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Jackson Wiederhoeft often thinks about fashion in an unconventional sense. In lieu of a traditional show or digital video for his spring 2021 collection, for example, he put together a comic book replete with Mother Goose characters for his label Wiederhoeft.
It’s that sort of quirkiness that has appealed to the likes of Aquaria, Rihanna, Lil’ Kim, and most recently Lady Gaga in the “Stupid Love” video who have all worn his pieces. “My initial inspiration for the ‘Stupid Love’ look was my favorite piece in the Metropolitan Museum of Art's European Decorative Arts Collection,” explains Wiederhoeft of the inspiration behind the look. “It's a really ridiculous pair of hard-paste porcelain sphinx figurines from the late 18th century. They have these big muscular arms with these tiny ‘who me?’ faces, pearl necklaces and tiaras, with minuscule hand-painted flowers. They're very silly and I admire them. ‘Tiny sphinx energy’ is the vibe.”
Some of Wiederhoeft’s other inspirations range from theater, dance, and performance (he’s also worked for Broadway designers like Gregg Barnes and Susan Hilferty. And given the fact that he also worked on designer Thom Browne’s team, it’s clear he has a passion for all things dramatic and couture-like. Here, we talked to the designer about his inspirations, style muses, and what’s next.
What was your main inspiration this season, in your own words?
Honestly, it was emotionally difficult to gear up for this collection. It feels like everyone is processing the collective COVID experience differently and is at different stages... I thought my SS/21 bridal collection would be my "covid project," so when that was finished and America was still in the throes of the pandemic, it was kind of like... "wait, another quarantine collection?"
So, ultimately I knew that whatever I made for this collection needed to be something that would make me want to get up and work, something bright and joyful that would be uplifting to myself and to the viewers. And ultimately I decided to focus on classic Mother Goose characters, these figures that evoke a very simplistic childlike mindset, interpreted in a way that is very cheerful and accessible and unabashedly obvious!
Why choose such an unconventional format?
I definitely designed this collection with the knowledge that everyone would experience it remotely, primarily through our phone screens. But I also found it really important that there would be the possibility of a tangible method of viewing the collection. So I loved the idea of creating a comic book as a really unusual platform. Since I knew I was going to present the collection in this way, I cherished the opportunity to make fewer looks than normal, that could be more developed and involved than they normally would. This format allows for a focus on the imagery and the clothes themselves—only making pieces that I feel are 100% necessary, that I am completely in love with.
Please explain a little bit about the garments, the unique construction, and fabric used.
This collection was really about bows. I had a lot of fun creating garments made of bows, covered in bows, etc. I really narrowed my fabric selection into a few key fabrics like tulle, lamé, taffeta, lace... choosing to explore a million ways to skin one cat.
How did working with Thom Browne influence your own work and the way you make things?
I think one of the greatest things I took from my time at Thom was an unashamed "do what I want" situation. Like, there was a time for work, and a time for play. And when it's play time, we really knew how to throw down. So I suppose that's to say, everything in moderation—but if you're going to have an idea, you really have to push it further than anyone else, really own it.
How does theater, dance, and the magic of live performances influence your work?
To me, there is nothing that brings a garment to life more than a good old 5-6-7-8. I find that live performance activates an energy within the wearer, the viewer, and the air around them that brings the clothes to their most beautiful and emotional state.
You also launched a bridal collection during the pandemic! Why choose to launch bridal now?
I think for most small fashion brands parallel to mine, they focus on a particular product, or category, where they see a gap in the market or an opportunity for a particular item. I think for me, I tend to see things as more of a wide narrative arc, and no one actually dresses in the way that I design the collections (oops!). So bridal has been a way to focus some of the more wild and abstract creative energies into a collection and market that is commercially-minded, with a very clear goal, emotion, and client.
Who are your style muses?
Truly, this collection was an ode to some of my most eternal style muses. Little Bow-Peep, Miss Muffet, Mother Goose, Jack be Nimble... these are the type of people I dreamed of dressing for as long as I can remember. And for some reason my mind is stuck on repeat here... maybe it's arrested emotional development, maybe it's purity of vision!
What's next for you?
I wish I could tell you! This has been a very challenging year to launch a business, but I'm really working to get my bridal business into a groove. That's definitely my focus now, honing and clarifying the bridal line, which has been difficult, because everything is changing so much these days, but also very exciting for the same reason. I'm hopeful that I can come out of this with a new clarity of vision and an understanding of the best ways to reach and create beautiful pieces for the people who appreciate my work.