When I speak with Erin Wasson it’s one of the sunnier Southern California afternoons of summer, and she’s in her backyard in Venice, watching the gardeners cut back a Eucalyptus tree. She sounds like she’s wearing sunglasses. She dives in, a woman who’s done this before, ready and willing to say what she thinks without noticing. Which is fitting, being that Wasson is, unapologetically, a cool girl. The cool girl. The model turned stylist turned designer. A lady of no labels. A woman you don’t want to fuck with.
“I’m always going to be the model that’s not the prettiest model, or the designer that’s not the best, but I know who I am. I’m not out there trying to paint a picture that isn’t really me. What you’re getting is exactly who I am.”
A decade and a half ago when Wasson joined arms with the fashion industry, she came in a rookie with edge, a rebel. Her hair was shaved. She had tattoos. Working as Alexander Wang’s muse, Wasson began serving as a stylist for Wang’s catwalks before bringing her cool girl aesthetic to brands like PacSun, Maxfield, RVCA, and most recent-ly to her own fine jewelry line, Wasson.
She explains her shift from model to stylist to designer was an unexpected and natural transition. “All of the sudden, I was styling Alex’s show. Unbeknownst to me at the time I was taking on a different role in fashion.”
Now, a veteran of the industry and a symbol for the laid back, loose pony, I-just-threw-this-on-and-it’s-hot-as-fuck aesthetic, Wasson weighs in on changes in the fashion industry over the years. It’s an analogue versus digital conversation.
“I’m always going to be the model that’s not the prettiest, or the designer that’s not the best, but I know who I am. I’m not out there trying to paint a picture that isn’t really me. What you’re getting is exactly who I am.”Erin Wasson
“When I came into the fashion industry it was almost like being a part of this secret so-ciety. There was a feeling that everything was very special. Then you add in the fact that people were still shooting 35mm film. When we were on set, we would sit there and take pictures—mind you we would have a couple of polaroids so we kind of had a gauge as to what the fuck was going on—but the end results were something that everyone waited for, it was exciting for the magazine to hit the newsstand.”
Wasson tip toes between love and hate for the digital world, questioning the role social media plays in the ego, or just how annoying digital content can be, yet she admits the Internet and all its direct-to-fan technology has opened up an opportunity for models to branch out.
“A part of me feels like I should be the one person out there speaking against social media but I understand that it’s sort of a necessary evil, and there’s no way to be like, ‘Fuck it, I don’t want to participate,’ because the availability for success is so there. Models can be more dynamic, more multi-faceted, they can get out there and create things for themselves that would have been more difficult just five years ago.”
Wasson claims she was one of the last people to sign up for Instagram. She first used the service to promote her line of T-shirts and stickers made to embody her “I don’t give a fuck” energy. Fuck the Noise, reads big, black, and bold on a shirt. Nobody Cares, reads another. “It was cool because girls were able to purchase directly through me, and then I would put a T-shirt into a FedEx pouch and send it off to them myself. It’s a way to cut out the middle man and feel more connected.”
Although Wasson has embraced social media on some level, she feels clearly conflicted and brings up the subject often, reminiscing about some abstract golden era for the fashion industry, a time without selfies.
“Before, the fashion industry was such a camaraderie, it was very much about ‘we,’ whereas now it’s very much about ‘me.’ People are concerned with making themselves look like the most important thing in this world right now. I think it’s so much more interesting if we’re not so guided by ego, and self-importance, and instead go back to a place where we think, ‘What can we all do together to make something beautiful?’”
Despite the obvious irony, Wasson hates trends. She hates the idea that clothing is fleeting, and as a result finds herself most personally attached to her jewelry line (exclusively available through Alchemist in Miami.) “When it comes to alchemy and jewelry, there’s a weight there, there’s a forever. It’s metal, real stone. If you’re going to spend money on something I think it should be jewelry because it’s going to stay with you much longer than whatever clothing item you purchased in a store that a magazine told you would be cool for six months. Jewelry is a lot less trend-driven. It’s where my heart strings are.”
Another point of satisfaction for Wasson is her collaboration with PacSun. “I love designing for this really cool demographic of young girls, the girl who’s right at that precipice, starting to be exploratory and inquisitive about fashion. I try to make it really accessible but also turn people on to something that’s not gonna be in your normal mall store. That’s what get my rocks off.”
Wasson uses the word ‘fuck’ repeatedly throughout our conversation. When she says it, it stings. Not in the sense that she’s scary, or angry, more that she’s passionate (although perhaps in a scary/angry kind of way). Wasson is a model who can’t be passive, a model with attitude. And if we’re getting specific, it’s the Texas temper that made her so.
“I take my Texas mentality everywhere. The way that I was raised gives me a very strong ethos, and a moral compass, and a backbone to be the woman that I am. Texas women don’t put up with bullshit. A Texas woman will tell you to ‘Fuck off’ but then she’ll say ‘Oh, bless your heart.’”
Towards the end of our conversation, I start to notice a pattern. Wasson spirals into an almost philosophical reflection about fashion, and immediacy, and vibes. I am entranced. Wasson makes a bumper-sticker worthy remark that may or may not be a quote she read on the Internet. Wasson tells me, “Do everything because nothing defines you.” It doesn’t even matter where she got the line, or if it’s something she came up with herself, or if it even makes sense. I am entranced. Wasson is a cool girl.
Photos HAO ZENG
Model ERIN WASSON at IMG
Stylists ERIN WASSON and ANNA KATSANIS
Fashion editor ANNA KATSANIS
Hair GARETH BOMELL at SEE MANAGEMENT using ORIBE
Makeup MIRIAM ROBSTAD at BRYAN BANTRY using CHANEL PERFECTION LUMIERE
Nails ALEXAUNDRA MCCORMICK
Set Designer TRISTAM STEINBERG
Lighting Director CASEY WOODEN
Gaffer ARSH SAYED
DP ASHANTI MCINTOSH
Digital tech SHAWN RUTKOWSKI
Stylist’s Assistants IULIIA PETRIV and JUDE HINOJOSA