Before feminism became a fashion statement, Wildfang was there. The rise wasn’t glamorous — it consisted of thoughtful planning, market research, and knowledge gleaned while working at Nike — but the concept was real and resonated with founders, Emma McIlroy and Julia Parsley. Today, Wildfang has become one of the stores we didn’t know how much we needed or how much it mattered, until our bodies, gender and race became politicized (again) in the 2016 election.
The idea was that men shouldn’t have the exclusive rights to menswear (i.e. blazers, button-ups, coach jackets) and that these shapes were meant for everyone. While this was the basic premise, the retailer quickly advanced to the shortlist of woke retailers by bringing a platform, voice and funding to the liminal space that its audience sometimes finds itself in.
“We had never intended to be a deeply political party, but we also never thought being a woman or a minority would be political in and of itself,” said Emma, “It’s really difficult to talk about a pair of jeans when someone might lose a member of their family in an ICE raid.”
Of course, it’s not that gender and race has suddenly become politicized in 2017, but rather the shocking revelation that disturbing sexist and racist ideologies still account for nearly half of the voter population.
In 2016, Wildfang donated over $20k to combating these ideologies, including Planned Parenthood and the ACLU. Over $50k is estimated for 2017. “From day one, we’ve always had a mission to strengthen our community, and the community made it [known] that they wanted to see us give back, that they wanted us to have an impact on the world in a really positive way. The ACLU and Planned Parenthood have been able to do that,” explains Emma.
The retailer also has an upcoming collaboration with Underwood by Union Wine, a winery local to Portland, which will generate additional funds for Planned Parenthood. It’s important to note that all of these funds are being raised — and donated — despite the fact they have not yet turned a profit.
Additionally, the philanthropic company hosts a monthly storytelling platform, Free Speech, in which queer-identified peoples or women of color make up more than 50 percent of the speakers. The event commands over 100 people in their downtown Portland location, with stories as diverse as their audience. There’s no loser, and the stories aren’t edited, hence the name Free Speech. The brand plans to deliver the monologues in podcast form sometime in 2018, which we’ll quickly add in to our rotation.
While Wildfang currently only exists in Portland and online (and some might argue, our collective consciousness’), they’re opening their Los Angeles location by winter of 2017. And while it’s undecided as to whether their Free Speech event will exist there, there’s no doubt they’ll be housing their coveted button-ups — now in sizing to suit more body types, we should note.