Interview by Jefferson Ellison, done in Partnership w/ AVLtoday.
I think it’s safe to say that no one wants to think about their nether region being “on fire." Yet and still, all the cool kids are flocking to AE Silver and her WildFire Undies. Irreverent and “ultra-comfortable," there is something novel around the idea that an underwear brand can choose to empower their consumer rather than exploit sexual desires.
At the risk of being corny, one swipe of WFU Instagram will tell you everything you need to know. The products are edgy, well-made, and for a specific market - those who know how they want to feel, how they want to look, and require every piece of their wardrobe to follow suit - starting with their skivvies. Perhaps one of the most interesting products in our Asheville series, it’s refreshing to see a woman bringing a new perspective to a business that hasn’t seen many product shifts in the last 50 years.
When & how was this company born? Did it start in Asheville?
WildFire definitely started in Asheville. I was born and raised here and everything I have learned about sewing and designing has come from this place. It has been a long journey to get to WildFire’s beginning. I had been working in an industry that felt very detrimental in many ways and I realized I needed to figure out something else before I became too stuck. I began sewing part time for Elise Olson, who is an amazing local lingerie designer. She gave me a chance when I wasn't very good. She was patient with me and taught me so much about how to work with and sew very delicate fabrics. I fell in love with the process, this is when the plug on my creative design sensibility felt like it had finally been uncorked. I began pattern making courses with Anna Toth of Asheville School of the Apparel Arts where I was able to work out some of my first designs. Shortly after, I had the opportunity to move out to Salt Lake City and this is where I was able to concentrate on building the image of WildFire through Instagram. I spent a lot of time utilizing my photography background in how I wanted to frame my work and started connecting to other folks, whose work I found inspirational.
Tell me about your creative process; how do you come up with the designs?
A lot of my designs come from the basic patterns I have already made, they serve as the foundation that I use to build from. I'll be cutting or sewing and think "hmmm, that would be really cool if this shape went this way instead and created this whole new shape." Or, "the functionality of this would make more sense if I did it this way." I feel I'm constantly adding new designs and revamping current ones. Mostly I think about what I personally want to wear, make a sample, throw it up on my instagram and see how people respond. If it's a lot, I'll grade it and put it up on my site. I have tons and tons of sketches and try to jot down ideas as they pop into my head. I'm just always questioning how I can create different lines on the body in fun and interesting ways.
What inspires you?
I take a ton of inspiration from 80s and 90s pop culture. I like to describe my design aesthetic as a high femme, post bondage sort. Like 90s Versace meets 90s Calvin Klein meets 90s Mugler is what's usually going on in my head. But really the beautiful people around me are inspirational! Currently I'm working on designing a super supportive sports bra type top that is just as sexy as it is comfortable. That's all because one of my friends asked me to make her an everyday bra that is sporty but could be worn out to events. I'll probably end up adding that to my site and it's all because I was prompted to make something I hadn't previously considered. That's what community does for artists.
What advice would you give to aspiring designers?
Finding your lane and staying with it is a really good idea. Try to really define what you are good at, and recognize what you are not good at and build a team from the jump. Always have a strong moral compass, I think it is super important to constantly question and interogate how white supremacist culture shows up in your art and work. The art you create defines how culture and society are built, and knowing that your art is shaping that narrative, one way or the other is important.
Will there be a fashion show anytime soon?
I have never participated in a fashion show but I would love to! We'll see what form fashion shows come back to us in, as COVID-19 shapes our new reality. I have been playing with the idea of a video lookbook for a while now and I hope to make that happen before the year is out.
How do you keep size inclusivity in mind when designing pieces?
I don't want to design anything that I couldn't make work for someone with literally ANY body type no matter your size, if you are trans, or queer, or someone living with disibilities. Most of what I make is custom, made to order. On my site, when you go to order a custom set, it doesn't ask you what size you would like, it asks you to write in all of your measurements and to get as specific as you want with how you would like it to fit your body. If that means I have to make a new pattern from scratch so that the person ordering from me has the best fit for their body, that's what I'm going to do. I never want someone to receive a piece from me and feel like it was made for anyone else.
What is your favorite fabric to work with? Why?
My favorite fabric to work with for lingerie is definitely powermesh. Specifically the lightweight powermesh that I get from Lisha at StitchLove Studio down in Georgia. It is light, it is buttery soft and it is surprisingly strong and supportive. I'm currently trying to use all of the other fabrics I have for ready to ship sets to clear them out and make room for more colors of mesh. I have some fun ideas for making my whole process no waste by utilizing the scraps in interesting ways. I'll hopefully be implementing that by the end of this year as well.
How has WildFire evolved?
WildFire's evolution is synonymous with my own personal evolution. I'm constantly checking in with myself to make sure I am pushing myself to be a more thoughtful and responsible community member, an excellent craftsman, and just an overall better person. My designs and how I run my business will hopefully reflect that as I continue my growth.
Which of your pieces is the best to wear on a first date? On an anniversary?
My ideal first date set would have to be something comfortable because I get so anxious that my clothes have to make me feel chill but confident. I'd probably pick the Gemini set which is a two tone split down the middle high waist, high cut thong and t shirt cut bralette with a front clasp. For the anniversary I would go more sexy with the crowd fave Poison Ivy set. It'll force your partner to slow down to get it off of you because it has a lot of straps and hooks to undo.
Who do you look up to the most and why?
There are so many honestly I could go on and on about this one. As far as designers go, I definitely look up to Dion Lee a lot. Everything made under that label I'm in love with and look up to his aesthetic. I also really look up to Rio Uribe, designer of Gypsy Sport which is a sustainable street wear line. That would be my dream to have a successful, fully upcycled and sustainable streetwear line. Everything Rio makes is so cool and interesting and the Gypsy Sport fashion shows are iconic. One more I have to throw in is Tia Adeola who has her label Slashed by Tia. She has really honed in on a few of her favorite design components and has created season after season of evolving looks from those few base design and textile elements. Still, she somehow turns it into really fresh and exciting pieces every single time. I would love to have that kind of creative mind.
If you could design lingerie for any famous person, who would it be and why?
I don't care how obvious it is, I would definitely pick Rihanna. She is also someone I really look up to because of her incredible boss moves with Fenty. Aside from the fact that she has completely changed the game in so, so, so many ways, I just love her whole style and feel like she would rock even my most "out there" designs.
What type of looks can we expect from you next?
As I continue on my pattern making journey, I think that you can expect my designs to start getting a little more risky, edgy and editorial as I build my confidence in design and overall craftsmanship. A lot of people are asking me to start into swimwear and I can confidently say at this point that you are much more likely to see a full collection of ready to wear clothing than swimwear. However, I do have some swim fabric so maybe a lucky few will get some one offs this summer. Other than that, I am in the very beginning stages of helping another local designer put together a program for young people to learn basic and advanced sewing techniques and hopefully some pattern and design in the future. We're hoping to have it be a program where the students receive a stipend for their participation in the class. Be on the lookout for details about that later this summer!