Jackson Wiederhoeft may be the last person someone would expect to "love Christmas" (his debut collection was literally titled "Spooky Couture"), but don't judge the Wiederhoeft book by its cover.
"I love anything nostalgic that gives you a reason to feel sentimental," the designer tells Fashionista.
The bright and jolly nature of the holiday season might not sync up with the moody aesthetics and dark themes his namesake brand's recognized for. But Wiederhoeft's fascination with it goes deeper: "Within the Christmas tradition, you have so many layered meanings and archetypes, like Santa's red suit, and it's really interesting to get to contribute to a mythology that's so permanent."
He did his part by way of a partnership with Nemacolin, a luxury resort in Farmington, Pennsylvania you may know as the setting for the first pandemic season of "The Bachelor". What may seem like a semi-random connection originated from Wiederhoeft's days at Parsons School of Design, where he met PJ Magerko-Liquorice, the son of Nemacolin owner and CEO Maggie Hardy. Upon graduating, Magerko-Liquorice became the property's vice president of brand strategy, and a creative relationship with Wiederhoeft began.
"I've been Jackson's number-one fan since the beginning," Magerko-Liquorice, tells Fashionista. "It's just been an ongoing friendship and collaboration since college."
Magerko-Liquorice first tapped Wiederhoeft to design uniforms for Nemacolin a few years ago. Now, he's calling on the brand again, only this time to create the wardrobe for the resort's biggest installation yet: a mystical, immersive holiday experience dubbed Hardy's Holiday Village, set inside one of Nemacolin's ballrooms.
"It started with this beautiful European village vibe with very whimsical set design," says Magerko-Liquorice. "It started as a space architecturally, but my mom was like, 'We need elves, people to bring it to life.'"
That's where Wiederhoeft came into the picture, helping bring the vision to life through the elves' costumes, which build off the brand's previous work for Nemacolin, as well as its existing ready-to-wear collections.
Don't be surprised if you see remnants of this project in the brand's forthcoming runway designs: "There are dancer elves, actor elves, diva elves, cabaret elves and, of course, Santa and Mrs. Claus — I've been looking at them so much that they're just in my brain as we're designing the new collection," Wiederhoeft says. "It's really fun to be inspired by a lot of different things that are very unrelated and create this beautiful soup."
The recipe for Wiederhoeft's Christmas-themed "beautiful soup" not only includes the magic ingredient of great clothing, but also a trusted network of creatives. That includes Austin Goodwin, who choreographs the brand's shows, plus many of the models who were also part of Wiederhoeft's Spring 2024 "Night Terror at the Opera" runway, including head cabaret elf, Steph Amoroso.
"[The Spring 2024 show] was an insanely magical experience. When you put any Wiederhoeft design on, you feel like the best version of yourself," Amoroso says. "Getting to work with them again for this, in this magical place, wearing their magical designs, it's like you're immediately transported to another world. I think they're one of the most talented, inspiring and trailblazing minds in fashion today."
In the Hardy Holiday Village, Amoroso leads the elves in a musical performance wearing a show-stopping pink Wiederhoeft look made from a metallic fabric that almost resembles a candy bar wrapper. The coat-like dress features a belted waist and voluminous circle skirt, while a pointed collar covered in iridescent sequins adds the perfect amount of playfulness. (It makes the whole thing feel a bit Willy Wonka-y — just in time for the new film.)
Different elves are scattered all around the holiday village in different Wiederhoeft creations, from jumpsuits to overalls to dresses. ("I haven't seen a lot of elves in overalls. It's a little lederhosen kind of vibe," Wiederhoeft says.) Though they all vary in silhouette, the looks share a throughline of bows, whether on the collars, belt buckles or up and down the sleeves. This motif is nothing new in the Wiederhoeft world: The cutesy symbol is seen throughout the Spring 2024 collection, most prominently on a white, shoulder-padded gown, which Wiederhoeft wore to the Hardy Holiday Village's opening.
"I was able to bring fabrics and embroideries that were fresh in my mind from the show [into this project]," says Wiederhoeft.
Lines of rhinestones cascade down the sides of the neck, onto the costumes' collars and waistlines, creating loosely-tied bows. On the chiffon sleeves, more cartoon-ish ribbons in sunset-colored gradients wrap around the arms, reminiscent of gift wrapping. Perhaps the most fun blink-and-you'll-miss-it detail are the bow buttons on each elf look.
"When I was 18, I couldn't decide if I wanted to be a costume designer or a fashion designer — I realized that if I moved to New York, I could probably just do both," Wiederhoeft says. "It's really exciting to get to work on so many different types of projects, from film to photo to live performance. I really like to have a lot of very different projects that seem very unrelated, because I find that they do feed into each other creatively. I have a collage mentality about it — it keeps the work fresh."
Hardy's Holiday Village is a bit less of a traditional "Winter Wonderland" vibe, more falling into Candyland territory, "where it's peaches, pinks, yellows, oranges and these really creamy tones," Wiederhoeft explains. "I saw a lot of stuff on the moodboard that seemed less like traditional Christmas and more like a magical Enchanted Forest kind of vibe. It feels more like 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer' — a more candy-coated, retro Christmas, which is cool."
Magerko-Liquorice puts it simply: "Wiederhoeft just gets it. There's no other way than Wiederhoeft."
Hardy's Holiday Village can be visited by Nemacolin guests and members now through Dec. 23.
Disclosure: Nemacolin paid for Fashionista's travel and accommodations to visit Hardy's Holiday Village.