The Portland brand, known for its assortment of men’s wear-inspired, workwear-esque pants, blazers and eclectic button-ups mixed with oxfords, boots and other accessories, is even more well-known for its female-founded, women-run operations.
Company cofounder and chief executive officer Emma Mcilroy was in town this week for Wildfang’s brief pop-up at coworking space The Riveter’s Los Angeles location, which was capped by a discussion Thursday evening with other female entrepreneurs on what it’s like to be a female leader and the company’s “I Really Care. Don’t U?” jackets — a statement on First Lady Melania Trump’s “I Really Don’t Care. Do U?” jacket worn while visiting a detention center for immigrant children earlier this year. Wildfang’s raised nearly $3,000 for the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services via sales of the jacket, with the check set to go out later this month, Mcilroy said.
Thursday evening’s discussion was aimed at creating a candid dialogue around a number of hot-topic issues that go hand-in-hand with the brand Wildfang’s founders began building the business with when it launched in 2013.
“I definitely think we’re going in the right direction,” Mcilroy said of strides made for women in high-ranking positions. “I still think there’s a hell of a lot of work to be done particularly for women of color and queer women, but I think we’re going in the right direction.”
Mcilroy, who previously held positions for Nike Running and Nike Football, started Wildfang with chief operating officer Julia Parsley and creative director Taralyn Thuot. The idea was to create a clothing company with a point of view focused on breaking down traditional gender roles, labor inequality, reproductive rights and government in some cases — all, of course, while rocking one of the company’s suits or T-shirts bearing “Wild Feminist” on the front.
Wildfang is a voice that’s managed to cut through the rest of the apparel landscape with celebrity fans that include Evan Rachel Wood, Janelle Monae and Kim Gordon.
“I think people really truly trust and believe us,” Mcilroy said. “We’re a small team. We walk the walk and we talk the talk. We’re not just talking about feminism and selling T-shirts. We’re supporting racial injustice charities. We [shoot] all of our products on models of three different sizes. So I think people respect that.”
Wildfang expects to continue expanding its size offering in fall 2019, the ceo said. The move to offer expanded sizing is another topic of conversation being had in the broader apparel industry as some brands play up their existing offering or make strides to build out a broader range. Mcilroy sees it as another step in the right direction.
“Look, 57 percent of the population is a size 12 or above, so we’re just doing a disservice to women and we are not serving their needs,” Mcilroy said of the industry’s general steps being taken for size-inclusivity. “Wildfang has made a ton of strides in the right direction. Our suiting goes up to a size 20. Our knitted products go up to a double-XL. I long for the day when we can service everyone.”
Wildfang sells its products in its online store in addition to two Portland stores and one in SoHo. The build-out on Los Angeles is under way with the store, at 3430 West Sunset Boulevard, set to open Oct. 1.
“L.A. is our second biggest market as a brand. New York is number one. We really believe in off-line retail,” said Mcilroy, adding the space will play host to community events. “It’s just a real privilege and a superexciting time for us to bring everything we are to L.A., where they can touch and feel the product and touch and feel the brand.”
More retail for Wildfang does interest Mcilroy, although she’ll wait to make sure Los Angeles is firmly rooted in the ground before additional expansion. She described Washington, D.C. as a “market that we really belong in and our mission really belongs in.” She also added Chicago and Seattle are markets that would make sense for Wildfang.
“It’s a little bit like expanding your product,” Mcilroy said of opening more stores. “The most important thing is that we want to get it right.”