Erin Wasson Talks “Styled To Rock,” Designer Newcomers, and Working With Rihanna



On Friday, October 25th, Rihanna will join the ranks of other noteworthy celebs with her own fashion-based reality competition show called Styled To Rock. The show, airing on Bravo, combines two of Executive Producer RiRi’s favorite things: fashion and music. Twelve contestants will be mentored by three industry heavy hitters: singer/producer/designer Pharrell Williams, model/actor/designer Erin Wasson, and Rihanna’s personal stylist Mel Ottenberg. The fashion heads will compete to shape the fashion visions of Rihanna and celebrity guests as they fight for a $100,000 prize, a spread in Glamour, and a potential coveted spot in Rihanna’s glam squad. Life+Times caught up with Erin Wasson, who provided a behind the scenes look into the new series, how Rihanna’s badassness is exactly what fashion needs, and what she has cooking now that the show is about to blow up.

Life+Times: This show sounds amazing.
Erin Wasson
: It’s kind of everything. I mean, you know music and fashion colliding – it just seems like the right time and the right place to be doing a show like it. Everyone involved is like super credible, and hyper-intelligent and experienced. I’m thrilled. It was such a fuckin’ honor to be a part of it.

L+T: What brought on a show like this?
: Well, I got a call from the producers, and I had a meeting with them and the concept sounded really interesting. I’m such a lover of music; it’s so ingrained in my DNA. You know, I’ve always said that so many different mediums of creativity are now symbiotic with each other. Art and fashion are basically hand-in-hand. Fashion and music are obviously hand-in-hand. When you look at music videos, so much of what’s translated and so much of what we’re intoxicated by musicians is how they translate not only their music but their aesthetic and vibe, and they really tell their story through fashion. So I thought to myself, given the people involved and obviously someone like Rihanna who believes in authenticity and believes in pushing the envelope like myself…it felt like the right crew of people. I felt like the message we want to translate was going to be translatable considering the people involved.

L+T: By mentoring these contestants, what did you learn about the up and coming designer? What’s out there right now?
: What’s really interesting is that we have a large demographic. Our youngest contestant was 22, and then we had someone all the way up until their 40s with all completely different backgrounds. We had a couple of contestants that had real backgrounds, like legitimate brands they had but they were looking to really challenge themselves and push themselves further for this competition. For me, it’s one of those things where – and I know this very well being in the fashion industry – it’s one thing to be a really good pattern maker, it’s one thing to be able to cut and make and sew together a really amazing article of clothing. You can teach yourself those skill sets, but what really separates people out of the crowd is that veracious point of view and that veracious independent spirit and authenticity that makes them stand out in the crowd. What’s also really great about this show is that the designers are not only asked to design for women – which is what we most often see in most reality-based fashion TV shows – but they have to make menswear as well for some of the contestants that came on network who were male musicians. We had one contestant that was an all menswear designer, and she had to mostly go out of her skill set and make women’s wear. Most of the women’s wear designers got put into this position where they had to tailor make pieces for men. So we really threw all sorts of situations at them. And with musicians, there are a lot of things to think about. Is it a video appearance? Is it a personal appearance? Is it a stage performance? There are a lot of different elements that go into it because it’s live theater performance. It’s not as forgiving as simply walking something down a runway. I just felt that especially with what it means to create fashion, I think it is something that is encapsulated so much with a musician because there are so many different elements they get to play with and explore within themselves and within their music and with the visuals. They’ve got so many chances to push themselves and push their fashion.

L+T: How in tune were the contestants to the styles of the musicians, more specifically Rihanna? Did they have preconceived notions about their fashion senses?
: There were definitely weeks where we had people on, and ya know, everyone is their own person, right? Sometimes we had people on and some of our contestants were simply unaware of their styles. We had a Country-western band, and I think that was something that really put everybody out of their element because unless you’re really into that genre of music, it’s hard to really capture what it means to have that Country music spirit. Also to design for a group and find that thread amongst three musicians with one band sharing an aesthetic. I think we threw enough loops at everyone that we really did test their skills and test their ability to go outside of their comfort zone and to not be too one-note. The cool thing about the competition is it’s not just about making the outfits; they’re conceptualizing their own hair and makeup, they’re accessorizing the outfits themselves as well. Even though it’s a design-based television show, there is an element of style to it as well once the executed garment had been accomplished.

L+T: What was Rihanna like on the show?
: She’s just real. She tells it how it is, she’s real. That’s the thing about Rihanna; even though she wasn’t a part of every one of our episodes, she was there in spirit. Like you could feel her spirit on the set, even on the days she wasn’t there because we all know what she stands for and that she’s willing to push the envelope. She’s willing to take risks with fashion, and that’s what we expected from the contestants as well. So I think that who she is as a person was threaded all throughout the fabric of the show. And like yeah, being around her is like being in the presence of a demigod, man. She is that cool. At the end of the day, everyone involved in the show – between me, Pharrell, Mel, and Rihanna – is extremely busy and Rihanna was in the midst of her world tour. The days that we got her, we felt so lucky to have her. She takes it all in stride, and she’s such a professional. She really believes in the show. She was super present, she’s very warm and she was extremely human with everyone. That’s what this show represents. We all bring a real sense of humanity to the show, because we really want them to succeed. It isn’t about beating them down to see if they could handle it. It was about truly guiding them and giving them just enough constructive criticism and tough love to get them to keep hungry and to keep pushing themselves forward.

L+T: What did you learn about Rihanna?
: She’s just a fuckin’ pro, man. She’s an amazing girl that is open to every bone in her body and she knows exactly who she is. She’s unafraid and unapologetic. A total fuckin’ badass. She’s the kind of woman that I stand for.

L+T:How did you manage to fit this into your schedule for several weeks?
: Well, I dedicated myself to this project and when I dedicate myself, I do it 100 percent. I put everything on hold for a while. I certainly fit in things whenever I could and had weekends off, but it was pretty much 20-hour days, five days a week for about five weeks. So it was more of a concentrated workload than what I’ve known. Certainly coming from the fashion industry, I’m used to doing a job and having a couple days off or like working a week and then having a week off. I was completely enveloped in the process. Because of that, I knew that was going to translate somehow and I wanted to be present every single day. You really become attached to the contestants, and you’re really truly rooting for them on a deep level. I wanted that to translate, and I knew the only way for me to do that was to just dive right into it completely. I made the sacrifice because I believe in the project so much. It was five weeks out of my life, and I was happy I did it.

L+T: Are you pleased with the winner?
: I’m extremely pleased. I was kind of rooting for them the whole way through.

L+T: Now that the show is completely wrapped, what are you working on?
: I just launched my cowboy boot collection with Ash Footwear. I’ll be launching my new Low Luv collection at the end of the year. When I’m not working I’m in design meetings or down at the factory, overseeing all of that stuff. So there aren’t really that many dull moments [laughs]. I do everything to provoke and challenge myself. I think we have to do things that are different. I think you have to continue to push yourself forward and do things that are a little bit scary. I mean, certainly doing this show, where there’s no veil to hide behind. It’s really me and my anecdotes and my words and my critiques. It’s very vulnerable to be that raw and real and exposed. I’m not pretending to be someone else, I’m not a character, it’s not a photo shoot. It’s me and Mel and Rihanna and Pharrell and all these kids. It’s something I’ve never done before, and I find that exciting. And because of it, I’ve become a more well-rounded, more interesting human being.

Styled To Rock premieres at 8pm ET/PT on Friday October 25, 2013 on Bravo. Click here for more information.