Kerry Washington Once 'Stole' a Pair of Sunglasses — and She Isn't Giving Them Back

The actress shares the sweet story behind her oldest accessory, and tells InStyle all about working with jewelry brand Aurate.

Kerry Washington Won't Ever Get Rid of Her Mother's Sunglasses
Photo: Getty Images/

From the polished perfection of Scandal's Olivia Pope to the '90s throwbacks she wore as Mia Warren in Little Fires Everywhere, Kerry Washington isn't a stranger to getting deep into character or pulling off a variety of fashion trends. But, when she's not in power suits and pumps — or hosting virtual yoga classes on Instagram (really, get in on those) — she's working to champion activists and promote equity everywhere.

She's also designing jewelry.

Kerry Washington Aurate
David Urbanke

Today, it was announced that Washington would be investing in the direct-to-consumer, sustainably-minded, fine jewelry brand Aurate, making her first foray into direct-to-consumer fashion and continuing to support brands that amplify women's voices. To celebrate the new partnership, Washington teamed up with Aurate's co-founders, Sophie Kahn and Bouchra Ezzahraoui, on Kerry x Aurate ($150-380), a limited-edition capsule collection that is now available to shop.

"We have always made the decision to align with investors who share our vision and mission, which is why we are thrilled to welcome Kerry Washington to the Aurate family," Kahn and Ezzahraoui said in a statement. "Kerry has such a strong and powerful, yet poised voice and is truly a woman of both style and substance. She strongly believes in Aurate and our future, which is why we are so excited to have her on board."

Kerry Washington Aurate
David Urbanke

Speaking with InStyle, Washington told us all about this new partnership, and also shared a story about a special pair of sunglasses for the latest edition of The Oldest Thing I Own.

What is the oldest fashion item you own and how long you have had it?

The oldest item in my closet is a beautiful pair of Oscar de la Renta sunglasses that were my mother's from the mid-60s. I stole them from her...probably 20 years ago and I love them.

Do you still wear them?

They're giant, they're enormous, and, yeah, I still wear them and I love them!

Do people comment on it when you wear it? What do they say?

People are always like, "Where did you get those?" And I'm like, "My mother's closet." When I started working as an actor, the first fashion show I was invited to, first Fashion Week, was Oscar de la Renta in New York. I brought my mom, so it felt like an amazing full-circle moment.

Kerry and Valerie Washington
Patrick McMullan / Contributor

Do you have any particular memories tied to this item?

When I found them, my mom kind-of shrugged that I would even want them. They were like her old glasses, but they were treasures to me.

Jewelry is something a lot of people treasure, is that what you wanted to do with your collection with Aurate?

I want people to feel like they're treasures they can wear every day. That's what's fun about accessories. You can have fun and play. Also, wearing jewelry that is fine jewelry but is affordable takes some of the fear out of wearing it every day.

This is just the first collection, but there has to be more, right?

One of the things that Aurate does so well with direct-to-consumer is learning what people like. We'll see — another thing that's so great with learning from the consumers is seeing what to do next. We have lots of ideas with what to do next and we'll gravitate towards that.

Kerry Washington Aurate
David Urbanke

You've had some design experience with your Scandal collection for The Limited. How did this compare?

We had a very successful collection at The Limited that went on for several years and I loved designing. I loved the attention to detail and the creative process, and it's really fun to do that in the jewelry space. For me, jewelry is the part of fashion that holds the most emotion. With fashion, whether it's sunglasses or a sweater, they can have pieces that happen to be very special to you, but a lot of jewelry comes with a lot of emotional meaning and weight. It's fun to work in that space, and design a collection that's just really, really beautiful and has such powerful meaning.

The pieces have a lioness on them. What meaning does that have?

It's important that people know that 20% of proceeds go to Supermajority, which is a women's organization that is really a home for women's activists. They work towards building a movement of all kinds of women working for equity.

The lionesses hunt together and raise their cubs together and there's no hierarchy among the lionesses. It's really a sisterhood. We wanted to make sure the proceeds went to an organization that is rooted in women's power. That's what the imagery is.

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