Erin Wasson Redefines SoCal Style
by kathryn drury wagner
She holds up her foot. “Look! I have to get these resoled again.” Erin Wasson’s boots indeed bespeak serious mileage. The model, who has been the spokesmodel and brand ambassador for Maybelline since 2002 and has just now launched an international campaign for stalwart staple Rockport, is renowned for her low-key, SoCal cool: a knock-about-in-the-desert look paired with angelic beauty. “My style is utilitarian,” she laughs. “You mean my jeans and white tee-shirts? And my cowboy boots. There’s something so timeless about them. I just had a pair of Old Gringo boots made, which took seven months.”
Wasson’s meteoric 15-year modeling career continues aflame—she was the face of the fall campaigns for Esprit and is starring in One Teaspoon’s first global campaign—but she’s increasingly known as a design talent, as well. Her jewelry line, Low Luv, is sold in more than 200 stores around the world, including Opening Ceremony and Satine in Los Angeles, where she has lived since 2003. She collaborated on clothing for several seasons with RVCA, the Costa Mesa-based surf/skate clothing company. Then she went luxe, presenting a capsule collection with French label Zadig & Voltaire. “The sky was the limit,” says Wasson. “I thought, ‘I can do a jumpsuit in cashmere?’ I got to work with the best materials.”
The effortless slide from tee shirts to trés chic has always been easy for the Irving, Texas-born Wasson, the daughter of a former flight attendant mother and onetime pharmaceutical sales-rep father. “Erin is the quintessential California girl... from Texas. She’s got California cool and a Texas ‘no B.S.’ attitude that makes her a rare combination of character,” says longtime friend Dan Martensen, who photographed Wasson for the current Esprit and Rockport campaigns. She has modeled for Chanel, Gucci, and Balenciaga, as well as Gap and H&M. She rocked Givenchy shoes at the Paris spring shows, but wasn’t scared to sign with Rockport, intrigued by “the idea of working with a really old American brand.” Styling for Alexander Wang also upped her design profile.
“In a way, she has kind of created a new Californian style,” says Ben Sherman, who photographed Wasson for the One Teaspoon campaign. “I think of Californian style as a mix of surf and skate style, but she has mixed those with a fashion aesthetic.” He calls her style “super relaxed yet adventurous.” And the rest of the world is eating it up, too.
“Most of my inspiration comes from architecture,” says Wasson. A fan of the Melrose Trading Post, she likes to “find something in the undiscovered. I might see a hanging lamp and think, That would be a really beautiful earring or pendant. You see a window panel or a door and it gets the wheels turning.”
At her own place, close to her beloved Venice Beach, Wasson loves to cook. “I’m the happiest in the kitchen with 4,000 things going on. It becomes very meditative and mathematical.” She also has an apartment in New York’s East Village. “I’m an urban gardener. There’s such gratification in watching something go through a transformation. I’ve got perennials, wisteria, blueberries. I like everything a bit undone. It’s a lot like my designs.”
After her June film debut in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Wasson took two months off. “It’s the longest time I’ve taken off in my career, and I stayed in California. I went to Big Sur and Joshua Tree. All I have to do if I’m having a bad day is drive up PCH. The wind in your hair, the music you love in your ears, and the ocean. You start thinking, What was that problem? The art of staying in one place is really divine.”
Acting, she says, is a way of challenging herself. “I showed up on set, and there’s all the different lingo… people are speaking in tongues!” She takes workshops in LA and “auditions for things I really believe in,” but doesn’t feel the need to make any “Now I’m an actress!”-style proclamations. “If I’m not meant to do another film, I’ll find other outlets of creativity. I never thought I’d be a stylist or a designer, either. Because I look at everything from an organic perspective, I know whatever is meant to be, will be.”
Wasson is also organizing a benefit for the Saving America’s Mustangs foundation. She supports the work of Madeleine Pickens, who is developing a sanctuary and educational center called Mustang Monument: Wild Horse Eco-Preserve. “She’s a crusader. She wants to keep the mustangs free and accessible. They are part of our history.”
The benefit may be a “garage sale,” Wasson-style. She clears out her closet and borrows a friend’s Venice storefront. “I don’t care if it’s Marc Jacobs or a Chanel handbag, everything is $100 or less.”
High-end handbags and wild horses—there’s that oddly Californian juxtaposition again. “My style is about contradiction,” she agrees. “To me, the ideal woman is both strong and vulnerable. It comes out in everything I make.”
Eric Guille main/trunk archive (wasson);
Fashion shoot: December 2013 issue of Los Angeles Confidential magazine.