Erin lounging in her apartment, shot by Todd Selby
Typically, when we hear the phrase "model side project," our minds instantly leap to reality TV show hosting gigs, guest vocals with the emo band du jour, and movies costarring Billy Baldwin. Thankfully, Erin Wasson is anything but typical. Though born and bred in Texas, this L.A.-based Lone Star has come to embody a certain rough-around-the-edges West Coast cool punctuated by deconstructed denim cut-offs, ski caps, and loose basic tees and tanks.
This enviably effortless look has famously led to a gig styling the past two runway collections for Alexander Wang, her own body armor-inspired LowLuv jewelry line, and a new multi-season clothing design deal with RVCA (the first collection, spring '09, will debut in stores come January). Somehow the dirty-blonde beauty finds time to squeeze in high-profile modeling assignments for the likes of Maybelline and every fashion mag under the sun.
This coming Fashion Week, Wasson will once again be joining Wang backstage, but not as a stylist; instead she'll be accenting his designs with pieces from LowLuv's latest collection. Naturally, we pressed her for more details…
First things first. What five fashion musts are you currently obsessed with?
1. "I found an [incredible] black and white striped Norma Kamali jumpsuit from the '90s. It kind of looks like an old jailbird jumpsuit, but it's cut really amazing."
2. "I'm really obsessed with a pair of these tie-dyed silk Y & Kei pants that I bought and altered the shit out of and turned into bellbottoms."
3. "An oversized black silk pirate shirt with fringe that I found at a thrift store."
4. "If I didn't have a pair of cut-off denim shorts, I wouldn't know what to do with myself. I wear denim shorts every day, it seems like."
5. "I have a little black, really simple Margiela dress that's my go-to. It's all open in the back and it comes down really, really low. It's just black cotton and I love it."
Erin in her apartment, shot by Todd Selby
What's on your wish list?
"A pair of brown python pants from Alexander Wang's collection, and a floral-print vest and a black sort of mohair leather jacket from Ann Demeulemeester. There are so many pieces from her collection that I'm so into. The moccasin Balmain boots are the shoes that I definitely want to rock. And basics from Number (N)ine. I never go for trendy; every season I try to go with basics that I know I can incorporate into my collection and that I can still wear after the season."
How would you sum up your personal style?
"Frumpy sexiness. If I'm buying a T-shirt, I buy it oversized. I like oversized jeans, I like oversized denim shorts, I like oversized jackets. I like having an undone, loose feel to everything. You know, there's so much of a tomboy in me where I still enjoy wearing guy's clothes. More often than not I'll go to a store and I'll be in the men's section buying men's pants, or a men's vest, or a men's button-down shirt or something. It's hard for me in women's departments because the stuff is a little bit too feminine, or a little bit too frilly, or a little bit too girly."
Erin in her bedroom, shot by Todd Selby
Your style feels very pared-down and edgy considering that you come from Dallas [Wasson grew up in Irving, a Dallas suburb], where everything tends to be over the top. Did that designer decadence influence you at all?
"I was more inspired by all the street kids in Deep Ellum back in the day. I shopped at all the thrift stores up and down Elm Street that used to be there. I was more into wearing Doc Martens than shopping at fancy designer boutiques. Now, every time I go to Dallas there's a place I go to called Dolly Python that my friend Gretchen owns. Gratitude off of Oak Cliff is also really amazing."
What fashion trend would you like to see curl up and die?
"Leggings, dude. If I see one more girl showing off her bad ankles, I'm going to vomit. It's just not cute."
Erin modeling body jewelry, shot by Dan Martensen
Let's talk about your LowLuv jewelry line. What made you turn to designing?
"It's always been my hobby and passion. Even as a young kid I'd go to MJ Designs [a now-defunct Dallas crafts store that was once part of Michael's] and buy things, and I was always making things. But I think it was Alex [Wang] that really put the fire under my ass last season. He was like, 'You know, Erin, I think you should just design your own collection for the season' because the season before that I had just used stuff from my own personal collection and put it on the girls for the runway show. The body chains came about just from talking to Alex about the collection. He said he'd done a lot of dresses with cutouts on the side, and I thought it would be interesting. So, it was kind of the idea of having jewelry on, but it was really mysterious, and you didn't really know what was going on and there were these chains popping out in weird places, and you didn't know where it started and where it ended, but there was still something present there. And now I've taken the body chain and turned it into a luxurious brand, and I've started doing pave diamonds on parts of the body chain. That's the great thing about jewelry—it's sort of an evolution.
