How Brandon Maxwell Overcame His Insecurities and Conquered Fashion

By: Eric Wilson

Phil Poynter

Brandon Maxwell arrives at his Midtown Manhattan office late on the Monday morning after the Super Bowl, right off a flight from Houston and a sleepless night. He has not taken a single day off in six weeks—during the previous one, he flew to Los Angeles and back twice for red-carpet fittings—and his fall runway show is less than eight days away. He is still wearing an Adidas tracksuit embroidered with his name, a gift from Lady Gaga for styling her well-reviewed halftime performance the night before. But he seems to be in no mood for a compliment.

“Getting my picture taken or having someone say I’m great really means nothing to me,” he says as he launches into an unexpected lament of his own rapid success. “Maybe I’m tired and I’m sounding really bitter,” he adds. “I don’t mean to at all. It’s just that everyone puts this immense pressure on you to be the Next Big Thing, and I have to sit back and ask myself, ‘Does that matter to me?’ Because at the end of the day they just sit there waiting for you to fall. It’s 2017—we live for the fall!”

While you would be hard-pressed to find anyone in fashion who actually isn’t rooting for Maxwell, a self-trained designer who wowed the industry two years ago with his exquisitely tailored, full-drama gowns, there is some truth to what he says. Hot designers come and go, a fact of life he witnessed while working behind the scenes as a celebrity stylist for years before he stepped into the spotlight with his own collection, which has been an absolute hit with stars like Nicole Kidman, Kerry Washington, and Gaga, of course.

Phil Poynter

“I’ve watched this movie a million times,” Maxwell says. “I know how this story goes. It will go down.”

But in spite of his pessimism and neuroses, or possibly because of them, something about Maxwell’s humility suggests things may end differently for him. For one thing, he works harder than he really has to.

Phil Poynter

At the CFDA Awards last June, when he won the Swarovski Award for breakthrough womenswear designer after only two seasons under his belt, he exposed his insecurities with endearing candor onstage in front of some of the most intimidating names in the industry (Beyoncé, Naomi Campbell, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein). “I am a slightly overweight boy from Texas whose idea of a fine meal is something that is rolled up into a ball, deep-fried, and put into wax paper,” he said. “I really was very gay in a very small town, and I only had the women in my life to stay with me on the weekends and make me feel normal. When they let me dress them up and take their pictures, it gave me a purpose in life, and it made me feel like I could get by.” What he didn’t seem to realize was that pretty much everyone in the room could relate to that sense of being an outsider, because they were all once nobodies from nowhere.

Credits

Phil Poynter | Photographer

Nina Sterghiou | Fashion Director

Ben Skervin | Hair 

Christopher Ardoff | Make-up

Casey Herman | Manicure

Bette Adams | Set Design

Eric Wilson | Fashion News Director

 

Talent

Alexina Graham | Women Management

Herieth Paul | Women Management

Maria Borges | IMG Models

Lida Fox | Next Models

Cristal | Next Models