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Jackson Wiederhoeft’s “Spooky Couture” collection
Photography Andrew Tess

The NYC designer celebrating his chosen LGBTQ+ family this Christmas

Jackson Wiederhoeft’s new Polaroid series is a joyous ode to his queer family

For many, Christmas isn’t quite the happy holiday the Hallmark card companies would have you believe – particularly if you’re part of the LGBTQ+ community. From having to make nice when homophobic microaggressions are thrown your way at the dinner table, to prejudiced parents who refuse to accept your sexuality, the so-called season of love and light can actually be one of the hardest times of the year. 

Someone who recognises this is designer Jackson Wiederhoeft, who this festive season opted to celebrate his chosen family – the group of people who uplift and support him (and each other) all the way through the year. Joining forces with photographer Andrew Tess, Wiederhoeft invited his friends to dress themselves up in his first full collection, “Spooky Couture”, threw in a few antlers, angel halos, and a touch of glitter to capture them on film ahead of the holidays – in the hopes that others in similar positions might feel buoyed by the images this Christmas.

Here, the New York-based designer talks us through the project in his own words.

“I did this shoot with Andrew who I first met when he shot some gorgeous Polaroids at my debut show. We first discussed collaborating a few weeks ago, and we were both talking about the whole going home to see the family thing which can be really difficult and stressful for so many people – this feeling of being obligated to spend time with people who don’t understand you and make no effort to, or people who are actively trying to change you. So it became clear that instead of shooting a traditional campaign, we could use this project as an opportunity to spread a positive message about redefining the holiday season on our own terms.

I’m really really blessed to be able to live and create in this postgender New York bubble. I almost forget that most of the world isn’t like that. I graduated from Parsons in 2016 and went on to work for Thom Browne for three years and just launched my brand full time this October. But when I first meet someone and tell them I have a fashion line, they’ll sometimes ask if I do men’s or women’s, to which I’m always just like... both? neither? Ultimately, I design for people who love themselves, who use my clothes as a tool to transform into their best versions, this future self. 

Most of the pieces in the shoot are from my debut SS20 collection, “Spooky Couture”. The collection was this whimsical fairy tale world that we choreographed to make a whole performance. It was this sort of demi-ballet that featured princesses, knights, cherubs, a wizard, jester and dragon. 

The pieces are modelled by Harry Charlesworth, who is a dear old friend, we go way back to the fake ID days. Carla Maldonado who is actually a very close friend of mine who I’ve wanted to dress for a long time. And then Andrew scouted Yasha Lelonek and Vad Shak.   

The most important thing about the project was that we wanted to create this ‘queer Christmas’ safe space. So that when people are home for the holidays, and maybe separated from the people that lift them up and make them strong, they can see the images and remember the feelings of love and support that have helped them become their most glorious selves! But all tea, I’m obsessed with Christmas. My mom asked me what I want for Christmas and I’m still trying to decide if it’s ok to ask her to pay my internet bill? Wrap it up and slap a bow on those late fees. For me, I love doing the tree, listening to Barbra Streisand’s A Christmas Album, but I fully understand that most people don’t feel the same way about the holidays. So, I guess this shoot is just kind of our Christmas card to the world, regardless of where you are or how you feel, to spread a little joy.”

Credits: Photography Andrew Tess, Designer Jackson Wiederhoeft, Designer assistant Sintra Martins, Hair design Sean Bennett, Makeup Slater Stanley, Set Paul Simon