While it's tempting to pillage the menswear market for comfy clothes, it can be a difficult area for a woman to navigate (and to find that fitted-but-relaxed pair of boyfriend jeans or perfectly oversized button-down) for her own wardrobe. After noticing a lack of menswear options in the women's ready-to-wear market, Wildfang heeded the call.
The Portland-based brand launched in March 2013 with a simple mantra: "Liberate menswear, one bow tie at a time." Operating through an e-commerce shop and a brick-and-mortar outpost, Wildfang (which is pronounced "vilt-fong" and roughly translates to "a person captured from the wild" from German) sells boyish items like graphic T-shirts, beanies, snapbacks, and hoodies. In addition to its own designs, the company also retails close to 80 different brands, including Evil Twin, Pointer, and Cheap Monday.
Co-founders Emma Mcilroy and Julia Parsley came up with the concept for Wildfang while working together at Nike (Mcilroy was the Global Brand Manager of Nike Football; Parsley worked on leading international development projects at the Nike Foundation). One day, the two women were perusing the men's department of Urban Outfitters when Mcilroy became fixated on a graphic T-shirt with a screen print of Kate Moss on it. Parsley zeroed in on an oversized blazer. "Julia turned to me and said, 'I'm so frustrated! Why don’t they make this stuff for us?' and I said, 'I never thought about that,'" Mcilroy told InStyle.com. "Everything in there some chick wanted to rock in some way, but they don’t want to look like a guy doing it—they want to look and feel like themselves."
Fast forward four years and Mcilroy and Parsley are launching Wildfang’s first-ever in-house collection—one of four this year—and have already garnered a hefty celebrity following, including Kristen Stewart, Ellen Page, and Ellie Goulding, to name a few. Their latest line, called Band of Thieves, which launched yesterday, is inspired by four different “gangs”: rascals, rockers, heroines, and hellions—each with its own attitude. The rascals clothing was influenced by the skater community (think Dogtown and Z-Boys and American skateboarder Elissa Steamer), the rockers drew from all-female punk groups like the Runaways and riot grrrl bands, the heroines looked to female protagonists of '90s films such as Lara Croft and Sarah Connor, and the hallions give off an urban streetwear vibe à la TLC and, more currently, Rita Ora.
According to Mcilroy, there are myriad ways to bend the gender spectrum: Androgynous dressing runs from Diane Keaton in Annie Hall and Janelle Monáe to Cara Delevingne and Rihanna. “Menswear is not constrained to a single period in time, it’s continually evolving,” she said. “If you’re continually stealing styles and cues from the men’s runway and from the menswear department, you’re allowing yourself to constantly change and evolve.”
Shop the full collection at wildfang.com (prices range from $24 to $132).