Brandon Maxwell’s been all over the place lately.
The designer was back in town Tuesday evening for a dinner to celebrate his spring collection at The Apartment by the Line Los Angeles. That was on the heels of a March visit to Saks Fifth Avenue Beverly Hills and Bergdorf Goodman in New York in February, the same month he showed his fall collection.
“It’s absolutely no surprise to me that he launched a line that’s been so well-received,” said Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, who cohosted the gathering. “He’s definitely one to look for and everyone’s already looking at him already. I am a big fan.”
The designer stepped aside to chat with WWD as guests began arriving and mingling just before sitting down to dinner with his thoughts on everything from the design process to feeling like a fashion outsider — and being OK with that.
We’re here to celebrate spring, so let’s go back and talk about where you drew inspiration for that collection.
Brandon Maxwell: I really start the collections always with music and it’s really based on how I’m feeling at the time. Then I drape alone in a room and cut and sew everything on a form for weeks. But if there was any sort of specific inspiration for spring, since it was my first collection, you see a lot of sort of tri-layered effects. A lot of that was based off of my using my dad’s cummerbunds growing up to make shapes and waists. It’s a lot of references from my childhood.
WWD: Is there a particular genre of music you tend to always go to?
B.M.: Oh, it’s so different. I listen to everything but opera to be honest. I go from Fifties, Sixties, Seventies, rap, country. Everything. If you listen to the music in my shows, it’s very all over the place. The first one was everything from Sade to Diana Ross to Billy Joel to Eve. It’s really just about how I’m feeling.
I did a trenchcoat in the spring. It had quite a large collar and I was feeling really low that day and I was like ‘What do I want to wear if I was just dashing to the store really quickly and wanted to just not be seen that much because I feel like in New York, every time you walk through the street you’re seeing a neighbor or you’re seeing somebody you know.
WWD: Was fall a very similar process?
B.M.: Yeah and I started the show out with [the songs] “Under Pressure” and “Money” mixed together because, to be very honest, that’s how I felt. I was aware that after the first season, we had created a business and I was so thankful for that and a lot of people had gone out on a limb for me. I felt the pressure both financially for the company and also for the people who had supported me and helped us throughout this season and before. I’ve never found myself to be somebody who fit in very much in fashion or kind of really anywhere and I’ve never pretended to be anything other than what I am. I really take on that mentality when I’m doing the music for the show and instead of doing just some sort of playlist that’s not really me, I’d rather just say from the very first beat of the show, ‘Listen, I feel super under pressure’ and when I was making this I enjoyed the process but there was a stall at the beginning as any creative person goes through and I feel like for better for worse, I just say it and then I release it. It is what it is.
WWD: Do you still feel those pressures?
B.M.: I think there’s so many fantastic things that have happened and I feel very, very grateful for that. I try not to think about any of those things because number one they can go away. It’s a business of ups and downs and the most important thing for me having grown up in a store and, really, this being my passion my whole life having worked with women, whether it’s in styling or designing, I’m OK to kind of lose anything. I just really don’t want to lose the opportunity to be able to create with women and to have the chance to make them feel beautiful. I want to just make quality work that makes women feel good. I want to make my family and friends proud and I really want to have a business that grows over time and a customer we grow with.
WWD: On the point about growing the business, everyone’s talking about the digitization of the fashion industry, whether that’s in the context of e-commerce or apps or on the runway. Does it make it easier for one to grow a young company because you have this technology that puts you closer to the customer?
B.M.: Super honest answer, I think it’s never easy to start your own company. I don’t think any sort of element can really help you. It’s very, very difficult to start your own company. It’s daunting. It’s also thrilling at the same time. I’m not a super digital person. I don’t have a branded Instagram. If you look at my Instagram it’s the clothes and the stores, but it’s also my dog stuck under the bed. I try to do the same thing in my collection and the brand that I’ve done in my life, which is just grow it by personal connections. When you connect and grow together, I feel like that’s more honest than anything else I could sell somebody on the internet.
WWD: As you do more of these store appearances that connect you directly with fans, what are you picking up on in terms of regional market differentiations?
B.M.: The thing that I noticed — which I learned as a stylist — is that women are insecure about different things and they love different things about their bodies and that just helps me going into every season.
WWD: You said earlier you felt like a fashion outsider, although the press and notoriety continues to build around you. Do you still view yourself as being on the outside?
B.M.: I think I never really felt like I fit in anywhere growing up so I created my own thing that made me feel good. I’m still doing that now just in a more adult way. Now I’m 31 and not 13, you know? I’m not the most fashionable and I wouldn’t say my life is the most fashionable. Everything that’s happened has been really fantastic but I truly can’t believe it. I know that as quickly as things can come, they can go just as quickly. So I try to keep my head down and work.