Expect the Unexpected
Wildfang founder Emma Mcilroy speaks on gender, style, confidence, and answering the call of the wild.
Gender has always been a mystery to me. Growing up, my two best friends were guys. Additionally, I had two older brothers whom I worshipped. These males were my roles models and equals. I remained blissfully unaware of our anatomical and genetic differences until my early teens. Fortunately, by that time, the foundations of my youth had been solidly set. I’d convinced myself that I had the ability to hold my own in any conversation or workout, irrespective of the gender of those who surrounded me. Undoubtedly the freedom with which I was allowed to find my identity gave me the confidence to tackle any task I set my mind to, without consideration or fear of the ‘norm’. Once, a very smart man gave me a wonderful compliment, which I’ve always held dear. He said, “I feel fortunate to have met you – perhaps because I have grown up in the wilderness, I know the brilliance embodied in the ‘wild’”.
Wildfang is a result of this; a home for female Robin Hoods who steal their style from the boys and want to leave their mark on this world. Traditional gender boundaries mean nothing to them. Your gender should not exist to restrict your fashion choices or your career opportunities. Wildfang is where we truly value what it means to be ‘wild’.
Despite running this “fashion” brand, fashion is something I know very little about. That’s evident in my first grade school photos — complete with heavy knit vest, red corduroy jacket, and thick Mickey Mouse frames from the boy’s section. Fashion always seemed confusing and fragile to me. Instead, I’ve always found the most intoxicating people to be those with true self-confidence. Confidence in who they are, what they do, and why they do it. That confidence spills out in the way they wear their hair, their clothes, the way they speak, the way they listen, the way they move. And that confidence allows them to be free.
Which is really what Wildfang is about: to bring freedom and confidence to millions of women. Some of those women want to make a bold statement, some of those women don’t. But all of them want freedom and confidence to express themselves and be who they are. All of them want to have their style fuel them, rather than hold them back. When you aren’t able to express yourself, life can really suck: you bomb job interviews; you don’t have the guts to ask the girl on that first date; you stop chasing the things that really matter to you.
If there is a line between masculine and feminine, then my personality and style dance all over that line. Growing up, I was athletic, confident, and outspoken, so others would have likely labeled me more masculine than my peers. Now, as an adult, I delight in this ability to swing from one end of the gender spectrum to the other. I relish the chance to go from a button down and skinny tie to four-inch heels and a cocktail dress. Ever since I can remember, I’ve liked to push boundaries and delighted in traveling the path others said I couldn’t take, as the tattoo on my right hip attests (“Expect the unexpected”). There’s nothing more fun than defying convention or proving someone wrong. For me, gender expectations are a part of that convention. And as Patti Smith says: being any gender is a drag.
Learn more about Emma, Wildfang, and shop the collection at wildfang.com.