Man of the hour Meet all-round rising star Brandon Maxwell
Meet Brandon Maxwell, award-winning designer, Lady Gaga’s first fashion choice (and BFF), and all-round rising star.
It’s the day of the 2016 CFDA Awards, aka the fashion Oscars, and Brandon Maxwell, 31, is nominated for the Swarovski Award for Womenswear and – spoiler alert! – will go on to win, and his nerves are kicking in. “I’ve been sick about it,” he says as he sits on the terrace of the hotel room where he and his date, Naomi Campbell, are prepping for the event. “I’ll probably go home for a cheeseburger afterwards. I’m not a partier.” But don’t let the butterflies fool you. Brandon is one of the most in-demand people in fashion right now. He’s Lady Gaga’s fashion director and BFF. And he juggles styling gigs with running his own label, one which has landed on Iman and Karlie Kloss, among others, in only two seasons. And the clothes? They aren’t for wallflowers; more like femme fatales. We sat down with him to talk fashion, revenge dressing (it’s a thing) and why the woman always comes first. GLAMOUR You launched your label two years ago and now you’re nominated for one of the top awards in fashion. Does it feel like a whirlwind? Brandon Maxwell My life was in a very different place two years ago, personally and professionally. I can’t believe I’m here right now. I’m wearing a tuxedo, which I’ve only done once before. I don’t usually wear things without stretch.
Your designs are the opposite of your personal style, and so much fashion has a sporty feel now, but what you’re doing has a more ‘dressed’ attitude.
My job is to make women feel beautiful – no one cares what I look like. Speaking honestly, I think that sometimes that confident, sexy look comes from my not feeling that way. I’m designing for the woman I would want to be.
Many designers only care about the ingenue, yet you dress women of all ages.
The first thing I said when we started was that I wanted to be able to dress the daughter all the way to the grandmother. There are things that are higher around the neck because my mom’s sensitive about her neck. Also, I didn’t grow up in an all-white neighbourhood. I don’t want to be a brand that’s like, “You’re not at our table.” You are.
That’s an empowering message.
It’s a woman-centred brand. All the women in my life see the collection every day. There’s a group message with my girlfriends, and I ask them, “Would you wear it?” Your childhood friends aren’t afraid to say, “No, that’s hideous.” Sometimes when you’re working until 2am you think you have an amazing idea, and you come back at 8am and you’re like, “That’s the worst idea I’ve had in my life.” So it’s important to share.
How would you describe your design approach?
I make simple things that are tailored. It’s the perfect black trousers or the perfect blazer. We do only six or seven gowns, and they’re usually black. I don’t do a lot of pageantry. I never want my clothes to outshine the woman.
What’s been a career highlight?
They’re all highlights. The first one was Lady Gaga at the 2015 Emmys. She always makes me feel like it’s the only and best option, even when she has hundreds of options. And obviously Lady Gaga at the 2016 Oscars was a dream come true. So much of what I have is because of her.
Which women inspire you?
My friends. Jackie O. Princess Diana. When I get stuck, I’m like, “Would Diana wear this?” I’ve always been inspired by women who hold their heads up high. Nobody thinks, ‘Poor Jackie O’. She was cheated on and everything was awful for her. But she didn’t cry in public. She put on a major outfit, walked out the door, and she was strong.
And the clothes helped her achieve that.
One thousand percent, and that strength and grace are what I’m attracted to. We all have days when we just can’t get out of bed, but we have to, and I think about that when I’m designing. I’m like, “What dress is she going to put on that [the man who wronged her] sees it in a picture and realises what a mistake he made?” There is nothing better than that. Everybody wants that moment.