“We are tomboys. But like you we are also friends and sisters, heroines and hellions, rascals, rockers, shapeshifters and trendsetters. We’re here to liberate menswear one bowtie at a time and we’re doing it ourselves because we want it done right.” – Wildfang
It’s hard to read the WILDFANG manifesto and not do a little whoop, fist-pump type dance, because it’s not only inspirational, it’s also incredibly sincere.
Back in March this year whilst browsing The Guardian I came across their launch video, featuring some key faces in the tomboy trend (remember Nadia Sawalha from an earlier post?) and a beautifully improvised story from co-founder Julia Parsley’s 86 year old grandmother. I was hooked and it’s been incredible to watch this unique brand expand (their first store opens this year) and create a following of fellow menswear enthusiasts.
So, Girl in Menswear caught up with Emma McIlory, WILDFANG CEO and co-founder, lover of football and all things sport, and dedicated leader of the tomboy fashion movement – I think you will agree, she’s a pretty fly lady.
Please introduce yourself. I’m Emma a.k.a Irish and I’m the CEO @ Wildfang, home of badass women and tomboys everywhere
Where can we find you? @wearewildfang on tumblr, insta, FB and twitter www.wildfang.com
How would you describe your personal style and to what extent is this reflected in WILDFANG’s collections? I like to think my style is halfway between Keith Richards and Patti Smith. I’m a rock and roll chick @ heart. The rebel has always been at the heart of tomboy style – Blondie, Agyness Deyn, Joan Jett – and we have plenty of stuff to make her swoon – from our blood red Modern Vice Jett boots, to our Black Out Blazer.
You and co-founder Julia Parsley met whilst working at NIKE, how did the idea of starting WILDFANG come about? It was about four years ago and we were in the men’s department at Urban outfitters. I was looking at a men’s graphic tee which had a barely clad Kate Moss on the front. Jules was staring at a men’s blazer with patches on the elbows. She looked at me and said “Why don’t they make this shit for us?” And I didn’t really have an answer. We thought about it a lot, did a ton of consumer research and fast forward two and a half years later – here we are.
What is the hardest challenge you faced when launching WILDFANG? Being a start up means you never have enough money or resources. That’s tough. We have an incredible team of Wildfangs who eat, sleep and breathe tomboy clothing and culture. Each and every one of them is working their ass to create a really special brand. We hope you love what we’re building.
If you weren’t running a kickass fashion company, what would you be doing? Honestly I’m sports-mad and I’m a brand marketing nerd, so I loved working at Nike. As far as I’m concerned it’s the best brand in sports. If I wasn’t here @ Wildfang, I’d probably be working in Nike Football, building the world’s sexiest football brand.
Search ‘tomboy’ online and it’s defined as “A girl who enjoys rough, noisy activity traditionally associated with boys” – what does being a tomboy mean to you? Tomboy is just as much about spirit as it is about style. Tomboy is an attitude and a way of life. Wildfang thinks about a tomboy as a woman who is confident, independent, driven to be her best, but still knows how to have fun. She is the chick who is paving her own way, and also the chick you want to go for a beer with.
Tomboys comes in all shapes and sizes. It’s a spectrum. There’s everything from the more tailored and buttoned up sophisticate, to the prep, to the more rebellious roll and rock tomboy on the other end of the scale who is a little more liberal with their styling.
WILDFANG encourages its followers to take part in the brand and contribute – is WILDFANG more than a fashion destination? Hell yes!!! Wildfang is an attitude. And it’s hopefully a community. We hope our Wildfangs love hanging out with us. We hope our content and social banter are just as rad as our clothing.
You curate the collection from over 30 international brands, how do you discover these hidden tomboy treasures? We actually curate from over 80 brands now. We worked really hard to find them. Some are tiny local designers, some are from as far away as Australia. Some we find at trade shows – we walk every floor of the men’s shows AND the women’s, sometimes a designer will reach out to us, sometimes we find one actually in a men’s store eg Zanerobe, some we get sent by our Wildfangs. If you ever have any ideas for our collections please drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
What’s next for WILDFANG and Emma McIlroy? Well Wildfang has a bloody busy summer. We launch our next brand campaign: Show Us Your Wildfang in August, along with our first ever Wildfang product collection. Not to mention our first physical store will also launch in August, here in Portland. It’s gonna be a hell of a summer 😉