From Wildfox To Selkie: How Kimberley Gordon Found Her Freedom
Don't call it a comeback.
Kimberley Gordon has been a fashion designer for nearly 15 years, as evidenced by the impressive evolution of her works. As the co-founder and former creative director of Wildfox, Gordon has used her experience — the good and the bad — to create her latest label: Selkie.
Selkie, which started as an idea some five years ago, has blossomed into a symbolic second chapter and a natural next step for Gordon, representing her transformation as a woman and what she stands for today. Her story is one of finding her voice, defining her feminism, and stepping into a place of empowerment and freedom that allows her to create a brand that's truly aligned with her values. One may call it a comeback, but it's more of a rebirth.
As Gordon puts it, clothes tell a story — this is hers.
Gordon started Wildfox when she was only 24 years old — a young age to start a label. Having virtually no money to get the brand up and running, she and her partner found an investor, and not too long after, Wildfox was a success. Though Wildfox was flourishing financially, a very different story was playing out behind the scenes. Gordon wanted more for Wildfox; she wanted the brand to reflect the feminist movement and all the changes that were occurring in the world, as well as the changes that were occurring within her.
"Mid-way through Wildfox, all of this started to come up inside me," Gordon says. "Hilary Clinton was about to run for president when I was still at Wildfox, and I was like, everything is going to change, it just is, and this company has to change. It's built on something I don’t believe in anymore, it has to evolve. He wouldn't do it." She'd given up much of her control to the investor, and disagreements in vision culminated in him forcing her out of her own company. After that, Gordon entered a period of grief. "I think when you lose something that horribly and that big, even if it's a company, it’s still like something dies, and it was a whole grief process," she says. And from that grief, her next chapter was born.
Gordon said she learned about feminism and how to respect herself from her investor — in a very backwards way. After Wildfox, she began to look at things differently and notice things she hadn't before. "I started to struggle with that as I got older, as my voice became more clear," she says. "I'm 37 now, 24 then, and I just didn’t understand feminism and what it meant to me, and I didn’t understand what I had to go through to understand that. At the time there there were no plus-size models. I didn’t even know what I was missing, I didn’t know I had grown up without plus-size models, I didn’t even know to look for that." While her time at Wildfox didn't go the way she predicted, it opened her eyes to what was important to her and made way for Selkie to enter into the world.
To talk about Selkie the brand, we should first dive into the story behind the name. In folklore, selkies are beings of the ocean who live inside seal skin, only shedding it when they come to shore to lay in the sun. The story goes that if a man steals a female selkie's skin, she's forced to become his wife and live with him on land. A prisoner in captivity, the only way she can return home to the sea is if she finds her skin again, and she spends her whole life looking for it. If she does find her skin, she's immediately freed and returns to the sea, leaving everything else behind. This was Gordon's favorite tale her mom would tell her as a child, and after Wildfox, during her darkest moments, she remembered it. "I thought, it's a new beginning story, this is kind of like the second chapter," she explains. "And I thought, there have to be so many women out there who want to find themselves, or are looking for themselves again, and maybe this company can be a representation of my age group, who's looking for joy later on." Like the selkies of folklore, Gordon found her skin and regained control of her life. Now, she's free.
Selkie's pieces are divinely feminine, whimsical, soft, and colorful. They look like they've been plucked straight from the most pleasant dream imaginable, or your favorite fairytale. Beyond the designs themselves, one of the most standout features of Selkie is its size inclusivity (the brand currently offers 11 sizes). Wondering why more brands don't offer a wider rage of sizes, I asked Gordon about the drawbacks, and I could sense a shrug through the phone before she responded: "There is no drawback... a lot of people will tell you drawbacks, though." Some brands claim it's too expensive to make larger sizes, or that making the pattern is too difficult. "But I just don’t buy these excuses, because why am I not having trouble with them? I just don’t get it," she says. According to Gordon, different types of clothes may be difficult to make in different sizes, but "it’s about looking at what you’re making."
"Is it flattering? And if it’s only made for a small size, is that flattering?" She has to buy more inventory to be able to provide more sizes, but if you make size inclusivity a priority from the get-go, you make it work. "You just have to be strategic, but I’d say that’s the same with anything — you have to be strategic with anything you’re selling" Gordon shares. At the core of it, it's a matter of what's important to you.
Selkie represents a narrative all women can relate to. Just as Gordon found her skin and seized her freedom, she encourages others to do the same. Her brand inspires women to define their values, discover their feminism, and of course, look and feel beautiful along the way.
"I think what a lot of people don’t understand about starting a business, or starting something new, is that part of that is failure," Gordon says. "Failure is a weird word for what it means, I mean, it's really just steps to achievement — even when you fail you're taking steps up towards where you're going. Is someone going to crumble when they hit those steps or are they going to find a way to keep going?"
Clearly, Gordon has done the latter.