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