Rules To Live By Fashion

With His Latest Collection, Jackson Wiederhoeft Gets to the Root of 'Gay Dressing'

Portrait of Jackson Wiederhoeft. All images courtesy of Wiederhoeft.

He's put Julia Fox in a full-body veil, Jennifer Coolidge in dripping crystals, and Jeremy O'Harris in a feathered train. Many designers might take this kind of success as a chance to step back from the day-to-day grind of the business. Instead, Jackson Wiederhoeft, who has been at the helm of his eponymous line since 2019, is making himself more available than ever.

The decision goes back to a piece of advice from Thom Browne, whose women's runway collections Wiederhoeft worked on fresh out of Parsons. "He always told me, 'You have to be in all the sales appointments until you physically can't be in them,'" he remembers. "I think he was referring to wholesale appointments with stores, but I take that now even into single-person bridal appointments and that kind of thing." 

When he's not in consultations, the designer is running boxes across town, or adding snapshots of friends to a sprawling moodboard in his studio. Currently, the space is housing his latest collection, set to make its runway debut tomorrow during the New York's Autumn/Winter 2024 Fashion Week. The clothing is inspired by the distinct style of those surrounding him, whom Wiederhoeft characterizes as demon twinks, gym gays, and Wilhelmina Slater-inspired dressers. Here, he offers insight into the development of his own distinct sartorial tastes, and a few tips for those looking to embrace the avant-garde aesthetic. 

Can you tell me about the inspiration behind the new collection?

The collection is called Secret Room, and it's all about secret rooms, physical and metaphysical, inside of our minds and our physical spaces. It's an exploration of desire. I'm trying to explore what sexy is for Wiederhoeft. It's also our most abstract in terms of narrative. 

Were you always an avant-garde dresser? Or is that something that developed over the course of your life?

In high school was when I really went crazy. That's when I started vintage and thrift shopping. I went to school downtown [in Houston], so I would just leave school at the end of the day, get on the bus and go to antique stores, buying lockets and stuff and just chopping up vintage clothes. That's when I really started to explore the possibilities.

Wiederhoeft's Fall/Winter 2023 runway.

Was there anyone in particular who taught you how to dress, whether it was a celebrity or someone in your personal life?

Early on, it was just this psychotic, 18-year-old thing where you're just like trying to do everything at once. Over time, I'm very inspired by my friends. It kind of relates back to this collection; we're exploring gay dressing as a concept. We have a lot of screenshots of my friends’ Instagram stories up on the board. Even, like, sweatpants and a sweatshirt and t-shirt—you make it gay.

There's something in the styling—Wilhelmina Slater, demon twink, or gym gay dressing. There's something deranged about that kind of sentiment that is really fun to explore, that I also see within a lot of my friends. It's been fun to go through the camera roll, the history of the outfits that have been worn, and my own past too, and reference those styling moments of wearing a tiara on top of a baseball hat. Or a Carolina Herrera slip dress from TheRealReal under a grunge t-shirt for a 4th of July party.

I think the more creatively fulfilled I am, the more simply I dress. So, I kind of just wear t-shirts these days, whereas I used to be a really extravagant dresser most days. But I do find that maybe that dressing was just my way of getting that feeling out, and now I get to use that muscle every day.

You feel like you're leaving it all on the runway?

Yeah, I haven't bought new clothes for myself, like anything designer, in five years. I love garments and I collect pieces. My apartment has four closets, and they're all full of gorgeous clothes, none of which I wear because I always wear the same black t-shirts and jeans.

Wiederhoeft's Spring/Summer 2024 runway.

Do you have a corner in one of those four closets that's just a row of black t-shirts? Where are you pulling from?

Out of a laundry bag on the floor. It’s just a permanent laundry bag of white socks, black t-shirts, black underwear, and like three pairs of black jeans, and some hoodies. I wore a Neopets hoodie to work today that a friend gave me.

Are you really picky about what those items are? Some people wear a t-shirt and jeans every day, but they're like, “I will only wear this t-shirt, and this specific denim.”

It's exactly the same thing every single day, pretty much. The staple is Uniqlo Supima cotton black t-shirt, Cookman elastic waist wide-leg jeans, Calvin Klein black briefs, white no-show No Nonsense brand socks, and white Air Max Pro 90 sneakers. I literally have like seven pairs of those shoes, and I just bring them to the cleaner.

That's such a thing: designers get to a place where they have a uniform.

The Anna Wintour and the Thom Brownes, they have their uniform and I think it's really smart. My uniform, I'm hoping it'll get a little more cute. It's very work friendly, because at the end of the day, a lot of times, I'm working like 16 hours a day. I am my own production manager right now, so I'm always running boxes around Midtown. If you're wearing a nice blouse on 38th Street and you're carrying a box full of hangers across a few avenues, you're just going to look like shit.

Smith, who's our director of experience, is always dressed up because that's their style. And Smith doesn't have to carry boxes. If we're in a sales appointment, Smith will be wearing a big satin dress with heels and jewelry. We always joke [that] people think Smith is me, because Smith looks so good and I look like shit. It's fun to just play with, [to] let it roll. It becomes like a performance.

Wiederhoeft's Fall/Winter 2023 runway.

Jackson Wiederhoeft’s Rules to Live By:

  1. Always have at least one emergency safety pin on your person. I have one on my keychain at all times. Truly, you never know when a single safety pin can save your life.
  2. Always be corseting. Lace up your life and cinch the waist away. You deserve it.
  3. Always be closing. In the words of our mother Nicki Minaj, “I’m not a businesswoman, I am a business, woman.”
  4. Always send the “good morning” text. Check in on the girls, send a little love. Send a “good morning bitch” when you’re feeling spicy. Leave a post-it love note for the girls.
  5. Never underestimate the power of, “You were right.”