Despite taking home the top prize at his Parsons’ graduation show (and along with it a prominent display in a Saks Fifth Avenue window), 22-year-old Houston native Jackson Wiederhoeft is taking things one step at a time, accepting a position as an associate designer with Thom Browne in New York, where he has spent the last two years interning and whose flair for theatrics has proven to be the perfect match. “I remember being in high school, where I helped out with costumes in the theatre department, looking at his shows and just being blown away,” says Wiederhoeft. “They’re always such an event. I think we’ve lost so much of that in fashion.”
That said, Wiederhoeft is certainly doing his part to inject whimsy and drama back into the industry. His senior collection, titled “The Dollies” featured eight looks (most students produce five) that were divided into three “acts.” Models included club kid Harry Charlesworth and a drag queen named Sissy. Only two participants were actual models. “It’s all about finding the right energy versus the right look. If a model’s not comfortable wearing something, that’s going to show.” Wiederhoeft eschewed traditional make up artists as well, instead preferring the heavy-handed, fearless approach of drag queen Age of Aquaria.
“It was a combination of everything I’ve ever seen and loved,” says Wiederhoeft of the collection that featured strong 18th century references (a favorite period of the designer’s) including a voluminous sky blue tutu that required 30 yards of tulle. Slipping on a stunning gold brocade bolero with mirror shard-like embellishments, it’s evident that Wiederhoeft’s work overseeing the embroidery for Browne’s men’s and women’s collections has certainly honed his eye for detail. Turns out the jacket has just been returned from CR Fashion Book (already the press requests are rolling in..)
If it seems a lot for a 22-year-old, it is. Wiederhoeft explains that many students don’t complete their senior year. “It’s hard to manage. The physical and emotional, the planning, the money. It just takes so much out of you.” How does he deal with the stress? “I eat,” jokes Wiederhoeft. “But it shakes a lot of people and it certainly shook me. It still does sometimes but I think the excitement of the new keeps pushing me forward.” In order to cover the expense of producing his student collection (the projects are not included in tuition), which down to the jewelry and shoes amounted to around $15,000.00, Wiederhoeft took on a lot of part-time jobs and freelance gigs. “I didn’t have a lot of money but I spent every dime I had and more,” says Wiederhoeft.
On his decision to refrain from launching his own label straight out of school? “I’ve learned so much over the past two years,” says Wiederhoeft, sounding wise beyond his 22 years. “I want to work for a designer for a long time before I do my own thing.” But when the time comes, Wiederhoeft has a clear vision and a wealth of inspiration. He loves researching and creating a world that has a strong narrative to it and counts music (everything from Broadway musicals to synth pop) and just the pulse of the garment district as an inspiration. “It’s just incredible to see the fashion in the street: on people, on the racks and bolts of fabric falling all over the sidewalk,” says Wiederhoeft. Unlike many designers, he doesn’t have a particular girl or even an age in mind. “It’s an attitude,” he says. And that is undoubtedly something Wiederhoeft’s designs have in spades.