We were always curious to meet the mind behind the eclectic (and sometimes eccentric) pieces of Vanessa Mooney Jewelry. So we traveled to the land of Angeles to meet their maker – the brand’s namesake, Vanessa Mooney. What we found: piles of treasures form around the globe, endless imagination, a room full of vintage dresses, Neverending Story-like head pieces, and what you, you may say is a dreamer (and the one bringing said turquoise and gold-filled dreams to life)…
SWELL: Tell us about the brand Vanessa Mooney.
VANESSA MOONEY: It’s so many things…it’s bohemian in its true, rebellious nature. It’s tribal, rock ‘n roll, street edge, vintage inspired and classic. It can be sophisticated, edgy, and rock, depending on how you interpret it. Some of pieces in each collection are a made from a collection of materials from around the world, a mix of different metals, beads, chains…all mixed in a way that most wouldn’t typically put together. 90% the pieces are designed and handmade in my studio and factories in Los Angeles, I also work with families I’ve met from around the world and collaborate on designs and have produced pieces in their villages, homes and small factories out of Morocco, Turkey, Bali, Tibet, and Africa to name a few.
SWELL: Can you describe your design aesthetic and who you design for?
VM: There are so many different types I design for. It’s why the collections are so expansive. I want any type of girl to be able to wear a piece and feel special, interpreting the piece in whichever way she chooses. It’s the girl at the Rosebowl Flea Market, or the girl into rock, punk…whatever it is that she’s into, she’s thinking ahead. Putting things together in her own unique way, in a way that others may not have thought to put together before. Girls want something special. Something unique. Like something they found on a road trip or that reminds them of a past experience, family, or an era. I design with that something special in mind.
SWELL: Tell us about the design process. Does it typically start with a theme, a stone, or?
VM: It’s a different process with every different piece I design. Sometimes it starts with the materials – a stone, a type of bead, a beautiful chain I have found. Or from an image in my head, which I sketch out and cast from. The metal casted and molded pieces are always my favorite! As I love seeing something come into existence from an idea or thought or a dream! I wake up in the middle of the night with design ideas or special way to put materials together to create the unexpected! I am designing and being inspired as I move through my day, my life from the people I see to the art that is in everything.
SWELL: On to the brand’s namesake…Growing up in the 90’s, I’m sure you’ve sported your share of overalls, bucket hats, skulls and studs. Are there any trends you’re embarrassed to say you followed?
VM: My style growing up really followed the evolution of music at the time. At one time I had a short, curly, cropped bob (think Drew Barrymore circa Mad Love), at another point it was the dark lip-liner look and a Chelsea cut (shaved with bangs)…along with a vintage dress. I really loved every look…even the double slouch socks.
SWELL: How has growing up in Hollywood influenced your design aesthetic?
VM: Hollywood is really an incredible place. There are so many different types of art forms going on where ever you look. And having friends involved in different aspects of it (fashion, cinema, fine arts…) played a huge role in my eclectic design aesthetic. It was a mix of Old Hollywood, punk, and vintage fashion. I grew up going to shows at the Whisky, the Roxy, the Derby…it was a really fun time to grow up in Hollywood.
SWELL: Anything else you can pinpoint that has had a heavy hand in influencing your designs?
VM: So many things. I grew up in a family of artists, so I was always surrounded by it. To name a few: my grandpa’s 1940’s films, the underground swing movement in the 90’s, and the music scene in general. I’ve always been an admirer of art, never finding myself averse or stuck to any particular expression or trend, but rather finding beauty in it all.
SWELL: Best 80’s Film Ever?
VM: The Neverending Story
SWELL: We were secretly hoping that’s where the headpieces came from.
SWELL: Best 80’s- Band/Artist?
VM: That’s a tough one. There were just too many great ones…Madonna, The Misfits, NIN, Nirvana…I love it all.
SWELL: How did you start designing jewelry? Can you draw a rough sketch of your first design you can remember?
VM: As I mentioned, I grew up in a family of artists. But one event that really sparked it all was when I went on a trip to Paris with my mom when I was 2. After traveling around to the museums and galleries, I came back with a love for art and painting that gradually led to jewelry design. Around 15 I was really into big band music, swing, and rocksteady. I would always wear vintage dresses to go out dancing, which really started my interest in fashion. I started to design and make some of my own vintage-inspired clothing, and started selling it at trunk shows. It was really just all for fun.
From there I stated working as a Photographer Rep in the music and fashion industry. I met stylists and celebs and became more involved in the fashion industry organically. At one point, I was given the opportunity to fly around the world and help style Jennifer Lopez! It all led to my fascination in fashion.
When I started I didn’t know what was going on in the industry. I didn’t really know what others were doing, so there was nothing to taint my creativity. I continued to design because of the unsuppressed nature of the industry. You can create and build your brand however you want. There are no set rules.
SWELL: It seems like half of Hollywood has been spotted rocking VM. Any celebs (past or present) that you’d love to see wearing your designs?
VM: Growing up in that scene, I never really used to give a sh*t. But now I see how special it is to see celebs wearing something you designed. I would have loved to have seen Claire Bow wearing Vanessa Mooney. She was the first 1920’s “it girl” and was the first to embrace that rebellious attitude. She just didn’t give a – . She sort of embodies the VM brand with her free spirit and inhibited presence.
SWELL: If you had to pick one quote or saying that voices the spirit of Vanessa Mooney, what would it be?
VM: The future is only as great as its dreams, and its dreams are dreamed by artists.
Check out some of our favorite pieces from Vanessa Mooney