You may not know the name Jackson Wiederhoeft, but you’ve definitely seen his work. The young designer has created custom pieces for Rihanna, Aquaria, and Lil’ Kim, and most recently, he made the pink bow-bedecked costume Lady Gaga wore in her “Stupid Love” video. Wiederhoeft honed his talents for handwork while working alongside Thom Browne where he focused specifically on embroidery.
Before the pandemic forced him into lockdown, Wiederhoeft had been busy working on his ready-to-wear and developing a bridal collection for an April debut. Those plans were naturally put on hold, but now he’s ready to take the plunge. Yesterday he launched a bridal offering of 23 pieces, including corsets, masks, skirts, tiaras, and veils.
Why pursue a bridal collection right now? The world— America in particular—is still very much in a COVID-19 holding pattern. Weddings have been canceled or scaled down significantly, and brides are shopping for their big days differently than they have in the past. Still, Wiederhoeft believes now is actually an exciting time to work with brides, whether they’re doing an intimate, at-home ceremony or planning for next year and beyond. He sees it as an opportunity to dress brides in couture pieces that they’d probably never dreamed of wearing for their walk down the aisle. Just as he helped create fantasies at Thom Browne and for Lady Gaga, the designer is hoping to create a much-needed sense of escapism for wedding celebrants.
Here, Weiderhoeft shares his story.
Why did you want to launch a bridal collection and why this moment specifically?
The move to starting a bridal collection was very natural. There have been so many times where I was looking at my ready-to-wear pieces with someone and they’d say, ‘I’d love to get married in this.’ The collections already have such a romantic nature, I think it’s an easy conversion. It also makes a lot of sense from a business perspective. Designers across the board are having a lot of trouble following the fall 2020 season, and it’s sometimes easy to feel that the shows were for nothing, as we see orders canceled and stores being super cautious with their buys. But bridal is an amazing opportunity to make really special garments that have staying power and that can be offered season after season. The pieces have a much longer shelf life than the runway collections, which is a great investment for a small brand like mine.
I am very optimistic that the bridal market will pick up eventually. I think it’s actually an exciting time for me to start in the bridal business because everyone is experimenting with new ways of connecting with clients now that traditional appointments and fittings may not be an option. I hope that even if restrictions remain strict we can find new ways of going about our lives regardless. It’s such an important time to conceptualize new systems, rather than waiting for the old way of life to return.
The masks in this collection are definitely a response to the pandemic. It is really the must-have accessory of 2020 and I have no doubt that wedding celebrants will be in need of something to go with their look. Of course, the tulle mask is absolutely not effective against preventing any sort of disease. It’s sort of my anti-veil or a kind of memento mori. It’s a marker of this significant time we live in, and a reminder that there is still love in the midst of a global pandemic.
Have you had interactions with brides getting married this year or next? What have those virtual appointments been like and what are brides looking for right now?
I haven’t had any interactions with pandemic celebrants yet! Amongst my friends in the bridal industry though, it feels like couples are staging very intimate, almost elopement-like ceremonies to tide them over until they can have a larger celebration next year. Also I hope that a lot of brides under various quarantine conditions are spending time planning their ceremonies in a way that will feel really unique and true to who they are since, now more than ever, we all need at least one perfect day.
Can you tell me a bit about some of the visual references and muses you were inspired by from the past?
There are so many incredible performers who are always on my moodboard, from old school ballerinas like Anna Pavlova and Alicia Markova to Moira Shearer, who is one of my all-time favorites. She danced in The Tales of Hoffmann (1951) and The Red Shoes (1948), two of my favorite movies and absolute must-sees for anyone who loves dance film. I always enjoy looking at portraiture, as well. Sargent, Vigee le Brun, Degas, and Winterhalter are consistent go-tos. Actually, one of my highlights of quarantine was finally getting my copy of Cecil Beaton’s Bright Young Things, a breathtaking book of Beaton’s portraits with short biographies of the sitters, their clothes, and their parties.
What was your design process like with this new collection? Do you make everything locally and where are the fabrics and materials sourced from?
I designed this collection earlier in the spring with the usual intention of working with a few factories in the Garment District and creating a few of the more intense hands-on pieces with my team in the studio. The fabrics themselves are sourced from all over the world. They’re from silk mills in England and Italy to lace mills in France and Japan. I also work with embroiderers in Mumbai to develop the hand-embellished pieces, which was the category I designed while at Thom Browne, and something I really fell in love with while working there.
However when the time came to make this collection, all my factories, vendors, and embroiderers closed for the quarantine. I was left to create the collection by myself in the studio. It ended up being a really wonderful moment to spend a lot of time with the pieces and redesign a lot of the collection so that it felt more personal. Once I start to receive orders, everything will be produced locally in New York, especially for the very intricate pieces, because it’s really important to me that I can be hands-on with the artisans who craft them. At the end of the day, a wedding look is not just about the garment, it’s a statement about how the celebrant feels. It’s a piece of their story and something that will elevate them to their best self. With bridal especially, I feel a responsibility to ensure that the garments are very loved.
In your opinion, what do you think is missing from the bridal market?
One idea that I explore in the collection is the idea of bridal separates. Even within the corseted looks, the skirts are actually separate, and I think this gives celebrants a lot of room to explore and find a look that really speaks to them. Various dresses that can be layered with separate blouses and corsets give a sense of depth and versatility.
I also really enjoyed working outside of more traditional bridal silhouettes for some of the looks. I strive to make garments that can be more than an evening dress in white fabric. I believe that bridal is really its own category of clothing that is so heightened and emotional, and I hope brides will appreciate some of the more unorthodox pieces.
What lessons or inspirations have you brought with you from your time at Thom Browne?
I really gained an understanding and appreciation of couture-level craft while working there. Since we were such a small team, I had many opportunities to travel to facilities around the world that opened my eyes to the incredible textile and garment work being created today. I used to travel to Mumbai before the runway shows and spent weeks working with the most incredible embroiderers. It was an experience that taught me so much about the craft (both technically and artistically) and the culture surrounding it.
One of the things I respect the most about Thom is how he never wanted any garment to be too easy. There was this idea that all of the pieces should be a little challenging in their own way, or in Thom’s word, interesting. This idea that every single piece should maintain the brand identity, story, and integrity is absolutely something I strive to do in my own work.