NEW YORK, United States — “We would go to Europe in the summer — to the couture shows,” says the stylist Vanessa Traina, recalling her first fashion memories. “I saw Yves Saint Laurent’s last couture show. And Galliano’s first Dior show.” As that single anecdote makes obvious, Traina, 28, is not without her advantages. One of four daughters of monumentally famous author Danielle Steel and vintner John Traina, who passed away in 2011, Vanessa was raised in San Francisco and educated at the Drew School, where Alexander Wang was a classmate.
It seems she was destined to work in fashion. “My mom had actually gone to Parsons to be a designer,” Traina says. “For her, it’s not a shopping obsession. She truly appreciates the craft and the art of it — and she passed that on to my sisters and me. There was just no other career.” Samantha, Traina’s eldest sister, is a stylist on the West Coast. Victoria, who is just one year older, is a fashion consultant in New York. But it’s Vanessa in particular who has captured the industry’s interest.
Since moving to New York in the mid-2000s, Traina has established herself as a name with taste. She’s often brought in to work on projects that benefit from her rare breed of celebrity, but kept on because of her ability to actually style and edit a collection or a buy. “One of the most compelling things about her is her understanding of how women want to dress in a modern way, beyond magazines and runway shows,” says friend and longtime collaborator Joseph Altuzarra. “She brings a lot of intuition.”
As well as Altuzarra, Traina counts Erdem Moralıoğlu and Alexander Wang as clients. Indeed, she’s worked with everyone from Reed Krakoff to a Parisian tuxedo company on everything from fabric research to runway styling to branding. “It’s really different with every client, but it’s always really about finding the spirit, the tone, the direction,” she says. With Moralıoğlu, it’s really about styling the show. For Altuzarra, with whom she has been working with since his first collection, it’s a continual process.
“We're very close friends so we talk a lot, and our working relationship is sort of an evolution of that,” says Altuzarra. “We throw ideas around and we talk about the direction of the collection and direction of the brand, all the way to the styling of our collections.” Wang and Altuzarra both consider Traina a muse, as do most of the designers for whom she works. But much like Danielle Luquet de Saint German or Loulou de la Falaise (famous muses to Yves Saint Laurent), her job is not to just sit there, but to advise. “She brings a very specific point of view,” adds Altuzarra.
“It’s obviously hard to look at yourself like this, but I think people hire me for my slightly clean, modern aesthetic. It’s fantastical, but still wearable,” says Traina.
That high-but-light touch is certainly evident in her latest project, The Line, an e-commerce venture backed by General Assembly co-founder Adam Pritzker, for which Traina is serving as executive creative director, guiding the buy, styling shoots and providing overall feedback on art direction.
One of the projects that makes up Assembled Objects — which, according to Pritzker, “was born to provide back-end services in technology, marketing, and distribution to consumer goods companies” — The Line aims to offer an alternative to typical, trend-driven fashion retailers with a tightly edited mix of women’s clothing, housewares and beauty products selected to stand the test of time.
“It’s less about mass consumption of trends and more about things that are essential and versatile,” says Morgan Wendelborn, the site’s co-founder and director of editorial and merchandising, who spent nine years as a stylist at Shopbop. “It’s about a pared-back lifestyle.”
Minimalist through and through, The Line offers Christopher Lemaire jumpers and Reed Krakoff peacoats, alongside Linda Rodin’s Olio Lusso line, KPM dinnerware and René Herbst chairs circa 1935. “It’s not a trendy site. If leopard is in, we probably won’t have it,” says Traina. “I’m really eager to see our customer response now that we’re live.”