LowLuv features a lot of slinky metal body chains and body armor-inspired pieces—sort of Joan of Arc meets tribal warrior. What inspired that?
"I've always been inspired by tribal jewelry and big African pieces. I really don't like precious, dainty necklaces. Jewelry makes such a statement, so I think that if you're going to wear it you might as well go big with it. I really love that juxtaposition of being a really feminine woman and wearing really tough heavy metals and rings that could be weapons. Over the years I've collected so much vintage jewelry and I think in the back of my mind subconsciously I always thought, okay, I'm collecting and hoarding all of this stuff, sort of as my personal inspiration kit."
Are there any new twists we can expect from the new collection?
"It's still body jewelry, but it's definitely a little more abstract this season, and a little bit tougher. Alex is doing a lot of things with open backs, so that helps me out. This season there's a lot of chains draping on the back, and there's ornamentations that will be sitting on the shoulders, and things like that."
Erin Wasson at home in four looks from her forthcoming RVCA collection
What about your other new baby, your forthcoming line for RVCA? The buzz is that it'll be a carefree mix of New York and L.A...
"The collection is a mix of basic tank tops, basic dresses, denim shorts with detailing, etc. I just wanted to create a line that was accessible to all girls. The most expensive piece in the collection is $275 retail. I got a lot of inspiration from vintage shopping and interpreted the pieces in ways that I thought were very wearable and could be incorporated into your clothing very easily. If you go into Satine and you purchase a Balenciaga skirt, then you can pick up a tank top of mine for $50 and it would still work well with any outfit. Terry Richardson is shooting the look book for me."
Besides Alexander Wang, obviously, who are some of your favorite designers?
"I really like Burfitt and the way that she tailors clothing; she has a unique twist on things. And there's a really great girl named Agatha who sells at Maxfield. She's always been known for really amazing handmade leather pieces and I just love what she does. Because everything's handmade, there's a sense of specialness to every one of her pieces, and it has a real rocker edge to it, which I like. Other than that, designers like Rick Owens and Ann Demeulemeester are sort of the go-to when you need the perfect little jacket or the perfect little tank top."
Erin Wasson and Alex Wang backstage at his show
What are some of your favorite shops?
"Out in L.A., I always seem to find a great something or other—whether it's in the vintage section or from their own Scout line—is Scout on Third Street. I think what they do is incredible. Another one of my favorite stores would probably have to be Bess in New York It's this guy who's kind of an old hippie and he opened up a store, and he takes a lot of pieces and he's known to just stud everything. He'll stud moccasins, he'll stud denim shorts, he'll stud jackets. Oh, and V.O.D. Every time I go to Dallas Jackie's got a mix between really cool small designer brands, and she's got a really good woman that does vintage for her as well. I got some really amazing early '90s Moschino pieces that I'm totally in love with."
Erin, shot by Dan Martensen
You must travel a ton. Any most-loved destinations?
"In my life, it's always really exciting to be on an airplane going back to L.A. because I know I'm going home to my dogs, and my boyfriend…you know, the idea that I can just go home is always such a luxury. I also spend a lot of time in Hawaii, and that's definitely where I see myself at some point in my life."
We hear you're an art aficionado…which artists do you love most?
"Erick Swenson, Jeff Elrod, and Lori Petty, who's also a friend of mine. People know her as an actress; they don't know how incredible her fucking artwork is. She's so rad."
Back to clothes. Is there anyone who's influenced your style?
"The musician Lucinda Williams. She's beautiful, she has an amazing voice, and she's got this sort of hard-core country-ness to her. And then you see her style, and she's got this total rocker/biker-chick style. It's so authentic and it's so cool, because back in the day it was not contrived. You know, it sounds so ridiculous, but I just don't get my inspiration from people who are out there. It's always the kids on the street. So I'm always looking for more unconventional people to give me inspiration, style-wise. At the end of the day, I don't want to look like everyone else."
Erin, shot by Dan Martensen
Last question: What theme song best describes your look?
"Donovan's 'Mellow Yellow.' With fashion, I tend to go toward a very low-key, undone, unfussy idea. It's about keeping it all chill."
The model/muse dispenses style smarts and details about her new LowLuv and RVCA designs.