Brandon Maxwell was busier than usual backstage because he was wearing two hats: designer and stylist. “I wanted to do something that felt authentic,” he said. “When I started I was maybe insecure about not having a fashion education, so I felt I needed to be more serious. But I’m not that serious a person. During the pandemic, I decided that if I got the opportunity ever again, I’d like to do it as me.”

From the first look, this was different. In the five years he’s been on the runway Maxwell has been print-averse, but peeking out from beneath the show-opening sharply tailored jacket was a printed bodysuit, in not just any print but a swirling psychedelic print. Look two featured a sweatshirt with an illustration by the poster artist Mishka Westell on which a mushroom poses on a long shapely pair of legs.

So, just who is Brandon Maxwell? Clearly, he’s more fun than his more decorous prior collections might’ve had us believe. Tonight, there was pleated gold lamé, pool blue patent croc, and high-contrast rugby stripes… on a strapless evening sheath. The sporty sexy shapes, he explained, were informed by the way the young women he works with are dressing now, i.e. with skin-baring body positivity.

The collection was 100% ballgown free. If that’s partly due to current world events—there’s not as much need for gala attire as there was pre-pandemic—it’s also down to Maxwell’s attitude adjustment. Instead, for an evening out next spring he likes the look of a bikini top, hip-slung satin track pants, and a blazer. Gigi Hadid modeled a version of the look in a gray and white gingham check with a blurred-out flower. She did a little spin at the end of the runway, a move so old school it’s new school. When they came out for the finale, the models walked arm-in-arm, cracking smiles. Down with insecurity and seriousness. Up with authenticity and smiling!

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