Leave the girly stuff to brands such as Rebecca Taylor and Milly. Wildfang‘s men’s wear-inspired collection is designed for tomboys.
“We’re the home for bad–s women,” said founder Emma McIlroy said, standing in Wildfang’s 1,400-square-foot space at 252 Lafayette Street in Manhattan, which was filled with sounds of construction on a recent afternoon. The unit, Wildfang’s first outside Portland, Ore., will open to invited guests on June 7, when performances by Phoebe Robinson of the WNYC podcast, “2 Dope Queens,” and the Resistance Revival Chorus, which backed up Kesha when she performed at the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., are scheduled.
McIlroy is bullish on the new store since Manhattan is Wildfang’s top online market, and Brooklyn, number two. She’s projecting $2 million in sales the first year.
“We’re bringing some of the same vibes from Portland to New York,” McIlroy said, adding that the Wildfang formula includes a marquis in the front window, which is used to tell a story. On this day, it was covered with white paper, with the legend, “Hey, Patriarchy, We’re Coming for You,” scrawled in black.
“It showcases our sense of humor and political point of view,” McIlroy said. “This space is going to have a heart and soul, and you’re going to feel it.”
The idea for the brand began five years ago when McIlroy and former Wildfang chief operating officer Julie Parsley — who left the business in 2015 — were working as brand marketers at Nike. During a trip to a department store, McIlroy felt jealous of the products in the men’s department and lamented the fact that the styles weren’t available to women. Sensing an underserved market for androgynous fashion, McIlroy, Parsley and creative director Taralyn Thuot quit their respective day jobs and pursued the idea of creating a safe, supportive, inclusive and inspiring space for women.
Carving walls exist at the brand’s two Portland locations, at 404 S.W. 10th Avenue, and 1230 S.E. Grand Avenue, and there will be one at the SoHo store. “Community is so important to the brand,” McIlroy said. “We allow anyone who comes into the store to carve into the wall.” And who knows, a shopper might end up carving a message next to one left by Kim Gordon, Janelle Monae, Beth Ditto or Evan Rachel Wood, who appeared in a promotional video for Wildfang, “Evan Rachel Would,” where she liberates herself to sing karaoke and wear a gorilla team mascot uniform.
Customers of Wildfang’s stores and wildfang.com rally around McIlroy’s political activism. “We want the world to be a better place,” she said. “We’re not satisfied with the status quo. We gave $75,000 to charities and the business is not yet profitable.” McIlory said the SoHo should be profitable “very quickly. We love bricks-and-mortar retail. We’re majority online, stores are a great billboard for our brand. Our hope is to launch a store in Los Angeles before the end of the year.”
Wildfang recently raised over $100,000 for an abortion clinic in South Dakota after McIlroy learned it’s the last one left in the state. “There are seven states with only one abortion clinic left. I researched the Sioux Falls clinic and said, ‘F–k it, let’s raise some money.’ What we’re talking about is a woman’s right. I don’t think I’m the most popular person in South Dakota.”
“We welcome anyone who identifies as female and work hard to ensure that this is a safe, inclusive space,” Thuot said. “If you’re someone who wants to challenge gender norms and reinvent the status quo, you’re welcome here and will be invited into our family.”
The brand is known for its suiting, which ranges in size from 2 to 20, and XS to XXL for blazers, and its button-up shirts. Prices range from $120 for a Century City check blazer to $208 for a houndstooth double-breasted Amalie style.
Button-up shirts, in short- and long-sleeve versions, feature original patterns such as tropical pineapples and palm fronds, and breakfast foods such as waffles, eggs and bacon. Prices range from $55 to $122. Graphic Ts are designed to engage, provoke and be Instagram-worthy. The brand’s motto, “For rule breakers, chance-takers and mischief makers,” is printed inside garments.
Like its sister stores, the new Wildfang will host Free Speech, a women’s storytelling event every month, with a commitment to hear from 50 percent women of color and 50 percent queer women.”Our customers are 13 to 95 years old,” Thuot said. “We break some of the stereotypes such as age and sexuality. A lot of them are in their first jobs. One big thing is they all want to make an impact on the world. They’re very activist in spirit.”