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Ex-Nike entrepreneurs launch an online shop for fashion that's all about tomboy style.

Interview By Jen Hazen, February 19, 2013

No need to borrow from the boys anymore when it comes to menswear fashion, ladies. On March 1, Portland-based start-up Wildfang—the first online store specifically catering to tomboy style—is set to launch. So get out your wallets. Founded by Portlanders and Nike breakaways Emma McIlroy and Julia Parsley, Wildfang is a shopping site that offers a carefully curated selection of brands for a head-to-toe tomboy look—that’s tailored for ladies. We spoke with Wildfang’s creative director Taralyn Thuot about tomboy idols, gender neutrality in fashion, and “liberating menswear, one bowtie at a time.”

Julia, Emma, Tara of Wildfang, Photo by Megan Holmes

Nothing Major: How did you meet Wildfang’s founders, Emma and Julia? 
Taralyn Thuot: Ems and Jules have known each other for years. I came into the fold when they were looking for someone with a strong point of view on fashion and style. My last gig was concept and trend forecasting for women's at Nike, so when they were looking for a style guru...my name bubbled up. The rest is history.

NM: What does tomboy style means to you?
TT: Simply defined, tomboy style is stealing the pieces traditionally reserved for men and incorporating them into our style vernacular. But the fun lies in reinventing these styles both in the pieces themselves and how we pair them together. I love the idea of a tailored matched suit set with a mesh singlet underneath. It‘s sexy and empowering to hijack these menswear pieces and make them right for us. 

Photo by Lindsey Byrnes

NM: Who are some idols of tomboy fashion for you all? 
TT: I love looking at past and present tomboys. Its inspiring how timeless tomboy style is—from Coco Chanel to Kate Lamphear, from Patti Smith to Polica. These women are all being true to themselves and their personal style.

NM: So, how did Wildfang’s curation of brands come about?  
TT: I may be a certified shopaholic....so yeah, my favorite past time is also research for my job. However, we have been obsessive about curating a mix of brands that range from trusted to obscure. Quality, fit and details are paramount when we select brands to feature, and each item is signed off on by the whole team. 

Photo by Lindsey Byrnes

NM: What types of items (and price points) can shoppers expect to see on your site? 
TT: We’re committed to styling a head to toe look for her... jackets, trousers, wingtips, etc. She can come to us for basics, like jeans and tees, and for those drool-worthy pieces, like a bomber jacket or leather pants. Prices will equally range the gamut, reflective of the range in product offering. 

We want to ensure our collection not only ranges from premium basics to pinnacle must-haves, from classic to re-invented, but also create badass head-to-toe looks that are authentic and aspirational.

Photo by Lindsey Byrnes

NM: What will they NOT see? 
TT: I have learned in my many years of taking fashion risks to never say never. But I am pretty confident you won't see us featuring anything made of tulle or crinoline.

NM: Haha! I’m sure you won’t hear complaints. Do you think we’re reaching a point of gender neutrality with fashion? 
TT: I think the zeitgeist of our time is that there are NO RULES in fashion. Men wear women's clothing, women wear men's clothing, people mix name brands with high street brands with vintage. It is all about personal style and curation. We will have a healthy mix of all these, reflective of how our girl actually dresses. 

NM: What’s it like working for Wildfang?
TT: The Wildfang family is currently comprised of 20+ part-timers, full-timers and double-timers, who eat, sleep and breathe tomboy fashion and culture. And what we lack in old age, we make up for in talent, hard work and good old-fashioned chutzpah. There are a few ex-Nike and Weiden + Kennedy folks. Our photographer and filmmaker have shot some of the biggest names in music. And we have two DJs, a political strategist and a professional party-planner on staff, too. 

Photo by Lindsey Byrnes

NM: Will there be any bonus content on the site? I’d die to watch videos of you styling looks.
TT: Oh no! RIP Jen! Style tutorials coming your way soon! 

NM: What makes me so happy about Wildfang is that young girls who want to dress tomboy will finally find acceptance from a retail standpoint. That’s huge. 
TT: I love that! We are putting a stake in the ground that tomboy style is not a passing fad. Girls are demanding it day in and day out. The tomboy has been with us forever and always will be. It's about time she had somewhere to call home.

NM: There’s a vintage component to Wildfang. Can you explain that?
TT: I wanted to highlight a curated vintage assortment because it's reflective of how girls dress today. I usually have at least one vintage piece on a day...often its a military jacket or a statement accessory. 

NM: There’s some starpower in that teaser video: The L Word’s Kate Moennig, soccer star Megan Rapinoe, drummer of Gossip Hannah Blilie... How did that come about? 
TT: Here is the rad thing about the ladies in our video....they all swooned over the concept behind Wildfang. I won't name names, but one of them even did cartwheels when they heard about the concept. Honestly, that's why we approached each of them. Because they authentically represent our consumer and the demand for tomboy fashion. And they were all as equally frustrated as we were that no one is consistently catering to their style. 

NM: Any secrets we can leak about the the March launch?
TT: All I'll say is you can expect to see a few more familiar faces join the Wildfang family.

Visit Wildfang