Bella Hadid wasn’t the fiercest creature in the Brandon Maxwell show Saturday night. It was the Alaskan brown bear at the top of the runway in the Bernard Hall of North American Mammals, the landmark American Museum of Natural History location where the designer was the first to hold a fashion show. To add some “Cheer” to the frozen-in-time taxidermy tableaux of bears, moose and cougars, he enlisted Lexi Brumback, Gabi Butler and other cast members of the new Netflix show to hoot and holler from the seats as the models broke into smiles while making their exits.
One couldn’t help smiling with them.
On the runway, Maxwell’s vision of Americana sportswear for men and women shined, with plush corduroy suits, buttery leather pants and biker jackets, alpaca teddy coats and suede shirtdresses. Subtle details like double lapels and silver zippers added decorative elements to classic tailoring and simple (at times overly simple, perhaps) everyday pieces.
“Thinking deeply about those wardrobing items that are made to last” was the designer’s m.o., he said in the notes.
A sculpted-to-the-body, brown glen-plaid halter dress with sexy side slit was one of the collection’s big game hits, as was a shimmering tortoise liquid gazar cape-sleeve dress.
Eveningwear was more hit-and-miss. Maxwell has the black cocktail dress genre nailed; a black liquid silk, off-the-shoulder belted bias-cut dress, for example, was shaped to perfection. But some of the work and finishing on athletic-inspired bandeau ballgowns was less precise. And shapeless, diaphanous confections tied with bows at the neck lacked bite. He needed to take a step further into the wild side.
Still, the red finale gown will be part of the museum’s upcoming exhibition, “The Nature of Color,” opening March 9, which explores the role and power of color in the natural world and in human cultures. That it itself was something to cheer.