Pret-a-Reporter

Decked Out: The Story Behind Erin Wasson's Jewelry Obsession

Erin Wasson at home in Venice.

The insightful model and designer reveals her sophisticated new venture: Wasson Fine, a collection of fine jewelry that integrates her well-honed, global point of view.

At just 33, Venice-based model Erin Wasson has had many lives. For one, she’s modeled on catwalks and in advertising campaigns for Balenciaga, Maybelline, H&M, Gucci and Victoria’s Secret, among many others. But she’s also styled runway shows for Alexander Wang, starred in films (Sofia Coppola's Somewhere), designed several collaborations with notable SoCal surf-skate brands and her own Low Luv jewelry line, and appeared in countless glossy editorials. But the creative adventurer is all about looking forward, not back.

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And the future is her new fine jewelry line, Wasson Fine, crafted with recycled 18k gold, diamonds and South Sea pearls (sold at wassonfine.com and at Love Adorned). It speaks to her obsession with "permanence" — creating pieces that are going to last. This is not your average materialistic, image-obsessed model. In fact, day to day she calls herself the "least stylish girl in the world." Though hard to believe, Wasson adds, "I think that desire to acquire is kind of out of my system."

Erin Wasson is wearing a mix of Wasson Fine with other jewelry. 

Still, she’s a collector. Wasson’s domain is just off the hip Abbot Kinney Boulevard, where she and her dog live among an incredible array of artwork, vintage pieces and photographs (like one of Wasson with Karl Lagerfeld). But, as lovely as home is, says Wasson, "My inspiration comes from everywhere. I don’t think one slice of geography can really give you everything your heart desires. I’m a very lucky person in that I get to travel for my work and I always try to keep my eyes open." The spoils of her extensive travels are partially her significant collection of vintage jewelry, which is spread across her desk in the light-filled upstairs office where she works.

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On the occasion of the Wasson Fine debut — and a Barneys Beverly Hills trunk show Dec. 12 from 2 to 6 p.m. — we spoke with the Texas-bred beauty (and cowboy boot aficionado) about the evolution of her style, go-to home stores and style icons.

Wasson at her desk.

Pret-a-Reporter: What was your inspiration for this inaugural collection?

Erin Wasson: It’s just a lot of things that I love. I love the sculptural elements of Scandinavian design from the late ‘60s, and I played with the idea of automobile parts and mechanisms — all sorts of elements from the car, because I love automobiles and the shapes and how they’ve changed over time. With jewelry the beautiful thing is it’s everything—it’s negative space, it’s architecture. It’s very hard, especially with a collection like this that I feel is an amalgamation of so many things, to pinpoint where that precise inspiration node really is.

You’re from Texas, and work all over. Why do you choose to live in Venice?  

It’s a really creative place for me. I think California represents freedom. I like the fact that I can get in the car and be in the desert in a couple hours, or the beach, or mountains.

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How has your style evolved over time?

I think that with time comes simplicity and I think you hone in on your narrative. The older you get the closer you are to that narrative and your truth. I don’t know if it’s laziness or what it might be, but I think everyone can attest to the fact that you start to get closer to a uniform as you get older, and you don’t even realize it’s happening. There’s always an occasion to splash out and get dressed up, but on a daily basis I would consider myself the least stylish girl in the world, to be honest. (Laughs.)

That’s hard to believe. What is your daily uniform?

Most days I get up, I walk my dog, I drive out to the barn and I’m in my riding gear walking around in horse shit all day. I live my life for myself and the way I dress is according to the life I’m living. I think the least amount you can spend thinking about what you’re wearing the more you free up the mind to think about far more enigmatic things.

Chandelier Ball Earrings, $2,995.

Why did you want to make fine jewelry?

I think it comes down to permanence. I’m at a place in my life where, even as a consumer, I want to purchase things that are going to be with me for a really long time. When you’re younger you’re inundated with trends and information, and that’s a beautiful place to be as well, because you’re exploratory and it’s exciting. But at this point I know jewelry has always been a passion of mine, and the way I look at jewelry is with permanence. Certain things can be passed on to you that were made before you, and I would hope I’m making things that will last the test of time after I’m here. I always break it down to the idea of metal versus fibers. Clothing is made of fiber and it will disintegrate.

