Forty Five Ten on Main has a rather large personality in the house today: Lisa Eisner — the eclectic Renaissance woman of many talents and wife of music mogul Eric Eisner — is here in Dallas through the weekend for a trunk show of new jewelry from her namesake collection.
Eisner, who began her career in magazines, working for Mademoiselle and as a former West Coast fashion editor for Vogue, is famous for many artistic reasons. Foremost, she is an ultimate original — someone of unparalleled, eccentric personal style, which is rarely seen anymore. She is lauded for her photography, which includes two books of her own work, Rodeo Girl (1999) and Shriners (2004). And her own publishing company, Greybull Press, has produced photography books by artists the likes of Richard Prince and Dennis Hopper.
But it’s perhaps her friendship and partnership with designer Tom Ford — Eisner met Ford through his husband Richard Buckley, when they both lived in Paris — that gets fashion types most excited. In 2015, just a year after debuting her much sought after collection of handmade, statement-making jewelry, Ford tapped Eisner to design a collection for his Spring/Summer 2015 and Fall/Winter 2015 collections. Dubbed, LE for TF, the collection was a runaway success, with its over-the-top, bold aesthetics and precious, natural materials — feathers, forged bronze, ammonite, et al.
Today, Eisener’s own collection is stocked at some of the world’s top retailers — Maxfield in Los Angeles, Karry Berreby in Paris — and has been the subject of exhibitions. Last year, Salon 94 premiered an exhibition of her work in New York, with Linda Fargo set to debut a curated display of Eisner’s jewels at Bergdorf Goodman this summer. Upon her Dallas entree, we caught up with the designer, about her personal time with Tom Ford, collection of Sammy Davis Jr suits, and why turquoise — not diamonds — are a girl’s best friend.
Tell us a bit about your latest collection.
I just keep evolving and making things. I can’t stop. I don’t want to make many of one thing. I really like making unique one-of-a-kind jewelry.
The standout pieces.
I just finished a new collection of white jade. I have never done white, but love white and gold. So, I must say I’m into this right now.
What’s coming with you to Dallas.
I’m bringing lots of turquoise. Some people think turquoise is a trend and comes and goes, but it never goes for me. I wear turquoise like other women wear diamonds. I feel like I have taken turquoise, which I have loved since I was a kid and starting a collection of Native American jewelry, and made it into my own thing. Turquoise not only has this amazing healing for me, but visually when someone wears it my eye just thanks them for being able to look at it. It’s a present for others.
Mining for turquoise.
I find turquoise from mines that are no longer open, from people who have old material. Bisbee is one of my favorite no-longer mines. It was so amazing. I have not just found turquoise but malachite, chrysocolla, and azurite. All these stones are from a copper mine.
You are a renaissance woman — a designer, photographer, writer, filmmaker, publisher, more. If you had to pick just one medium to practice exclusively …
I’m super into designing right now. This is the first time I have really ever done it. I have lots of friends that are designers but never really did a hands-on design. I’m so, so into it.
Has Texas directly inspired you?
Yes… yes… Big. I like big — and Texas likes big.
You grew up in Wyoming, and your friend Tom Ford grew up in Texas — heritages rooted in in the American West.
Well, Tom and I have the American West, which really will always be part of anything we do. That was one of the bonding things when we first met. It will always be inspiration. It’s what fills our souls.
When did you meet Tom?
I met Tom through his husband [Richard Buckley] who was a great friend of mine when I lived in Paris. Tom had just gotten the job at Gucci as the main designer. We met right when the flood gates opened…
Any favorite memories with the Ford-Buckley family?
Oh, man. So many! Hmm …
You collaborated with Tom Ford on two jewelry collections.
Working with Tom was a different process. I love color and he loves black. So I had to figure out how to blacken bronze. And instead of feathers in colors, we made earrings and necklaces in gold with black feathers. He has a more sophisticated eye than me. And, well, I learn so so much. He lifts the bar higher!
Tom Ford the teacher.
I have learned that black comes in lots of shades! His eye is perfect and I learn from it all the time. Your eye and taste can really change when you spend time in his world, in his houses, in the way he lives. Every second of the day he looks so good — there are no down times, no slob times. I’m a girl who is lots of almost-not-getting-out-of-my-PJs and being super comfy — and then I can gussy up!
