Natalia Vodianova had a good reason to be running (literally) late for her Naked Heart Foundation charity event last night at Knightsbridge’s Mari Vanna restaurant: As a torch bearer for the Paralympic Games, which opened yesterday, her 130-meter leg of the relay ran nearly two hours behind. The partygoers, including Tallulah Harlech and actor Benedict Cumberbatch, however, didn’t seem to mind as they sipped Champagne in the sumptuous Russian-themed space.
Vodianova is an ambassador for the 2014 Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russia (with a half-sister who is afflicted with cerebral palsy, the Paralympics are an especially important event to her), so carrying the torch in London was a bit of warm-up. Good thing she is an ace runner—Vodianova famously ran the Paris half marathon in March 2011 before walking in the Givenchy Fall show later that night. But that’s not her only good cause. Last night’s event was for her own charity, Naked Heart, which builds playgrounds in Russia’s most impoverished areas. “I put a lot of time into Naked Heart,” said the model, who was still in her Paralympic gear, in between sampling bites of the restaurant’s Naked Heart dessert (she convinced the restaurant to donate all proceeds from the sale of the sweet treat to the charity). “It’s like having another child; it needs constant attention. The good thing is that I have a team of people that really work hard—I do a lot of supervising.”
She might be focused on her charity work right now, but don’t think that the Russian supe is anywhere close to being through with fashion: “I am really looking forward to seeing Erdem and Christopher Kane’s new collections,” she told Style.com. “Unfortunately, I will miss being at London fashion week, but believe me, I will be online checking out their collections.”
Hungry Russian models now have a place to go for some Slavic home cooking, just like Babushka used to make: Mari Vanna. The Gramercy Park eatery, which opens officially on Wednesday after a soft launch in June, even looks like Grandma’s place, what with the peeling wallpaper, dusty bookshelves, and shabby-chic chandeliers courtesy of the decorator Vera Raririniva. Extending the metaphor, special friends of the restaurant receive a key that works not only here in New York but also at the restaurant’s St. Petersburg and Moscow outposts. We hear that Dasha Zhukova (wonder if a Pop launch party is in the works?), her billionaire boyfriend Roman Abramovich, and Naomi Campbell’s main squeeze, Vladislav Doronin, all have one. If you’re not a Russian oligarch, you can ring the bell. There’s a late-night menu and takeaway is also available—it comes packed in the string bags that Russians were known to carry in their pockets before they traded up to Chanels and Vuittons. More information at www.marivannanyc.com.