Why Celebrities Love Portland's Tomboy Brand Wildfang

Wildfang's CEO Emma McIlroy talks Evan Rachel Wood, the new West End shop, and liberating meanswear from the men's department

By Eden Dawn October 5, 2015 Published in the Design Annual: Fall 2015 issue of Portland Monthly

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Image: Wildfang

How did you get the idea to launch Wildfang, your boutique and fashion brand aimed at a “tomboy” aesthetic? Julia Parsley and I had the idea while standing in the men’s section at Urban Outfitters. There were all these awesome silhouettes that didn’t fit our ladylike frames. Button-ups, blazers, wingtips—but for some reason they were restricted to the men’s department. We wanted to liberate those styles for women like us everywhere, and give them the option to rock those styles.

Just two years in, you’ve attracted a loyal celebrity fan base—how did that happen? First, they all start as customers—they are a part of our community because they want to be. Secondly, each and every one of them is utterly inspiring and a pleasure to work with. The girls Wildfang gets to work with are just the best: Megan Rapinoe, Janelle Monae, Kate Mara, Evan Rachel Wood, Tegan & Sara—each of them is a truly awesome human. We consider ourselves very fortunate indeed.

After establishing a retail HQ in the Central Eastside, you’re opening a location in Portland’s West End this fall. What can we expect? We are taking all the most loved bits of “Fort Wildfang” with us—the carving wall, the tree house changing room—and combining it with some unexpected upgrades. We’re excited to reach a much bigger audience and have an opportunity to connect with lots more Portlanders. That area is blowing up right now, and we are stoked to be a part of the community and do cool shit with our friends at Ace, Poler, Tender Loving Empire, and Chrome.

What does the popularity of the “tomboy” style say about society and fashion? The tomboy style is grounded in strength, confidence, independence, and courage. Women are more empowered to self-express than ever before. In fashion terms, women have smashed through many of the traditional constraints placed on them, and their inspirations are coming from a wider range of sources.

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