Brandon Maxwell is a fashion outsider. Kind of. Beyond an A-list clientele that boasts every style star from Michelle Obama to Sarah Paulson, the self-proclaimed homebody grew up working in his grandmother’s clothing shop and dutifully watching his mother put on lipstick while he “sat in awe as a young gay kid from Texas who loved pageants.” He’s likable to a tee, which makes him a delight as a judge on Project Runway and beloved by aspiring students on his growing YouTube channel. His clothes speak volumes, literally—queue up Lady Gaga’s Matryoshka doll moment at the 2019 Met Gala—but also, often, in whispers. The quiet power of his brand is bold, never gimmicky. Yes, his clothes are glamorous, but they lack the arrogance typically associated with the industry, even if his gowns explode in fuchsia satin and Bella Hadid closes the show. With a penchant for shape, form, and color—you know, everything that makes fashion Fashion with a capital F—his knowledge of what women want isn’t necessarily intuitive. “I decide I like this dress, and then I text it to every woman I know: ‘Do you like it or do you hate it?'” he explains of his process. “They say yes or no, and that’s it. It is not based on my recent vacation or a book I read or a movie I love or anything.” And despite lockdown, Maxwell’s approach remains the same. The tragedy of COVID-19 devastated many, but the fashion industry responded with resiliency. Some brands revamped their production lines to create PPE, while others devised creatively stunning ways to reimagine the runway under quarantine during NYFW’s first digital-forward season. For the first time ever, Maxwell got the opportunity to slow down. “I’m someone who’s typically very fast-paced and needs to go, go, go,” he says. He recalibrated his business model and ventured off the fashion calendar altogether. Now, months after September’s traditional show schedule, Maxwell is releasing his spring-summer collection video in lieu of a traditional runway (while adhering to all the New York State coronavirus guidelines, of course).
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