Model, mother and environmentalist Amber Valletta is a true icon. From the epic ad campaigns and magazines she’s appeared in from the ’90s through today to the ethical fashion site she launched last year called Master & Muse, Amber has made some unbelievable contributions to the fashion industry over the last few decades. One look at her in a black sequin Saint Laurent suit on the Met Gala red carpet earlier this week or in H&M’s new eco ad campaigns, and it’s clear that she’ll be making waves and turning heads for years to come. Get to know the inspiring, downright cool Amber in today’s Women of Style interview.
Early Life & Career
“I grew up in Tulsa. My mom was a single parent and she worked really hard to provide for me and my brother. I had a lot of cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents in my life and we would spend weekends at my grandparents’ farm. We had lots of big family parties and get-togethers – it was great.”
“A farm is the ideal location for a child to play and let their imagination to run wild. We would be set free all day on 40 acres to explore the creeks and fields and play with the animals. There were horses, goats, peacocks and dogs – plus, all of us kids. It was very Huckleberry Finn.”
My upbringing is definitely the basis for my environmentalism and activism to conserve nature and animals.
Lessons From Her First Job
“I was a bus girl by my parent’s house. I learned that the bus boys were really cute and that people are really messy eaters and dirty dishes are really gross. It is a job not for the faint of heart. I have a lot of respect for the people who work in that industry!”
As a kid I saw my mom work hard to build her life and provide for us, which instilled a very strong work ethic in me.
I look up to all sorts of women in the working world like Marianne Williamson and Anna Wintour, who has really mentored me. I also really respect and deeply look up to my girlfriends. I try to surround myself with people who are smart, interesting, fun and constantly growing and changing.
"One of the most important moments in my life was meeting one of the greatest leaders ever." Photo: @ambervalletta.
“I’ve taken so many great trips as a model. One that stands out is a weeklong shoot I did for Versace in New York with Richard Avedon. I was by myself and it was just amazing to spend five days with Mr. Avedon. It was a small set (unlike the ones today where they have 80 people on a set) so there was some intimacy and he signed my Polaroids and gave me the contact sheets. He was incredibly generous and so easy to work with.”
“I also took a trip for Nelson Mandela’s Children Fund in 1998 that was also incredibly memorable. Naomi Campbell was working with him and organized the trip. A ton of models – Christy, Kate, Naomi, everyone - went down to Cape Town and did this fashion show. Meeting Mandela was one of my most treasured life memories. I got a big bear hug from him and was crying in his arms because it was so powerful to be with him.”
Modeling And Acting Today
“I’m pretty thoughtful about what I choose to do because my time is really valuable, and I don’t have a lot of it. I have to really like the project and know that I can contribute something to it before I sign on.”
“Right now I am working on a show on TNT called Legends – it’s just the perfect character for me right now. As far as modeling goes, I love finding things that correlate with the principles of Master & Muse, which is to support socially responsible business. My collaboration with H&M for their Conscious Collection is great example of that.”
Alexia Niedzielski, Angela Lindvall, Amber and Elizabeth von Guttman at an H&M Conscious Exclusive event in LA. Photo: @hm.
On Working With H&M
“I was thrilled when they approached me because of their huge global reach and ability to send a powerful message when it comes to sustainability and responsibly made clothing. They do a lot: the have a huge clothing recycling program and an educational initiative called Clever Care, which teaches consumers how to wash and care for clothing so that it lasts. They also agreed to let Master & Muse carry the Conscious Collection line, which was pretty awesome - we sold out in 12 hours.”
Photo: Courtesy of Master & Muse
Master & Muse
“When we first started Master & Muse, people were confused; they didn’t understand that buying responsibly isn’t just about being environmentally conscious but also about being socially conscious. Master & Muse really focuses on the latter issue more than anything; supporting designers who value their laborers and keep their supply chain really transparent. In just a year, the fashion world has grown. People understand the distinction now and the number of labels who are making this a priority has grown as well. In the beginning we could come up with 15 really good designers, and now we’ve got triple that number and we have to turn people away.”
“I think business will only continue to move in this direction. Yes, we all want to continue to make money and live good lives but we can’t do it at the expense of other people or the planet anymore. I think people are waking up to that and I don’t think it’s just in the fashion industry. Companies who don’t join the party are going to be left behind.”
More To Love
“We have 34 designers and over 400 items at any given time. I love all of the lines; they’re like my babies. Some of our best sellers are Vivienne Westwood, Melissa Joy Manning and Clare Vivier. Right now I’m really loving Vitamin A’s sexy swimwear.”
“We’re going to start collaborating with more emerging designers and also hopefully do something like the H&M collaboration with other big retailers or designers. We’ve also been exploring the possibility of launching a private label and expanding into beauty. Beauty and wellness is such an exciting arena right now.”
I’m a perfectionist so I like to work really hard at getting something right before moving onto the next thing. We are really thoughtful about what we do here at Master & Muse and our customers can feel that. It’s about forming solid partnerships and making good decisions.
Style & Personal Life
"Happy to be celebrating my friend Melissa Joy Manning's flagship store opening in New York." Photo: @ambervalletta.
How She Shops
"I am not super stringent on myself but I try to make smart choices. I am conscious about where I shop because I know where the hotspots are, where laborers aren't being treated fairly. I look at where something is made before I buy it. I also love vintage clothing and going back to my old things and altering something I haven't worn in a while or styling it in a new way."
Her Style Staples
"I always love a high-waist trouser, a classic striped t-shirt or a plain t-shirt and a white button-up shirt. I have a great pair of vintage Levi's that I live in and I love Saint Laurent shoes. I am pretty simple but I always like a little bit of an edge or something slightly off to make the look more interesting."
Photo: Getty Images
"I love makeup. I love Rosie Marie Swift's line RMS Beauty, which is all natural. I love Francois Nars, Armani (especially their foundation) and Tom Ford for makeup. I use a lot natural and chemical-free skincare products. I use a line called Ayurvedic and I use some Biotherm. I can't live without mascara and eyebrow gel."
What Makes Her Feel Glamorous
"Taking my time getting ready. Starting with a luxurious bath then moisturizing, adding fragrance, and then putting on makeup. To me it's the luxury of having time to myself. If I'm not speeding to get ready and I'm excited about what I'm going to do that night then I feel fabulous."
Amber, getting ready for a live Facebook chat alongside her team at Master & Muse. Photo: @ambervalletta.
How She Finds Balance
"I prioritize. My health comes first because if I'm not well, then I can't take care of anyone. That means eating well, sleeping well, exercising and meditating. And then my son is my number one priority when it comes to scheduling anything. He'll always rank number one. I also have a great team who do a lot of heavy lifting and contribute to the success of our business."
The better I am at carving out time to be with my son, the more everything else just seems to work out.
Three Things We Didn't Know About Amber
1.) "I am a crazy, avid ice hockey fan. I love the LA Kings. I can even watch it on TV if you can believe that.", 2.) "If I am fond of you, even if I just met you, I will come up with a nickname for you.", 3.) "I can tie a cherry with my tongue."