Seven girls, five bottles of wine, three sheepskin rugs, a sleeping dog and a crackling fire. It’s the stuff chick flicks are made of. But this gathering has all the trappings of a sorcerer’s circle, with philosophical, spiritual and herbal banter bouncing around the room like a dirty tennis sock. I don’t know who steered the conversation to monkey witchcraft and animal abuse in Victorian England – I am half asleep at this point, next to a most kindred pit bull, and my participation is dwindling – but suddenly we are discussing the incredulous story of an elephant named Mary who was hanged in early twentieth century Tennessee because she had killed her trainer. Yes, hanged. I’m watching Erin as Emily continues to propagate the incident with photo evidence on her iPhone. She rolls her eyes, shakes her head slowly, takes another sip of her red wine, and shrugs: “Well, that’s the dumbest thing I ever heard.”
One is never not sure with Erin Wasson. She wears her heart on her sleeve, especially when she feels cornered. Even in her most diplomatic of voices and wordings, you’ll know exactly what she thinks. Like the following morning, red wine stains still on the glasses in the sink, when she not-so-secretly hopes to get out of our photo shoot, “because I really don’t want be thinking about fashion right now…” and I remind her, as a dear old friend and house guest, of the earlier promise she made. She says she doesn’t dress up anymore, but I know vintage plays a huge part in her life, and her work, so I am relieved when she finally twirls up the stairs to get dressed. “I think when I was younger I simply just experimented more,” she admits when she shows me an old Dries Van Noten robe. “I would throw crazy shit on with each other that didn’t match but somehow worked. I’m just more lazy. Or maybe I’m just closer to my real self and don’t want to waver too much.” Nowadays it’s jeans, t-shirts, cowboy boots, and accessories: “The bag, the jewelry. The extra shit. Nothing too girly or frilly, like a tutu??” she laughs. “My style is simple with little moments of fuck you I suppose. The older I get the more boring. But I do get a kick out of being the least dressed up person at a party.”
Trust me, even in her most modest of sartorial choices it’s hard to miss this 34-year old Texan. For starters: that hair. She wears it big and curly and natural, like a lioness. And then those startling eyes and cheekbones, both undeniable and unparalleled in the business. Even after twenty years of modeling – she won the Dallas Morning News model search at fifteen after her father sent in one of her catalogue pictures – she’s still a powerful vision and a name to be reckoned with. And she’s not just a pretty face; she never was. She has a few collaborative design projects under her belt (Alexander Wang, RVCA, and soon Pacsun), launched her own T-shirt and jewelry line, had a role in a vampire movie, and appeared as a mentor on Rihanna’s “Styled to Rock” TV show with Pharrell and Mel Ottenberg. People just want a slice of the Wasson pie. “I think I’m hired because I live it,” she ponders. “The “thing” I’m selling is a piece of the lifestyle. I don’t fake the funk. I think what I share with the world is connecting to me and believable. Maybe a rarity in this day and age.”
She’s getting into it now. The laughs have become bigger and the outfits more elaborate. Because vintage will do that to a person. “Vintage is authentic and unique,” she declares, “two things that are very important to me. My first piece was a beautiful long black dress with cool cut-outs from a shop in Deep Ellum. I would wear it with chunky amber jewelry and a belt made of a seat belt clip and beer bottle tabs. My prized possession is a tin soldier style vest from Alexander McQueen maybe seven years ago? Maybe six. It’s just divine.” She shops at Narnia in New York, Scout and Catwalk in LA, Dolly Python in Dallas, Style Station in West and Feathers in Austin, but her most recent digs happened in Santa Fe, where she went on a post-Christmas unwinding mission with Cream, “the greatest animal I know, my superglue.” She scoured the pawn shops off the reservations and all the antique jewelry shops in search of Native-American inspiration for Low Luv. She bought a pocket knife made of mammoth bone and new Stallion boots at Nathalie’s.
These days she calls Venice Beach home. She moved into her two-story house off Abbott Kinney a few years ago. “I took it over from Sophie B Hawkins and her wife. Remember her?” she smirks. “They left so much shit behind. Like all these light fixtures!” Her nomadic days are over. She still has the loft in the East Village though. “I will never get rid of that place,” she swears. “I rent it out to friends now.” Work is steady but much more sporadic, which has freed up time for things like, buying a horse – “her name is Malin” – and dating? “Dating is difficult no matter where you are in the world,” she finds. “The older you get the more stuck in your ways. And we all have issues with commitment because I think the world is moving so fast to begin with. Who knows. I’m no love doctor.” Maybe one day she’ll finish college. She quit after one semester of English Literature to take the plunge and model full-time. Back in the couch in front of the fire that night, she breathes deeply and says with a sigh of relief: “Thank god it all worked out, man…”