Vanessa Mooney outside of her ranch-style home in Eagle Rock, L.A.
L.A. jewelry designer Vanessa Mooney has been blowing up Instagram with 81,000 followers and counting. The designer’s retreat, which she has dubbed the “Vmoonz Farmhouse,” is a peaceful ranch-style home in Eagle Rock. Stacks of hay, Navajo rugs, potted cacti, and peacock chairs dot her beautifully decorated porch. The vibe is quintessentially Californian, with surf and beach elements, Native American accents, the warmth of southern hospitality, and a mix of vintage ‘60s and ‘70s-inspired decor. Mooney also gave us a tour of her room-sized closet, which is filled with racks of designer pieces and thrifted gems. After snapping a few pictures of her closet, we sat in the shade on a blue velvet tufted couch while taking sips of ice cold lemonade in mason jars and talked about her sources of inspiration, her childhood, and her favorite places to shop in Los Angeles.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Oregon and then later moved to Santa Barbara, where I lived until I was 9. After that, I went to an interesting alternative school in the Mojave Desert. The school was basically a ranch and the students took all types of alternative classes. We learned to build teepees, how to write calligraphy, how to make candles, and how to ride horses. We even had an ex-marine drill sergeant who would drill us in running and swimming; I think that really influenced me. I’m a pretty hardcore lady—I can get down and dirty!
Did that school experience influence your approach to making jewelry?
As a self-taught jewelry designer, that experience definitely influenced my jewelry making. It taught me how to make art with whatever is available and how to be resourceful.
When did you first fall in love with the craft?
Even though I’ve always collected vintage jewelry and clothes, I think I really fell in love with jewelry when I was working with Jennifer Lopez’s stylist in 2000. At the time, I was around a lot of photography and really high-end fashion and I was so inspired by the high-end designer jewelry pieces. I would go home and make jewelry just for fun on my own. Once I started teaching myself how to make jewelry, I ended up finding all these beautiful materials all over the world. I met this guy from Africa who would sell me Ethiopian or Nepali beads, and I would find Balinese gold vermeil beads and then would make something with it.
Do you own a piece of jewelry that holds a lot of meaning to you?
There was one piece that my grandma gave to me, but I don’t have it anymore. It was an amethyst stone and on top there was a hand-carved ivory unicorn set in a beautiful amethyst setting with a beaded necklace. When she gave it to me I was a pre-teen and it was really the first time someone gave me a piece of jewelry. I would wear it all the time and I lost it at school one day because I refused to take it off, even during P.E. when I was wearing gym clothes. I lost it running around the track and couldn’t find it anywhere. I was devastated.
From the lookbook of Vanessa Mooney’s latest collection, “Illuminations.”
What is a typical day like working at Vanessa Mooney?
I am constantly working on the collections. We do five or six collections a year, so there’s not much of a break between them. I’m very ambitious with my line of jewelry. I do something like 200-300 pieces per season and I am basically always designing. A lot of jewelry designers don’t follow the typical five-to-six collections per year schedule, but I’m a hard worker. I love what I do. We have had success with the line because I want it to have a lifestyle feel, so I really believe the accessories should correlate with the clothes and the season.
So who are your fashion icons today?
When I was younger, my icon was definitely Drew Barrymore. Old actresses from the ‘20s and ‘30s, like Lillian Gish and Marion Davies, also inspire me. My mom is another one of my fashion icons; she was such a ‘60s babe. She had so many flowing bohemian dresses and was a real wild woman.
Mooney wears For Love & Lemons “San Marcos” maxi dress. “Gillian and Laura [creators of For Love & Lemons] gave me this dress. Those girls are some of the most down to earth, pure hearted women you will ever meet.”
What kind of L.A. girl are you?
In L.A. there is such a melding of styles these days. When I was growing up, it used to be that a girl had a specific style; you were Goth, you were punk, you were into brands, or you were into vintage. Nowadays,girls are mixing and matching. I think in a lot of ways, I am the same.
Are you a morning or night person?
I don’t like mornings. I like the daytime, but I love the night. It’s a time to be chill—everything you have done for the day is done and it’s time to just relax.
What surprises you?
People in L.A. surprise me, no joke—talking to new people and meeting new people is always surprising. For example, the actress Juliette Lewis came to the showroom and I learned how passionate she is about supporting and helping other people, and I was really surprised and inspired by her. Sometimes, you think a person may be a certain way or act a certain way, and then they prove you wrong. There are so many rad chicks and artists and things happening in this city and it’s all because of the diversity of L.A.
What are your favorite places to shop in L.A?
I shop my friends clothing lines; a lot of them are designers. I’m always like, “Hey, can I have that dress you made?” Pretty much everything I have gotten in the last six months has come from another designer. I also really love the Rose Bowl Flea Market, Avalon vintage, and Wasteland. I have been shopping at Wasteland since I was 10. I really like to splurge on shoes and jackets and I love stores like The Dreslyn, Niemen Marcus, and Barneys.
What advice would you give to an aspiring jewelry designer?
Stay true to your self and don’t get swayed by the industry. Just create what you want to create, and don’t worry about what everyone else is doing or thinking. You’ll have success if you work hard and create your art. People can tell when your art is true to you and not representing something your trying to be.