Vanessa Traina is one of the fashion industry’s most respected stylists. She has worked closely with designers Alexander Wang and Joseph Altuzarra since they started their labels and helms the beautifully curated lifestyle store, The Line. However, Traina’s affinity for high fashion began long before she left her native San Francisco. Her mother, iconic novelist Danielle Steel, raised her amidst the rarefied worlds of haute couture and fine jewelry; and her father, the late philanthropist and vintner John Traina, had one of the world’s largest collections of Fabergé cigarette cases. Traina, who moved to New York after graduating from California’s Pepperdine University in 2007, still smiles when she thinks of her childhood spent on the family’s vineyard in Napa Valley. The top floor of the family home was a walk-in closet that contained her parents’ matching his-and-hers black tie ensembles and evening coats.
Apart from accompanying her to fashion shows and fittings in Paris, many of Traina’s fondest fashion memories of her mother revolve around Steel’s right wrist, which has been draped in layers upon layers of bracelets for the past three decades. “We called it her fruit salad when we were little,” Traina remembers, “because it was such a big mix of exotic and colorful things.” Steel’s arm has become a constant decorative work-in-progress, a way for her to express herself in fine jewelry—and, as Traina would discover later in life, leave a lasting mark on her children.
Derek Blasberg: Do you have a favorite piece of jewelry?
Vanessa Traina: For me, jewelry has to be personal. It can be something beautiful to look at, but also have an emotional connection. So some of my most beloved pieces are things that have been given to me by my parents, my sisters or close friends. I have a bracelet that my father gave my mother when they first st arted dating. My favorite jewelry is something that holds meaning, and more often than not those tend to be bracelets, which I like to stack on my wrists.
DB: Like your mother does, right?
VT: Yes, exactly. The fruit salad! Growing up, my sisters and I would give her bracelets for her birthday or for Christmas; and then when we were older there’d be occasions when she would take one off and give them to us. Like when I went to college, she took one off and gave it to me, so even when I was gone I had something to remember her by.
DB: Would she only give them to you on big occasions?
VT: Not necessarily. Sometimes on big occasions, but also if something sad happened; and sometimes even out of nowhere she would turn to us and say, “Here, this is for you.”
DB: What is your earliest jewelry memory?
VT: I remember that I used to wear Tiffany’s baby bracelets, which I still have. But now they’d only fit around my thumb.
DB: How do you advise layering jewelry to express one’s personal style?
VT: In this story I’m focusing on stacking different pieces of Tiffany jewelry and mixing the different collections. Playing with the collections and adding to them is fun to do; but I think it’s best to be confined to bracelets, or necklaces, or one specific part of the body. I’m not one to be overaccessorized. I would never do this with rings and earrings and necklaces. Keep it to one category.
DB: As a stylist, how do you incorporate jewelry into what you do?
VT: For me, jewelry tells a story. Which is why I think these bracelets are the most meaningful to me. But it can also inform a fashion idea or explore a specific mood.
DB: Do you feel naked without it?
VT: Ha! The one time I don’t wear jewelry is when I’m swimming in the sea. I always think that jewelry is the last accent, and it completes the look.
DB: So it’s like the cherry on a sundae?
VT: Exactly, but with fewer calories.