Out of Office is a regular feature of brands we love—and we think you will too! Each of the brands we highlight must meet three criteria: 1) have a woman in charge; 2) create sustainably, responsibly, and thoughtfully; and 3) fit in with the lives we’re actually living. Read on to find out more about this week’s brand, the lady behind it all, and the advice she has for women everywhere.
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It happens all the time. You walk into a store and it just doesn’t seem like anything is your style, so you leave empty-handed. And if your style or size doesn’t happen to fit into the neat little boxes of women’s fashion (as deemed by the glossies), you likely struggle even more. That’s exactly what happened in 2010 when Emma Mcilroy, co-founder and CEO of Wildfang, was on the hunt for a bold graphic tee. When nothing in the women’s department was working, she headed to the men’s section, where she found a great shirt with a suggestive pic of Kate Moss on it. She was in love! And then she realized it wouldn’t fit her. “Ems, why don’t they make this shit for us?” her friend implored. And Emma said, “Jules, why don’t we start a clothing company that allows women to wear whatever the hell they want?” And her friend said, “Yeah, maybe,” which was enough. So they decided to make that shit for them (them meaning all women). And they called it Wildfang. Wildfang is German for “tomboy.” In an interview with Racked when Wildfang first started, Emma explained that for herself and co-founders Julia Parsley and Taralyn Thuot, tomboy “stands for a real fun-loving, cheeky, carefree, positive, bold girl that I think many of us aspire to be when we’re at our best,” and “sums up, loosely, that menswear-inspired vibe that we’re going after.” Wildfang wants to empower women by “smashing gender roles” through the clothing they sell. With the recent widespread resurgence of feminist sentiment the internet over, Wildfang has continued to ride the wave and do what they’ve always done: design cool shit for women. Wildfang makes their own clothing and also acts as a boutique for other badass brands. They’re inclusive in their sizing too, making sure that their stuff isn’t just for the slimmer figures of the world. Their presence in the space has given them a political voice as well. Emma said in a Forbes article: “I never intended Wildfang to be political—but then I also never intended it to be political to be a woman.” Wildfang doesn’t just make statement tees and yell into an echo chamber; they also make tangible change by donating to causes they feel passionate about. They made major headlines when they produced the “I Really Care, Don’t U?” jacket in response to Melania Trump’s jacket fiasco. Rather than just criticize Melania’s (ridiculous) choice to wear her “I Really Don’t Care, Do U?” jacket while visiting detained immigrant children, Wildfang created their own spin as a t-shirt with the goal to raise $100,000 for RAICES, a non-profit that provides immigrants and refugees with legal aid and services. (In the end, they raised $250K.) In addition, Wildfang has donated $100,000 to save the last abortion clinic in South Dakota and $75,000 to Planned Parenthood, ACLU, and Tegan and Sara Foundation, among others. Proceeds from their “Wild Feminist” collection also give back to a different charity each month. That’s some serious coin going to those incredibly important causes. Wildfang is about more than selling a style of clothing missing from the mainstream fashion market. They empower women with clothing to feel their best, most confident, most authentic self, and they use their pieces to make statements. As Emma said in one interview, “Fashion has been historically a very political way to express our views.” It’s clear that Wildfang takes that seriously.
HealthyWay’s Picks From Wildfang
Where to even begin? (Seriously, they have a ton of stuff and it’s all so frickin’ cool. So picking out my faves was a toughy.) I decided to limit myself to things just made by Wildfang, but they also sell pieces from brands like RVCA, Hips & Hair, and Bridge & Burn. I’m pretty reserved when it comes to fashion: I tend to dress in neutrals with clean lines and few patterns. And yet this shirt exists. The Ultimate WF Cat Button Up is truly incredible and I only lament that I didn’t find it sooner. And now I’m back to my regularly scheduled programming with this black on black Wild Feminist tee. I love how it’s subtle but still carries a strong message for those who choose to pay attention. That’s probably a metaphor for something. The Wild Feminist crop pants are too damn cool. I didn’t realize until I inspected closely that the grid print is actually made up of text that says “Wild Feminist” over and over. Brilliant! That’s a pattern I can get down with. You better believe that I’ll be outfitting my daughter in this kids tee. She’s all about girl power, so this is the perfect shirt for her to wear as she heads into first grade this fall. And finally, I had to include these Wild Feminist sparkle pens. (I’m a pen and planner addict.) When something as simple as a pen can share a message and it has sparkles, I am all over it.
Q+A With Emma Mcilroy
What’s your why behind the brand? What inspired you to start your company?
My best friend and I were shopping in the men’s department at a local clothing store—I was shopping for a bold, provocative graphic tee—which you never find in women’s section. Everything there is always floral and bohemian. My best friend wanted a cool blazer and found one she loved in the men’s department but it was way too big for her. That got us thinking—why are there certain styles you aren’t allowed to wear because of your gender? Why are women restricted from buying certain styles? So we decided to change that. We decided to start a company that allows women to express themselves however the hell they want.
Walk us through your typical work day.
There is no typical day! I’ll give you an example of how yesterday went—started at 8:30 a.m. with a four-hour offsite with my eCommerce team to do a SWOT analysis of our website and plan our web development roadmap for fall 2018. Immediately after that, I had an HR meeting with a staff member about promoting them into a new role. Next I did a quick interview for a radio station. I then met with our Amazon consultant to brainstorm ways to grow our Amazon business and set sales forecast for rest of 2018. My day in the office ended with a review of the creative direction for H1 2019—reviewing the key trends, colors, materials for the spring and summer seasons. I finally got an hour to do emails and grab food before I headed over to our Free Speech event at our store. I’m the host and the event is phenomenal. I got home around 10 p.m.
What’s up next for your company?
We’re actually getting ready to open an LA location this fall, are giving back TONS of money ($250K) to RAICES from our “I Really Care” collection in response to Melania Trump’s “I Really Don’t Care Jacket,” and getting ready to release some killer suits for fall. We are also working really hard on our product right now to improve the fit and the quality but also expand the sizing range so more women can access it. Our new suiting goes up to size 20 and we’re psyched about how awesome it looks. The long-term goal is to be her favorite brand and make a huge impact on our community.
If you had to pick just one of your pieces as your favorite, which would it be and why?
It would be the Wild Feminist tee. That shirt always makes me feel bolder and braver. I wear it when I need a little confidence boost.
Five-Minute Mentor Session
What’s your best advice for our readers?
Surround yourself with only the best people who 100 percent share your vision. If you can build great teams with shared vision you will ALWAYS win. You need a #yeahmaybe crew.
What’s your favorite way to practice self-care?
By turning off my phone. Emails and social media create stress and distraction. When my phone is off, my mind clears.
Balance or harmony?
How do you define wellness?
Wellness applies to body, mind, and emotional health. All three have to work together. When one is damaged they all suffer. Wellness is connected to balance and regeneration for me. I try to make room for both.
What book do you think all women need to read?
Pick your fuel of choice: Coffee, tea, or something else?
Black tea, ideally an Assam
What’s your ideal day off of work?
Going to the Oregon Coast with my wife. I love the sea so much.
What was your first job?
I had two: working in my dad’s shop and also being a bartender at local social club.
What has been your biggest obstacle in building your company and how did you overcome it?
People. It’s always about motivating and identifying a team. I never settle for anything less than the best for a role. And I never settle for someone who is not a cultural fit. Get the people right and you get everything else right.
How do you stay motivated?
Our mission and our customers keep me motivated. They are why we get up every day and work hard.
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