11/07/2013 12:21 EST | Updated 01/23/2014 10:53 EST

Alexa Chung puts the essence of an It Girl into words and photos in her new book

NEW YORK, N.Y. - It's easy to know when you are an It Girl, says British model-TV host-girl about town Alexa Chung: Photographers snap at you on the street, designers throw clothes at you and party invitations flow faster than champagne. She's not quite sure, though, how to become one, or even what It is.

"It sort of applies to anyone young, having fun and wearing clothes," she said in a recent interview.

She added, "I didn't pursue that title. It's not a career must for me. When I was a teenager, I didn't grow up and say, 'I'm going to be an It Girl. ... I didn't have a famous father or I wasn't being supported by a huge trust fund, so all the things I associate with that title weren't at my disposal."

But when she was signed as a model as a teenager, the now 30-year-old started down that path. She traces her journey to her place behind the velvet ropes in the new book "It" (Penguin Books), which isn't quite an autobiography but not a how-to book, either. She muses about things such as Annie Hall's style, Jeremy Iron's floppy hair, a fascination with rock star girlfriends, and underwear, "the last thing I upgraded when my wardrobe began to flourish."

She lists Julie Christie, Mia Farrow, Snow White and Winona Ryder in "Heathers" as people with good hair; and "everyone in the years 1980-89" as people with bad hair.

In person, Chung comes across as candid and approachable — she acknowledges she's challenged by money management, for example — but also confident. In her spare time, you'll find her at the karaoke bar, probably singing Nelly's "Hot in Herre."

She's got a gritty deep voice that goes with her slightly shaggy hair, dark eyeliner and heavy mascara. Vogue magazine has described her as "preppy hipster-meets-London scenester."

Her current gig as a co-host of the music-centric show "Fuse News" on Fuse TV is the one thing that gives her a regular schedule and has relocated her to New York.

Chung had been interested in a book deal for a while, although she envisioned it as a photography book at first. Taking photos has long been a hobby, but she's almost equally comfortable in front of the camera. "I am weirdly comfortable with any version of photos, from any angle," she laughs. "I like taking pictures, I like art directing, I like styling."

She has served as a contributing editor to British Vogue, collaborated on designs for Madewell and is a front-row fixture at fashion weeks in New York, London and Paris. "I love clothes, I don't necessarily love fashion. I've never been the kind of girl who'd wear something because it's a seasonal trend."

She comes to this interview in velvet hot pants with tights, Charlotte Olympic cat-face flat shoes and a blazer that she boasts she got from a vintage store with a $40 discount because of "a questionable stain."

On a daily basis, though, she's not all that concerned about dressing up. When it comes to a big fashion event, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art's annual Costume Institute gala in New York or a designer-hosted dinner during runway season, she said, "I try to look OK."


Follow Samantha Critchell and AP Fashion coverage on Twitter at @AP_Fashion and @Sam_Critchell