For the designer Jackson Wiederhoeft, life is a beautifully produced ballet—and in it, the streets are full of illustrious gowns brushing past one another in melodic unison, as the wearers head to all-hands meetings, errands, and lunch breaks. “I very much love the idea that people could be wearing poodle dresses day-to-day,” the 28-year-old tells me on a recent Friday afternoon Zoom call.
In the few years of its existence, Wiederhoeft’s namesake fashion label has established the Houston-raised designer, who graduated from Parsons School of Design, as one to watch. Wiederhoeft’s childhood inspirations of The Nutcracker, Beauty & the Beast, and general nostalgia of being a theater kid are apparent in his most recent resort 2022 collection, along with his 3-year tenure at Thom Browne. His meticulously detailed awareness and ability to create a fantasy fashion universe have garnered him attention from celebrities, designers, and critics alike—and the fashion industry has taken note, too; the designer has been named a 2022 CFDA finalist.
Although he notes that his brand has not reached its final form, there is a throughline of fantasy in all seven of his collections. His eighth collection, which he’s working on at the moment, will be his first runway show, and he intends to present a full meal. “It’s going to be fashion show meets theater, so everything from scenic to choreography to casting,” he explains.
For now, we may not see the average human heading to their 9-5 decked in a poodle-embellished gown, but Wiederhoeft, (along with us like-minded individuals,) can dream. Below, the Sunset Park native discusses why Natalie Portman’s Star Wars character, Queen Amadala, is the ultimate style inspiration; his first big fashion purchase; and why it is okay to be fancy at work.
What was the last thing you purchased?
I bought some sparkly green platform Loewe sandals [while] shopping the clearance, end-of-season sale—my favorite place to shop—at Bergdorf’s.
Describe your style in three words.
That’s hard. Is self-aware one word or two words?
We can say it’s one.
Okay. Self-aware. Unapologetic. Fancy.
What were you wearing yesterday, and why did you decide to wear it?
Yesterday, I was wearing a skirt from our fall 2022 collection. It’s acid green, fully beaded, a very plain pencil skirt but with crazy embroidery. I wore the new shoes I bought and a pistachio-colored moiré shirt—I was giving Green Lady of Brooklyn. I love people to see the clothes on me [so they get] the sense that they can actually wear it. You can be fancy at 2:00 PM. It’s cool.
Looks from Wiederhoeft’s pre-spring 2023 collection.
What was your style like as a teenager?
It was like, kooky grandma tapestry. I got really into fashion through thrift stores and vintage stores. I remember very clearly the first vintage thing I ever bought was this huge gold locket, so I used to layer all this granny jewelry. I had a curtain that I would wear as a cape.
What were other kids wearing?
I went to an all boys’ Catholics school, so a lot of Sperry and khakis, polo shirts. My theater friends and I, we’d all dress up on the weekends and go to museums and thrift stores and try to feel very fancy. That was a spiritual awakening for me. Over time, I’ve become a little quieter in my own fashion because I get to create so much crazy work—I have a lot of beautiful models who wear the clothes and walk a lot better in heels than I do.
What’s the best fashion advice you’ve ever received?
I don’t know if it was a piece of advice, but I met Tziporah Salamon, one of the advanced style icons, at the Augusta Auctions [in Vermont] once—I used to go just to look through the auctions of vintage clothes. I was on the train with her after, and she opened up her purse. Inside her purse were seven smaller purses. I gasped. I could not believe my eyes. I think seeing people like that, who are so quirky and full of surprises, it’s just like, “Do it. Just do the damn thing.”
What was your first major fashion purchase?
I remember this very clearly because I took my first paycheck from Thom Browne and I went to Saks and bought Louis Vuitton boots. It must have been fall 2015, and they were these platform, space-gray boots with a metallic finish. I felt so rich and fancy. Turns out, you probably shouldn't be buying $2,000 shoes when you’re working an entry-level designer job, but it felt like the most important thing I could possibly do at that moment.
It is the funniest thing when you buy something designer for the first time and you’re like, “I’ve made it.”
Full price. Full price! And I was absolutely not raised [that way,] I don’t buy anything full price! I love shopping the sale racks. It’s actually a sport for me. But, in that moment, I felt like, “I’m a rich designer, and I’m going to buy these boots.” I’ve never told my mom that. She would die.
What is your favorite fashion moment from pop culture?
[The journalist] Amy Fine Collins at the Met Gala, every year. I think she is one of the chicest people on the face of the planet, and she used to always wear the weirdest, most iconic designer looks from the Thom runway shows. We used to do so many Met Gala fittings with, obviously, movie stars and stuff, but when I got to meet Amy Fine Collins, I was so nervous. I was shaking.
What is always in your bag?
Oh my god, the inside of my bag is so scary. Always have your notebook—I tell that to everyone who works for me, too. Any time an intern starts, first day, I say, “Don’t forget your notebook. There are a lot of things to observe in the world.”
Who is your ultimate style icon?
It’s probably going to be Queen Amidala. There’s something about her that’s very modern-nostalgia. It is so space age but also giving medieval, renaissance vibes. When I saw her as a kid, I was like, “I want to be you, but I also want to dress you.” That very ambiguous grandiosity was so mysterious and enchanting and otherworldly. I was at this wedding in June, and I got to have these huge Princess Leia buns, and I felt I was channeling that energy.
I’ll say it: I feel like Queen Amidala is having a moment.
Yeah. I think her moment is infinite. Some trends are forever. The tectonic plates shifted when The Phantom Menace happened and we saw her for the first time.
What friend or designer’s style do you admire the most?
Sandy Powell. I think she is one of the most fashionable designers. Her costumes are some of the most beautiful costumes in the world. It’s my dream to dress her one day. She often wears fashion for a cause, or in a purposeful way. I always felt like if I went out of business, I’m going to go try to intern for her—that’s my backup plan. I want to either intern for her or Christian Lacroix as my exit strategy.
Do you have any big fashion regrets?
I feel like all of my stories come back to shoes, so I’m going to try not to talk about shoes again. But also, it’s the first thing that comes to mind, so I’ll just say it. There were these Prada slingback, leopard-printed, pony hair shoes, and they were on sale, and they were my size, and I didn’t buy them. You know what? I literally got home that night, and I called the store, and they were like, “We sold it.” I have spent the past four years trying to find those shoes again. They don’t exist in my size anywhere.
Looks from Wiederhoeft’s pre-spring 2023 collection.
What’s your daily uniform?
Most days, it’s pretty casual. I definitely love a Uniqlo t-shirt and an oversized, baggy jean. I like to feel like a little baby with my pants kind of falling off. I also love jewelry, and collect a lot of vintage jewelry, so it’s usually a necklace of some sort, just to have something nice. Then, of course, my glasses. I need them to see, but I’m also very into nerdy glasses right now.
What is your style pet peeve?
Seeing body makeup on clothes. Obviously, we all love a little body makeup, but if it’s rubbing onto your clothes within 10 minutes of you wearing it, I think it’s maybe a little too much. We all want to look our best, but let’s be conscious of taking care of the clothes, too.
Last question—we’re going back to shoes. What is your preferred footwear?
For day-to-day, it’s my Nike Air Max, always. I have a closet full of them. But when I’m trying to look nice, it’s either Prada or Marc Jacobs. I have a pair of really beautiful black matte leather Marc Jacobs boots that are my ultimate workhorse. They’re from, I think, fall 2015. A friend of mine used to work for Marc, and I would trade them Thom Browne sweaters for Marc Jacobs shoes.