floor apartment on West Broadway and Prince Street which she was sharing with five other models. (Three Russians in one bedroom, two Brazilians in another bedroom, one Romanian in the living room.) It was one of the many so-called model apartments that crop up this time of year. “In my city, in my apartment, I don’t have such a bathroom,” she said.

It was a perfectly decent bathroom—toilet, sink, bathtub—and a couple feet of floor space. Nastya said her bathroom back in St. Petersburg was much smaller.

She was especially pleased that she and her two roommates had a bathroom just for the three of them. Her experiences in France and Milan last year had not been so luxurious.

She looked around the bedroom and said, “It’s messy. I was just choosing clothes to put on.”

There were three single beds, each piled with clothes, jewelry, cosmetics. The floor was littered with shoes, clothes spilling out of suitcases, magazines.

“Here is Tanya,” she said, pointing at one of the beds. “We’re all Russians in this room. And here is Maria.”

“Tanya has the most beautiful color of hair and has big blue eyes,” said Nastya. “Maria, she’s really nice girl. She has very, very long legs.”

So what goes on in this cramped little room in the wee small hours? Pillow fights? Endless boy talk?

“No, we don’t talk very much about boys, we have enough problem of our own,” she said.

Political discourse?

“No, we’re girls, we are not talking about politics,” she said. “Sometimes we talk about shows we have done. Every morning, we talk about what clothes to put on.”

Nastya recalled that on this morning, “Maria put on her jeans and a white shirt with a belt. Tanya, a black dress. And me, jeans and this gray shirt.”

“Actually, usually we don’t like each others’ outfits,” she added.

Christie Byorek of the One agency came to deliver Nastya’s schedule for the following day. There would be a casting for the Antonio Berardi show, followed by a visit with Russell Marsh, a big casting director who was casting for New York, Paris and Milan. He knows who Nastya is. And then Yves St. Laurent.

“So tomorrow I have nine castings, and two shows, and a fitting for Donna Karan New York,” Nastya said, marveling. “Wow.”

By 9 p.m., most of the other models had arrived at the apartment. Soon there were sweat pants; peeking thongs; large bare feet. The Observer suggested Chinese food; they opted instead to go to the store for provisions.

Karen Adam, 16, of São Paolo, Brazil, took a consensus and departed.

“Can you get cookies?” called out Maria Kashleva, 19, of Moscow. She looked like a very pretty stork and wants to be a lawyer.

Princesses of Prince Street