Tom has no off time. He is always sharp and always pulled together in everything he does. I have gotten my graduate degree in design from being friends with Tom Ford. Everything he does is passionate and smart. His left and right brains work equally. I only have the right brain. Tom is a business man, can design, write, direct. It’s nuts. He can do anything!
Inspiration for me, right now, is about the hand — about making things that are special and unique. I love hippie culture. I love California culture. I love things that look like someone took time and passionately chose the stones and it’s personal.
Nature is my church. It’s where all my inspirations really happen and gel. I get all my answers in nature. It’s everything!
You have called your jewelry “armor” “decoration” “ceremonial” and “things you would put on a shrine”… Do you have any rituals when it comes to putting on jewelry?
I sort of bless all my jewelry. There is a lot of love that goes into each piece and into each stone. So my ritual is love of what I do. And because I am not doing multiples, I think special attention and passion are my rituals.
Jewelry you always wear.
Those pieces that feel like talismans — always a stone, either turquoise or black jade from Wyoming. Those are my go-tos.
How you collect.
I have weird collections. I have to be out of my mind about something. I have to have to have it, so it’s part of me — like, it rubs off on me and I learn from it. It’s my education. I collect when I have to learn from it and it makes my life more beautiful or just interesting.
Your home in Bel Air is dreamy.
My home is a 1957 Cliff May house — early ranch house/Spanish colonial. It’s really just a style like my brain. It’s not pure, but lots of things that somehow work together. When you love different things, somehow they all work together. My garden is my favorite. I must say, it’s sort of magical.
My personal style is a bunch of things. It changes every time I get dressed. I love hunting and gathering — and I am really good at finding treasures at vintage shows and vintage stores. I mix old with new. I want to be unique and not look like anyone. The one thing that is constant is my love for lots of jewelry. I mean, why not? Jewelry is such a beautiful adornment. I like to feel like I am part of a tribe — my own tribe — and wear jewelry like its tribal.
Well, I do have Sammy Davis Jr. suits I bought at auction. And my art book/photography/fashion/design book collection is something I worked on for years. I basically have my own research library. My Calder jewelry, maybe. This is so hard. Billy Hanes furniture from the old Jack Warner estate that David Geffen bought.
The house is burning. You grab …
If I had to flee from a fire and I could only take one thing … I don’t know. I would just burn, because I would have to get so many things I love.
Recent treasures you’ve found.
I find things every other week, and each time I do it’s my favorite thing. I search for things that inspire me — and the older you get the harder it is, because you have seen so much. I love these old Assuit shawls that are antiques from Egypt, woven with metal. They are so beautiful — not even sure how they made them.
Most memorable photograph you’ve taken.
I loved my Rodeo Girl book. I love those photos of that whole ceremony of being a female in a very alpha-male world. Those rodeo queens made me interested in fashion. They were the first to show me that accessories are really important and fun and make you unique.
Most memorable photograph taken of your family.
I love all my photos that Bruce Weber shot of us — treasure them.
Last photo you took with your iPhone.
Oh, man. Tonight. All the time. It’s my snap-and-shoot.
That one time at the Pierre Cardin bubble house.
I got to shoot there and spent two days there when Cardin owned it. It was so great and so weird and by the end I couldn’t wait to get out. Crazy to be in it and can wait to get out of it. It’s a museum, but after spending so much time there, you want out.
Richard Buckley took a photograph of you in 2001 doing the splits. What was the context.
Oh, man. The context was about tequila — lots of it!
Three sacred places.
Wyoming: I grew up there. So few people and strong elements. Sheridan is my favorite little town. Mendocino, California: Just went there and in love with it. You have such beauty — raw beauty, oceans and coast and redwood forests. It’s just so overwhelming. India: Everything… The color. The people. The way they wear jewelry. The way it’s so chaotic and crazy, and yet it flows.
Most fascinating person you’ve met.
Werner Herzog, the director. His stories are just jaw dropping. He is a great story teller!
Finish this sentence: Life is like …
Life is like, wow man! Or, life is like the best thing ever, and that is why it’s so hard to even think about dying.
Lisa Eisner at Forty Five Ten on Main, Thursday, May 4, through Sunday, May 7. 1615 Main Street, fortyfiveten.com.