The evolution of designer Brandon Maxwell
Before becoming a reality-TV judge on Bravo’s revamped Project Runway, which just wrapped its 18th season last week, American fashion designer Brandon Maxwell made a name for himself by dressing three of America’s most iconic women in fashion: Oprah, Michelle Obama, and most notably, his best friend and muse, Lady Gaga. Maxwell’s journey from small town photographer-stylist to two-time CFDA award-winning fashion designer is what American Dreams are made of.
Born in Longview, Texas, 35-year-old Maxwell received his bachelor’s degree from St. Edward’s University where he studied photocommunications. According to his website, Maxwell spent his formative years hanging out at his grandmother’s boutique which inspired his desire to work in fashion. After graduating in 2008, he served as styling assistant to the likes of Deborah Afshani, Edward Enninful, and Nicola Formichetti, before establishing himself as Lady Gaga’s personal stylist and fashion director in 2012.
In the fall of 2015, Maxwell debuted his first collection at Mr. Chow’s Chinese restaurant during New York Fashion Week. The Spring/Summer collection featured timeless “razor-sharp, femme fatale suits in a neutral color palette of black, ivory, and dusty rose that eventually gave way to sweeping ball gowns,” wrote Andrea Cheng for her InStyle article, “Lady Gaga’s Stylist Brandon Maxwell Debuts His First Collection at NYFW.”
In the same InStyle article, Lady Gaga told Cheng, “I’ve been looking at this collection for a few months now and watching him pour his love and passion into it, his past, his present, and his future, and I have to say that I’m just completely speechless.”
Fashion critic, Robin Givhan, echoed the same reaction during Maxwell’s 2017 S/S collection a year later when she posed the question: “Sleek, sophisticated, classy clothes: Is this really the work of Lady Gaga’s stylist?”
Season after season, Maxwell continues to establish himself as a masterful tailor of luxury women’s ready-to-wear. According to a 2018 Dallas Morning News article entitled, “How Longview’s Brandon Maxwell went from dressing Lady Gaga to becoming a star in his own light,” Maxwell’s price point begins at $995 for a pair of cigarette pants to $2,000 for his statement tops. Moreover, his line is carried by more than 100 stores including Neiman Marcus. Celebrity clientele can purchase one-of-a-kind designs that can cost up to $60,000. His go-to fabrics include satin, cashmere, and silk organza; all of which accommodate his signature billowing effect.
Maxwell finds inspiration in the most unlikely people from his grandma to everyday people from his hometown to people in his inner circle of women employees. One of his most notable ad campaigns include his Fall 2019 “The People of Brandon Maxwell” collaboration with former classmate, Jessy Price. The film pays homage to the Brandon Maxwell fashion house featuring interviews of Maxwell employees and supermodels including Riley Montana. It’s a celebration of the women who have gotten him through the highs and lows of working in this highly competitive industry.
In her 2019 article for Platform Magazine, “Brandon Maxwell: Promoting His People,” Ali Cushing wrote, “Not only did this campaign successfully recognize the ‘behind the scenes voices’ in the workplace, but it also was a positive PR move for Brandon Maxwell himself. Featuring the women who essentially run the show allowed Maxwell to be seen as a true ‘team player’ to his audience.”
Collaborating with strong women is Maxwell’s comfort zone. Take last year’s Met Gala, where he walked the red carpet as Lady Gaga’s plus-one helping her transform her voluminous, hot pink ball gown into a three-piece ensemble of just bra, panties, and fishnet stockings.
Throughout his career, the Maxwell brand has been synonymous with Lady Gaga and the Met Gala entrance only solidified Maxwell and Gaga’s relationship as both a real friendship and a collaborative force to be reckoned with. In fact, Maxwell welcomes the association and it is indicative of his humble beginnings as a small town Texas native chasing his dreams:
“Anytime that I’m mentioned in the same sentence with her is a proud moment for me…and will be for the rest of my life.”
Photo Credit: Getty