This year's New York Fashion Week was one for the history books—a stark departure from previous whisperings that the first part of Fashion Month was headed towards decline. Excitement came in many forms: Cardi B and Nicki Minaj participated in a heated exchange at Harper's Bazaar's Icons Party, model Slick Woods went into labor seconds after walking Savage X Fenty, graduation caps were deemed the hottest new accessory by Raf Simons for Calvin Klein, and Marc Jacobs issued a heartfelt apology via Instagram for making an audience of influencers, editors, and celebs wait nearly two hours before his show started. The drama! Even GQ declared "Fashion Week Is Finally Fun Again," however, no one had quite as much fun as designer Brandon Maxwell.
It was a career-defining season for the Texas native, whose expertly tailored collections have won him a covetable place within the competitive global fashion industry. Maxwell hails from Longview, Texas, where he grew up before attending the University of Texas at Austin. After matriculating, he moved to New York City, where he began assisting stylists—among them Nicola Formichetti—and later was contracted by Lady Gaga herself. It was in 2015 that he presented his first collection, now, three years later, he appears to have found himself again.
For Spring 2019, Maxwell, 33, brought exuberance, personality, and color to what seemed like a bleak week, especially given the cloudy grey weather. And contrary to what many might think, the pieces weren't inspired by the bustling streets of New York, but instead, was inspired by the city of Marfa, Texas, where Maxwell took up residency to produce each garment for the collection. "I got engaged in Marfa—it's a quiet spot for me—I always enjoy being there," Maxwell shared. "It was a mental reset and a break, and trying to work in a different way." His fiancé, Jessy Price, directed a documentary film which chronicled Maxwell’s progress. "It was great to do that because I got to watch myself on film, and see what I could do better," Maxwell said gushingly. "[Price] really wanted to show the process and not the comedy of it."
The isolation, fresh air, and color of the Texas sunset served as his muses, thus, the concept for his Spring 2019 show was born. Inside the Classic Car Club at Hudson River Park's Pier 76, the scene was light, bright, and quintessentially Texan. Bright red folding chairs were lined neatly along either side of the runway, while pale pink Yeti coolers full of Shiner beer (a Texas staple) were ready for pillaging. Then the show began.
Models like Gigi and Bella Hadid, Joan Smalls, and a pregnant Lily Aldridge walked the show wearing bright shades of pink, seafoam green, red and white—a vast departure from previous seasons considering the notable absence of the color black (which some would say is a Brandon Maxwell signature). "It's one of those things that I didn't plan...I just realized a couple days ago that [the collection] doesn't even have a black button or a zipper," Maxwell explained. "Every look is a different color, [like] what's happening? I knew what I needed to be around to make it—it wasn't purposeful, it just happened." Standout accessories included teeny-tiny handbags emblazoned with the letter B, clear lucite hat boxes and champagne carriers with gilded gold accents. Add a soundtrack full of songs by Reba McEntire's "Fancy," and Selena Quintanilla's "Dreaming Of You," and you have yourself a grand ole time; several members of the audience gave a standing ovation—rightfully so.
But while the majority of designers simply presented their collections during NYFW, Maxwell, in particular, did more than that. "The whole show is [about] how I ended up here and how lucky I am," he stated. "When you take time away, you realize how a lot of what you focus on in this world doesn't actually matter at all," a fact he wouldn't have realized had it not been for his residency. "When I left [Marfa], I was thinking about how lucky I am to be in this position and to have this opportunity—I met so many young kids in Marfa who are creative and want the opportunity, but maybe don't have the access to it. It just got me thinking about how much I take it for granted." That was when he sought out the help of MAC Cosmetics.
In a matter of 12 weeks, both Maxwell and MAC decided to launch a makeup collaboration, which went on sale immediately the day after the show. The range includes lipsticks (with shades named after Maxwell's creative inspirations like Pamela Sue, his mother), high-gloss Lipglasses (named Kady’s Kiss and Baby B, after his sisters), and an eyeshadow set titled Dot's Dots, inspired by his grandmother (who also doubled as his latest campaign star). The color palette is inspired by both the Texas sunset and Maxwell's favorite Texas women. "I always loved in Austin, coming home from school, and driving in the hills: The sun was setting, and for me, it was such a reflective and peaceful time," he reflects. "It was every day of my life, from that 6 to 6:30 pm. You just look at it and think Wow. Everything is more beautiful in that light."
The highlight of the collaboration wasn't just the makeup. It was also decided that there would be an open contest on August 6—dubbed #MACithappen—where kids around the country would create videos, sharing their dreams in the process. Both teams received over a thousand submissions before narrowing down to two winners: Tobi Zoi Haastrup (who hopes to one day work in finance) and Nick Perez (a future fashion designer). "I wanted to do something that would benefit other kids like myself," Maxwell explains. "It was so amazing driving in the car with Nick because he was looking out the window, and he'd only been in NYC for four hours. He was so excited. He was experiencing it for the first time, and that feeling was just like, Woah. I looked at him and I saw myself—that's what this is all about."
It’s refreshing to see that despite achieving monumental success, Maxwell has been able to preserve his humility, while simultaneously embracing his humanity. With the inexplicable amount of pressure placed on designers today, many tend to succumb and as dramatic as it sounds, fall, a downside to their god-like status. Creatives are often led to believe that any sign of stopping (even for rest and recovery) will endanger their livelihood, but as Maxwell demonstrates, that couldn't be further from the truth. "I wasn't the most talented, I wasn't the most beautiful, I was not the most well off, I was not the most all of those things, I just worked really hard. And I had a shot because someone believed in me—that's what this stands for for me." Maxwell is paying it forward—what could be more fashionable than that?