“Omg! That’s so Wildfang!” The trio behind tomboy influenced clothing brand Wildfang talk Patti Smith, badass gangs and style crushing on FKA Twigs
Born from a love of badass fashion iconography and a long-time desire for urban tomboy style clothing that is considerate of the female form, Portland based trio – Emma, Julia and Tara – are pioneering a new perspective when it comes to women’s fashion. But it must be noted that this code of dressing is by no means a throw away trend, it’s been an integral movement in modern day dress culture for some time now, in both Europe and the States. Whilst Emma and Julia came from a background in brand management at Nike HQ, fashion obsessive Tara offers a design edge with her history in visual merchandising, it’s a match made in style heaven.
“I think what makes Wildfang different from Nasty Gal or Nordstorm is the fact that we’re building a really strong emotional connection with our girls,” says Emma. “We even have girls who use Wildfang as an adjective, they see a celebrity, a car or a design and they’re like: “Omg! That’s so Wildfang!” We’re trying to build a movement, so people feel like they’re part of something special.” We caught up with the trio to talk timeless fashion icons, the Wildfang woman and the importance of physical store presence in an otherwise digital age…
Where did the Wildfang journey start?
Emma: Whilst a lot of people think we just burst onto the scene, the reality is that this idea has been in the making for about 3 and a half years. It started in 2010 for us, we were standing in the men’s department of Urban Outfitters when Jules was looking for a blazer. She’s very petite which meant that even an extra small men’s blazer was too big. She just turned to me and said: “Why don’t they make this shit for us?” which made me think: “Why don’t they?”
My personal style seems to be a mash-up of both genders but I never realised how many women also wanted to shop theses styles, as long as they looked really great on their body. So in 2011 we spent several months doing consumer insight work which made us realise we are able to serve up a really diverse group of girls with our focused proposition. We heard the same thing again and again and again. Women who I would classify as very feminine would say: “Oh I always steal my boyfriends shirt” or “I always steal my grandpas military jacket”.
I bet it has been amazing to see your vision through to the final product?
Emma: Yeah it’s great to see a customer’s reaction. Tara probably feels this way weekly because she does all of our styling and interactive work, but Jules and I had held on to this vision, this voice, this attitude, for several years so seeing 22,000 girls sign up in 30 days with zero media spend felt incredible. The main thing for us is to be passionate. I see girls pick up henleys and raglans as if they’re really fearful, then Tara spends fifteen minutes with them and they walk out like fucking Patti Smith, they get on a motorbike and ride off into the distance. That’s what fires me up, seeing the impact we have on a group of people who love what we’re doing.
So who would be the Wildfang style icons? Patti maybe?
Emma: We’ve done a lot of work identifying our icons and these include anyone from Coco Chanel, Marlene Dietrich and Tilda Swinton to Lauren Hutton and Gwen Stefani. But yeah Patti Smith is one of the ultimate ‘Wildfangs’, she was one of the first icons Tara focused on for our debut lookbook.
And what about the Wildfang woman, how would you describe her?
Emma: There are two components to her. There’s an attitude and a style and I think by talking about both of them we allow this to be a really broad proposition that millions of women can quite literally buy into. She’s bold, she’s adventurous, she’s very confident, she doesn’t take herself to seriously, she has a sense of humour, she’s pretty cheeky and she’s not afraid to break some rules.
Who would you like to dress like a Wildfang girl at the moment?
Tara: Well someone that I’m like super crushing on right now is Fka Twigs. She’s my current style crush.
She’s amazing. What does the rest of 2014 hold for you guys?
Emma: Good question, we have a lot in the pipeline but this year for us is about growth. It’s all about reacting to information as you get it and right now we are seeing an influx of international orders, so we’re working a lot on international shipping rates.
Julia: We never originally planned to have a physical store, but all of a sudden Portland customers were asking to collect their package in person, just so they could hang out with us and meet the team. They wanted to see behind the scenes, say hi, or maybe try something on before they bought it. It was then that we realized having a physical store made our brand become real, so we responded to this. Having a physical destination in which you can touch the goods and shake the hands of the people who are working in the store, made things become real in a completely different way. Now we’re hoping to move the store to an area where it can shine and reach its full potential, so that’s something else we’ll be working on this year.
Tara: I’m also shooting our new lookbook this week. We have four female photographers shooting four different themes, Urban (think TLC meets M.I.A), Rockers (like Patti Smith, Blondie and Alison Mosshart), Rascals (think Californian surf chicks and Lords of Dog Town vibes) and the last one is Heroines. It’s called the Band of Thieves, so it’ll be pretty badass I’m sure.
Words: Brooke McCord