When did you start collecting jewelry and where do you find it?

Honestly I’ve probably been a collector since I was a kid — that’s how it all started. I’d find things to take apart and put them back together. I think little boys did that with toasters, I would do it with funny little things I’d find. But my creative process is very organic. I really believe in the idea of osmosis and that’s why travel is really important, because whether you know it or not you’re pulling in information constantly, and being given different perspectives. I think when you get outside your comfort zone in a country you don’t know, you tend to keep your eyes a little bit more open.

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What is your process like?

There are weeks that I never put pen to paper, and times when it just comes flooding out. I work from New York, from my place in Venice, from my place out in Ojai — whenever I find that moment I really need to put an idea down on paper that’s what happens. And the lead time — you’re looking at six months, so you’ve got to hope that your future self, by the time it becomes reality and you’re sharing these ideas with the world down the road, that they still mean something to you, and feel provocative to the person who’s seeing them.

Do you shop much? Where do you go?

I’m more of an art and furniture girl. I kind of have all the clothes anyone could ever take with them ’til the end of their days. I get really excited about a pair of cowboy boots. If I’m going shopping I’m more intrigued by the dig and discovery of finding something vintage. I have a new house in Ojai and I’m completely house obsessed right now, so that’s where my head’s at.

What furniture stores do you like?

I have a lot of luck in Dallas at a place called White Elephant. [In L.A.] the Mart Collective on Lincoln is beautiful. And Gibson on Beverly — I appreciate his aesthetic. It’s always about finding that little something. God’s in those details.

What are your favorite things in your closet?

I kind of collect old 1940s men’s robes — silk duster robes that I quite love. I’ve got my favorite pair of jeans, by BLK DNM, and my favorite white T-shirt. [Pieces by] Etienne Derœux and Haider Ackermann. Most of the things I keep going back to in my closet are things I’ve had forever. That’s the lesson I’ve learned: that anything I’ve acquired over the last few years I’m just not as attached to as the things that have been around forever… going back to the idea of permanence.

What’s the best gift you’ve received from someone?

Just their time, dude. When people show up and put their phones down and want to have a real conversation and break bread and talk about what’s happening in the world — that’s the greatest gift, because it’s becoming harder and harder to come by. But my trainer at the barn is so sweet. Recently I got a new saddle for my horse and she got me matching stirrups, so I thought that was pretty awesome.

From left: Pearl Cluster Ring, $1,053; Molten Pearl and Baguette Ring, $1,068; Tilt Pearl Ring, $585.

How do you like to wear jewelry? Do you mix and match a lot?

I’ve really become a creature of habit and I tend to wear the exact same rings on the same fingers, and the same necklace. I like to put heaps of earrings in my ear lobes, and I love when two rings can be worn on the same finger and dance together and be friends. I love mixing metals. I used to wear such a gigantic amount of jewelry and now it’s the things I really love and adore. They’re all very nostalgic. The pieces I wear every single day are gifts from people and they tell a strong story of my life.

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Who are your style icons?

Rod Stewart, pre-disco. Man, he just did not do any wrong. Every picture you see of him before he went disco is just the most. But I’ve never had that one person that completely personifies everything. I think it’s an impossible feat, that one person could perfectly encapsulate everything. There’s a French woman who’s amazing and always riding around a bicycle in Paris with a cloak on and a turban, and she’s badass. She looks like she fell out of a storybook out of another time and place.

Do you wish you could go back in time to another decade?

I think the ‘20s would be pretty cool, and the ‘40s. But I think living in the now is a wonderful thing. We’re all really lucky, but I fear as much as we’re digitally connected that we are disconnecting on so many levels. The total obsession with social media — take that out and I’d be much more psyched about this current age.  

Erin Wasson was photographed by Lenka Ulrichova on Oct. 19 at her home in Venice, Calif.

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