September 2 2014

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Meet The Muse: Erin O’Connor


Girl-about-town Natalie Joos spends her days casting for shows like ADAM and Yigal Azrouël and editorials for the likes of Mario Sorrenti and Mariano Vivanco, but her passion is vintage clothing. Joos’ blog, Tales of Endearment spotlights her “Muses,” impeccably styled girls and guys who share her secondhand obsession. In a new partnership with, Tales of Endearment’s subjects discuss their shoots right here on Style File.

“If I look back to my beginnings, my career was born under the wing of Alexander McQueen, who had a disproportionate belief in me before I did,” English model Erin O’Connor tells “I would literally get thrust onto the stage and under his personal instruction, which consisted of ‘Just do it.’ ” Under McQueen and his Nike catchphrase guidance, O’Connor went on to become one of the most recognizable models in the industry, working alongside the likes of Twiggy as the face of Marks & Spencer in 2009. These days, she continues her high-profile modeling career in addition to running the Model Sanctuary (an organization she founded in 2007 to support models with a place to relax and get advice) and serving as a trustee at the Victoria & Albert Museum. Though her busy lifestyle requires her to be an “extrovert on demand,” O’Connor admits, “I think staying in is exotic.” Here, the supermodel shares her style secrets, what she’s coveting right now, and what she does when she’s off-duty.

How would you describe your personal style?
I’m a fan of color in abundance, as it really wakes up my Celtic skin tone. I do love vintage, especially my beautiful black beaded flapper dress. My style is at opposite ends of the scale, from Charlie Chaplin and his natty suits to Isadora Duncan’s free-flowing and contemporary gowns.

How does your work as a model influence your personal style?
It makes me braver in the selection process. Plus, as a model you get the privilege of viewing and trying on a designer’s collection before anybody else even gets a sniff of it—editors and all. Models are known for their off-duty look, but I think that stems from wanting to break away from the strict uniformity and styling of the catwalk. There is a desire to make it less rigid, because I feel like I become a person inhabiting the clothes instead of a walking two-dimensional figure.

Who do you count as a style icon?
Anjelica Huston for her sheer elegance and strength of purpose. Clothing is secondary to her—she is the one that defines style.

Do you have a signature item (or two) that you always wear?
The main signature piece currently in my wardrobe is a black Helmut Lang tuxedo jacket; it works with everything and will never go out of style.

Do you collect certain kinds of vintage pieces?
Outside of clothing, I have a growing taxidermy collection. My favorite piece of furniture in the house is a gothic Victorian glass box full of exotic birds.

What trend are you especially loving right now?
The Prada tail fin shoes—a good girl could be very naughty in these. Accessories have taken on a life of their own again where they have previously been muted down. Now they are practically the main attraction.

What’s your Spring ’12 must-have item?
Bring back the pearls. I am so glad they have reappeared—thanks to Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel for breathing new life into them again. They are by far the chicest jewels a woman could own. I hope to have my own authentic set of pearls one day.

What projects are you working on right now and what do you have coming up?
I just did a great collaboration with Maripol for a shoot in Ponystep magazine this month. Also, Rankin and I did a shoot for his new magazine Hunger. I am a trustee of the V&A museum. My main attention is focused on the V&A’s theater and fashion archives, which kind of makes sense really, given my career choice. As controversial as it may sound, I truly believe that fashion can act as a vehicle for many students in discovering art and design in an important, all-consuming way.

What do you like to do for fun?
Walking—I walk for a profession but in my spare time I prefer a wilder landscape. I am never happier than when I am faced with a challenging terrain that usually requires walking boots as well as a sturdy mind-set. My favorite place to walk is on the coastal pathway in Ballycastle, Co. Antrim, in Northern Ireland. It is a place of family heritage and I learnt all the best walks from my father, who has been exploring since he was a small boy.

Finish this thought: What’s old is new again when…
We cherish, maintain, and preserve the life cycle of our favorite garments.

For more from Erin’s shoot, visit Tales of Endearment .

Photo: Natalie Joos

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