PRO­FILE

Bran­don Maxwell is creat­ing beau­ti­ful, em­pow­er­ing clothes on his own terms.

ELLE (Canada) - - Contents -

Bran­don Maxwell has Meghan Markle’s—and our—stamp of ap­proval.

BRAN­DON MAXWELL had a head­line- filled sum­mer. When Meghan Markle donned a sun­flower- yel­low Maxwell shift to at­tend a youth-em­pow­er­ment day in Lon­don in July, fashion fans, jour­nal­ists and royal-news junkies her­alded it as her best look to date. A few days later, Maxwell, a stylist turned de­signer who counts Lady Gaga among his clients, was cho­sen as a fi­nal­ist for the In­ter­na­tional Wool­mark Prize, a pres­ti­gious global de­sign com­pe­ti­tion whose past win­ners in­clude Gabriela Hearst and Karl Lager­feld. But the Texas na­tive wasn’t fin­ished yet. In Au­gust, he re­leased the la­bel’s fall/win­ter cam­paign to un­prece­dented lev­els of buzz. The images cap­tured the de­signer’s 81-year-old grand­mother, Louise, pos­ing in her rose-filled back­yard in Longview, Texas, ex­ud­ing easy glam­our in a heather-grey robe dress. The deeply per­sonal vi­su­als are key to the brand’s big-hearted ap­proach to re­al­ness. “I’m not about pro­mot­ing any spe­cific prod­uct but about show­ing what the women who rep­re­sent our brand stand for,” says Maxwell in the sub­tlest Texan twang. “As long as we’re telling a truth­ful story, it will res­onate with peo­ple.” Here’s what else the de­signer had to say on the sub­ject of au­then­tic­ity, self-crit­i­cism and why he’s sud­denly into bright colours.

You share a lot of per­sonal sto­ries and be­hind-the-scenes mo­ments on your brand’s In­sta­gram. Do you think about the posts ahead of time?

“I get so many mes­sages ask­ing ‘ Who runs your In­sta­gram ac­count?’ and I’m like ‘Me!’ I write over cof­fee in the morn­ing. If you see a post up in the first five or 10 min­utes, you’ll see the spell­ing mis­takes. It’s funny—I didn’t ex­cel at read­ing or writ­ing grow­ing up. You al­ways get a sec­ond chance when you’re older.”

A post that got a big re­ac­tion is one you shared about a dress from your first col­lec­tion that was cho­sen by the women on your team. You called for more women CEOs in fashion. Why did you feel com­pelled to share that?

“Here’s the thing: I’m a man in this in­dus­try, and I can’t help that. This is what I wanted to do. Fashion re­quires a spe­cial kind of team­work. There’s one per­son crazy enough to go out there and put their name on some­thing, but it’s such a group ef­fort. It’s im­por­tant that we’re hir­ing women for higher-up po­si­tions to run com­pa­nies. We’re

mak­ing clothes for women—we ought to be ask­ing women. I don’t know how any­body is getting by [in fashion] with­out a mostly fe­male staff.”

Your first few col­lec­tions were al­most en­tirely black and white. Now you’re show­ing pink, yel­low and red.

“Isn’t that strange? It’s such a cheesy re­sponse, but I see more in colour re­cently. [In my first col­lec­tions], I was just so dead set on say­ing what I wanted to say with the de­sign el­e­ments. I felt that too many colours would dis­tract from that. I don’t re­ally feel that way any­more.”

What’s the story be­hind your fall/ win­ter col­lec­tion?

“There was a re­laxed vibe to the show, and I think that speaks to where my team and I are at. We’re not in that sort of tight, con­strict­ing place any­more. Things can be a lit­tle more re­laxed and free flow­ing be­cause we’re more com­fort­able with who we are and more con­fi­dent in what we want to say. It was about sim­ple cuts and go­ing back to school—learn­ing about the bon­ing in a bodice, the lin­ing, the zip­per. I was very con­cerned about the in­ner work­ings [of gar­ments] and teach­ing my­self things I didn’t know. I didn’t go to fashion school, so I was in­se­cure about that. But you can’t stay in­se­cure for­ever.”

Do you look back at those ear­lier col­lec­tions with fond­ness?

“I can barely look at them. The worst re­view, hon­estly, is the one that you give your­self. It’s not so much the clothes that I look back on with fond­ness—it’s the mo­ments in my life. I have all the run­way shows taped on the walls in my of­fice, and I can tell you ex­actly where I was emo­tion­ally. Not only did they change in colour but I also feel that I grew up and be­came a bet­ter man—a bet­ter part­ner, a bet­ter boss, a bet­ter friend.”

Your clothes have been worn by so many pow­er­ful, in­spir­ing women, like Meghan Markle and Issa Rae.

“I’m al­ways proud to dress women who are mak­ing a dif­fer­ence in this world. I’m not some­one who’s so in­ter­ested in what peo­ple are wear­ing; I’m more in­ter­ested in what they’re do­ing. Meghan wore that yel­low dress, yes, but she was mak­ing a dif­fer­ence that day and had an im­pact on young peo­ple’s lives. She has such grace. That’s all I could think of dur­ing [the royal] wed­ding when she just walked up those stairs by her­self in front of the en­tire world. I run out for a tiny sec­ond at my shows in front of 250 peo­ple and want to pass out!” ®

From top, left: Be­hind the scenes at Bran­don Maxwell’s fall/win­ter 2018 cam­paign shoot; mod­els back­stage at the fall/win­ter 2018 show; Bran­don Maxwell; Meghan Markle in her Bran­don Maxwell shift

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