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The Evolution of Brandon Maxwell

On the evening of Thursday, January 20th, Ray A. Smith of The Wall Street Journal sat down with fashion designer Brandon Maxwell for a refreshingly candid conversation about design, life, and character.

Born and raised in small town Texas, Maxwell spent a large amount of his childhood in his grandmother’s boutique. It was there, watching women discover beauty and define their personal style, that his interest in fashion began.

His craftiness sparked at a young age, from experimenting with gluing hair extensions on friends to cutting up his mother’s Oscar de la Renta dresses.

Brandon Maxwell (left) in conversation with Ray A. Smith at the SCAD Museum of Art.

After studying photography at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Maxwell decided to move to New York City.

He then sold his car, and made a commitment to himself that if he ran out of money, he would return to Texas. Until then, he would work any job he could, occasionally paying for groceries with quarters. During this time he reached out to countless brands, trying to get a foot in the industry’s notoriously closed door. Maxwell endured, and was eventually offered an internship as a stylist. Through connections he made at this time, he would later work on photo shoots, utilizing his background in photography. To this day, he appreciates having had a well-rounded exposure to many fundamental elements within the industry.

During his time in photography and styling, Maxwell saved nearly $300,000 in the hopes of launching his own line.

When a long-term relationship ended, he was left to reflect on his life.

He recalls the moment he realized it was time to commit to designing, saying, “if you need to throw up, throw up.” Maxwell felt that it was his time to throw up, to take action on what he wanted for his future.

This element of strength is a recurring theme throughout his designs. Maxwell remarks that his muse is a woman who is strong – no matter the circumstance. When people see her, they don’t take pity or look down on her, because they are mesmerized by her courage and beauty.

Maxwell’s work channels strength through structured, clean lines and lasting materials. Despite the success he has accumulated, Maxwell expressed his disinterest in celebrating, because he views the attention as a potential distraction. He also knows that the audience can leave just as quickly as they came.

In under a decade, Maxwell went from cleaning toilets and googling “How to be a stylist”, to ultimately to launching his first collection, which was purchased by Bergdorf Goodman.

No one can describe that kind of metamorphosis better than Maxwell himself.

“Everyone has an idea of who you should be,” he said. “If you ever forget, which you shouldn’t…look in the mirror and remember who you are.”

Written by Sabrina Batiz
Photographed by Joe Kelly

*Correction: this article originally stated that Maxwell did not apply to any colleges and moved straight to New York City, when in fact he studied photography at St. Andrew’s University in Austin. This has been corrected.