JACKSON WIEDERHOEFT: SARTORIAL THINKING

The NYC-based designer opens up on collaborating with Lady Gaga, a newly launched bridal line, and what it takes to succeed in the fashion industry.

Key Takeaways

  1. "I’m not sure if the Wiederhoeft bridal line is a great fit for the fashion crowd, but it’s a great fit for a lot of people. We’re a niche brand, and I think that’s what makes us special."
  2. "I’m really interested in growing the client-designer relationship and I want to give a new platform for that interaction to flourish. That’s what the showroom is really for."
  3. "One thing I’ve learned is that every designer’s process is different. Don’t compare yourself to other people. Focus on your work and what makes it special."

In the short time since Jackson Wiederhoeft left his embroidery position with Thom Browne to create his eponymous line, back in 2019, the designer has achieved rare success in as little a time, and under some of the worst global economic circumstances in generations. The brand, which is populated by fantastical, highly stylized bodices, shifts, bodysuits, gowns and accessories, has morphed from fashion’s cool-crowd favorite—Brooke Candy and Jazzelle Zanaughtti (@UglyWorldwide) are fans, as is style director Nicola Formichetti, who’s used the designer’s fun and otherworldly pieces in Lady Gaga’s recent music videos and promotional campaigns—into a more stable, bridal-focused line, bringing the designer’s love for attention to detail, luxurious man-made fabrics, and grandiose embellishments to an industry itching for just those things on their most special of days. His dual ability to form buzzy, ready-to-wear fits for It kids, pop stars, and glossy magazine spreads, as well as bridal dresses and suits to match the intensity and ingenuity of Christian Lacroix’s own legendary bridal line (long silk trains, hi-fashion fairytale headpieces, and intricately embroidered gowns in shades of pearl, periwinkle and Wiederhoeft’s signature ballet pink), has won the rising designer glowing accolades from the likes of The New York Times, Vogue, and WWD to PAPER, The Cut, MTV, and more.

And now, Wiederhoeft has opened his first showroom, a terraced pied-à-terre in the heart of Manhattan’s famed Garment District. Opening a showroom is a big deal for any designer, but doing so in a post-pandemic economy is downright brave. But for Wiederhoeft, the decision comes at a time when, for better or worse, his brand is actually doing better than ever; commercial rents in Manhattan is lower than ever; and brides and grooms-to-be (Wiederhoeft services anyone) will always need a physical space to try on and make their important sartorial decisions. With new projects on the horizon and Fashion Weeks around the world, particularly in NYC, on track to make their comebacks in a big way, Jackson Wiederhoeft is primed to continue along his successful fashion journey.

We sat down with Wiederhoeft on the terrace of his shiny new showroom to discuss his bridal line, his collaborations with the likes of Lady Gaga, and his advice for brand new designers trying to break into fashion now, at one of the most challenging times in this industry’s history.

Jackson Wiederhoeft in New York. Photo by Alex Blynn.

ALEX BLYNN: How was your line doing prior to the March 2020 lockdown and subsequent quarantine?

JACKSON WIEDERHOEFT: I launched the brand in October 2019, so it had only been a scant few months in business before COVID hit. Not ideal timing! But I was happy with the progress we made in those months; seeing the very first collections coming together was beautiful and laid the groundwork for everything I’m doing now.

AB: When did you actually start doing Bridal?

JW: My first bridal collection launched in July 2020.

AB: When did you notice how vital your bridal line was becoming to the health of your business?

JW: February of 2020 was our first market week, and it was so difficult even then, pre-COVID, as a new designer, to make any headway into an already oversaturated ready-to-wear market. Quarantine gave me a lot of time to think over what made sense business-wise, and I just felt that focusing on bridal makes more sense for now, given the state of the world.

AB: What is it, do you think, about your bridal pieces that make them especially good fits for the wedding crowd?

JW: I’m not sure if the Wiederhoeft bridal line is a great fit for the fashion crowd, but it’s a great fit for a lot of people. We’re a niche brand, and I think that’s what makes us special. I think that oftentimes “bridal” is seen as passé by the fashion crowd, but I think that we offer something within the bridal world that has a lot of design integrity. It plays with traditional bridal ideas but twists them into something that feels fresh.

AB: Even with the loss of normal revenue streams and skipped Fashion Weeks throughout 2020, you were able to stay involved in multiple projects, including various gowns for the great Lady Gaga, like her most recent Dom Perignon campaign. Can you speak to the importance that this kind of commercial and editorial exposure is for a still-fledgling brand like yours?

JW: Celebrity projects are always great for validating the brand in a certain light. And I’m so blessed to have had some really beautiful celebrity dressing moments. So many people experience the brand for the first time through that exposure, it makes the whole thing come to life for many people. But on the flip side — and I speak with my designer friends about this often — you can create a look that you think is really special, but no one really pays attention to it. Then suddenly a celebrity wears it and everyone calls it “genius.” I think it’s important to remember that while celebrity exposure can shift the context of a garment or a brand, it doesn’t change the substance of the piece itself, which is inherently design-driven.

AB: What were some of your inspirations during COVID? How did you keep your creativity flowing during such a depressive time?

JW: For me it was easier than for many of my friends, because my response to depression and anxiety is to bury myself in the work. The work becomes me and I see nothing else… It's my escape.

AB: You recently opened a brick-and-mortar location in Manhattan. How did you make the decision that now was the time for a physical location (aside from the cheaper commercial rent!)?

JW: Very quickly after releasing the first bridal collection, the experience I was able to offer to potential celebrants had hit a ceiling. The most important aspect of opening a showroom, to me, is giving the clothing a place to live, a place for clients and buyers to interact with your line in a tangible way. I’m really interested in growing the client-designer relationship and I want to give a new platform for that interaction to flourish. That’s what the showroom is really for.

AB: Do you have advice for students or brand new designers? What can they do to stand out in our brave new world?

JW: One thing I’ve learned is that every designer’s process is different. Don’t compare yourself to other people. Focus on your work and what makes it special. Be ready and excited about giving every ounce of your being to the process.

AB: What are you hoping for now that the world is opening back up? What are your plans for the rebirth of NYFW?

JW: I’m not sure what the future brings, but now is the time to experiment. It feels like everyone is gearing up for NYFW and is ready to pop off, which is really exciting. However, it’s also easy for a smaller brand like my own to get lost in the mix, so I need to be careful. At this moment, I’m trying to balance what makes the most sense for the brand from different points of view, and we’ll go from there!