Lucchese, the 135-year-old luxury cowboy boot company, has tapped model-turned-designer Erin Wasson to help bridge the high-fashion gap in the burgeoning boot business.
By linking with the Texas-born Wasson, who combined being in front of the camera with creating product 10 years ago, the Texas-based brand founded by Italian immigrant Salvatore Lucchese, hopes to up its women’s market share and break into specialty retailers such as Maxfield and A’maree’s by adding Wasson’s high-fashion spin and tapping into the bootie category.
Known for her off-duty uniform of black jeans, Alexander Wang white T-shirt and — you guessed it — black booties, Wasson, 37, epitomized downtown cool for a certain set of models in the early Aughts.
In fact, it was when she was modeling for her friend Wang that she first began designing jewelry. That line, called Low Luv, led to high-end and mass iterations, followed by tie-ups with brands from RVCA (she’s also a surfer) to Zadig & Voltaire. For the last few years, she’s been designing Wasson, a fine jewelry line operated under her own business umbrella.
Wasson never thought she’d have the opportunity to work with the Rolls Royce of cowboy boots. “Imagine what this means to me as a girl from Texas. I always knew Lucchese, but it was like, ‘Yeah right, girl.’ Because of the quality and craftsmanship you can spend a pretty penny on a pair,” she said over salads in L.A., where she’s currently based.
In this case, the brand reached out to her. Lucchese’s outreach has been primarily in its core wheelhouse: Texas ranches, horse-y events, country music stars.
“This is their first ‘fashion’ project,” said Wasson. “In the beginning it was like, ‘How can we do this, something that feels correct, that will not alienate our customers?’ I’m not trying to go into a heritage boot company and make it about me, or too fashion forward. The most important thing is the quality, materials, process and knowledge of how this is being made.”
“We were friends with Erin before we started working with her. In Texas she’s a household name and we reference her desert style and Texas style a lot,” said Teddy Boxberger, Lucchese’s senior director of marketing.
Said Wasson, “We both agreed we hate the word ‘collaboration.’ In this world, it holds no weight any longer. Every Sally and Joe is collaborating. Teddy was like, ‘You are a designer, Erin. This isn’t a flash in the pan.’ I am in the offices in Dallas for all the steps of the way.”
The first campaign will be shot in Paris this month ahead of market. But don’t expect slick French fashion house images. “I’m not trying to be the model in a high-fashion ad campaign for a heritage brand. I want to make timeless beautiful classic imagery that no matter what, if you’re a cattle rancher a bull rider or someone who happens to follow fashion those images will resonate with you,” she said. “Eventually I won’t even be in the images.”
The first four styles include a patent leather bootie, a 17-inch-high midnight blue ostrich boot, a black and white Cayman crocodile boot and a Sixties Mod Justin Fields boot with a rounded toe. Retail prices range from $1,295 to $3,995.
“I’m a girl from Texas; I eat meat,” said Wasson. “The price point is for a very specific person as well. But when you understand the Western world, it’s a luxury beyond. For instance, I ride horses. Custom saddle, custom bridle. All of these things are about the quality due to the longevity due to the wear and tear of the actual experience of wearing such things.”
Even if they’ll only be worn on the streets of New York, they’ll last for decades. Growing up with a boot vocabulary, Wasson considered every detail.
“Is it a Cuban heel? Is it a box toe? There are so many little different reference points. I want to see patent leather with a loose stitch, with a box toe and a gold zipper. My father used to have a pair of ostrich cowboy boots, and I was like, ‘One day.’ But then you take ostrich, and you’re like, ‘What have I not seen ostrich in? A midnight blue with a patent leather piping detail.'”
It’s likely to resonate with customers, if only because it’s au courant for some. “I know that we’ve seen an insurgence of the cowboy boot. We saw Calvin Klein come out with a cowboy boot. We saw Céline and Dior cowboy boots a while ago. And it’s a good thing because I love that people can be educated not only on aesthetic but then also discover what Western culture is about. It’s not a trend in the market.”
In essence, luxury can also be defined by the rough-hewn cowboy. “The Western mentality is the real deal. Lucchese did a collaboration with King Ranch in Texas, one of the largest cattle ranches in North America. These are guys that wake up at 4:30 every morning and labor all day, but those boys are rocking some serious boots. What is the idea of luxury, really? It’s not find something fancy, put a label on it, but asking yourself, “OK, is this luxurious because I’ve been told that it is? Because this label represents some sort of social currency? Or is luxurious because I know exactly what the ethos is behind this company?” I know that someone like Lucchese does not overproduce. They’re not pumping out product and just for the sake of it,” she said.
Back in the day, Wasson made a T-shirt for RVCA that said, “If you ain’t cowboy, you ain’t s–t.” “People were like, ‘What does that mean?’ And I’m like, ‘Cowboy is about loyalty, tenacity, reverie. To be a cowboy, you have a backbone. Just translate that into being a really great person.’”