2020 was rough for just about everyone, but fashion designer Brandon Maxwell is choosing to see it in a different, perhaps surprising, light.
“This year has definitely been challenging, but in some ways it has also been cleansing and clarifying,” Maxwell tells Bustle. “The distance from my normal creative process has brought me back to my very first days of design. The time away from my studio gave me no other choice than to go back to basics and make things on a smaller scale with a more intimate group.”
In December, he presented his Spring 2021 collection virtually in a film with the goal of recreating the energy of a live runway show. Maxwell co-directed the nine-minute video, which ends with Lady Gaga — one of Maxwell’s most high-profile muses — singing “Free Woman.” It’s an emotional production that conjures up a mix of nostalgia for the way things used to be and hopefulness toward what tomorrow might bring.
“This runway film specifically felt like an exercise in optimism for me and the team,” Maxwell explains. “We are hopeful that by the summer, when this collection is available, things will be safer and we will be able to gather again. There will be even more reasons to dress up and celebrate. We created this film in the fullness of the joy we will feel once the worst is over. We are looking ahead for the moments of levity and fun.”
Ahead, Maxwell opens up about his favorite pieces from Spring 2021, how life in lockdown influenced his personal style, and what he believes is next for the future of fashion.
Walk the reader through the inspiration behind this collection. What messages were you trying to convey with these designs?
I don’t typically have a big inspiration point when I create a collection. It’s not about a recent trip or an obscure literary reference. It’s really about where I am mentally at the moment of creation. What do I like, what do I feel like our customers need? Fashion is about people and emotion. I hope someone who watches this feels something: the happiness, the love, the community, the passion we all have for what we do.
It's like picking a favorite child, but do you have any favorites from this collection?
Picking favorites is hard, but there are some pieces I gravitate to and absolutely love. This season was all about the comfort and ease of dressing up. I worked with a luxury bonded jersey for the first time to create dresses, suits, and a statement top. The fabric is basically a very luxe sweatshirt material so that women can be exquisitely dressed but without the constraints and fuss. I love the sporty details throughout the collection in ribbed knit trims, removable hoods, acrylic fanny packs, and bungee drawstrings.
There is a naturalness and freedom in a lot of the fabrics, especially the shirt dresses. I see someone wearing them at a small outdoor gathering or on a Zoom. They're comfortable without sacrificing style. Lastly, the moire faille fabric in bold neon yellows, grass greens, and calming blue grays felt optimistic and hopeful. We certainly need more of that these days. It’s about powering through darkness and uncertainty and finding the light.
How do you want people to feel when they wear your clothes?
Powerful, happy, and like the best version of themselves.
How has quarantine influenced your personal style? What are you wearing at home these days?
My personal style hasn’t changed that much. I still love a good sweatshirt and sneakers, but I’ve definitely craved getting dressed up again. Some days I’ll wear something a bit dressier just to have dinner at home with my fiancé.
What are your predictions for the 2021 award season? Any looks or styles you think will be prominent on the red carpet?
Wow, that’s hard to say! There will definitely be people who miss the glamour of the carpets and will really give us high fashion. I can also see a more pared back look with a casual elegance. There will probably be more sensitivity to the devastating after effects of the pandemic. We’ll hopefully see celebs use their platforms and that moment to find a way to do good and bring awareness to the larger issues of the world.
With the way the industry has been turned upside down lately, when you think about the future of fashion overall, what comes to mind?
I feel optimistic about the future of fashion. Pre-pandemic, there was a general feeling from many people in the industry that the pace was unsustainable. Hopefully, 2021 will see the industry really take stock of the past and slow down.