Cultivating the look of one of the world’s biggest mega-stars is no small challenge, but designer Brandon Maxwell takes it all in his stride. After assisting Lady Gaga’s former stylist Nicola Formichetti, who was responsible for Gaga’s more avant-garde looks (read: the meat dress), Maxwell took over six years ago and has led the star’s style from show-stopping to knockout.
Transforming Gaga’s style is just one string in designer Brandon Maxwell’s bow, who launched his own label in 2015 to much acclaim – he won the prestigious CFDA Swarovski Award for Womenswear in 2016. At the heart of the brand are elegant, understated dresses which have ensured numerous victories on the red carpet, and a loyal following that includes Michelle Obama, Iman and Jennifer Lawrence.
As the Texan launches his collection in the UK exclusively with Harvey Nichols, Culture Trip talks Gaga, dreamy days out in London and kick-starting a fashion career.
Culture Trip: You worked in your grandmother’s boutique when you were younger, how did the experience influence your aesthetic?
Brandon Maxwell: Growing up in a store, surrounded by women, I loved seeing how clothes could transform their mood and outlook. I don’t think the garment should outshine the woman’s natural inner beauty, and for that reason we focus on tailoring and design as a way to bring out her already existing power.
CT: How does New York shape and inspire your collections, if at all?
BM: I am actually not one to be inspired by the city in a literal sense – my collections are mostly shaped by feelings and experiences I’ve had throughout the previous months. I do love the energy and history of New York and I’m not sure I would be able to create this anywhere else.
CT: What is about the silhouette and form of the dress that you’re drawn to?
BM: I love a great dress and feel like it should always flatter the woman’s shape. When I create the collection, I do it by draping directly on a form or a model so I really mould and shape the fabric to work with a woman’s curves and accentuate her features.
CT: You’ve worked closely with Lady Gaga for years, what’s your favourite thing about directing her style?
BM: It’s a truly collaborative process. We sit down and bounce ideas back and forth and work together to find the look that best represents the moment. When you’re also very close to the person that you are working with it is very easy and 100% fun. She’s a dream to work with because the possibilities are endless and she loves fashion so much and is open to trying anything. We learn from each other and that is the best part.
CT: In light of your experiences, did you find it easy to launch your own label?
BM: I do not think anything about this process was easy. There were a ton of aspects to running a business that I hadn’t thought of before, and I quickly realised that this was going to be a lot of work. But I love every moment of it. However, putting your creative ideas out there for people to form any opinion on is never an easy process for anyone.
CT: How would you describe the Brandon Maxwell woman? And who (that you haven’t yet) would you like to dress?
BM: The Brandon Maxwell woman is smart, strong, confident, and powerful. And as far as someone I would like to dress, there are so many amazing women out there, I’m not sure there’s enough space here to mention them all.
CT: The UK market is new for you, do you see a difference between your customers at home and abroad?
BM: I love the UK customer as she is adventurous in different ways than our customers in other parts of the world. I always love seeing how different customers interpret the collection and Harvey Nichols has offered the perfect platform in which to launch my collection here.
CT: If Culture Trip were to spend a day with you in London, where we go and what would we see?
BM: When in London, I am usually working non-stop. I usually love to go see what is on at the Victoria and Albert Museum, have dinner at Mr Chow and then end up in Shoreditch hanging out with friends. On my most recent trip, I was only there for one day and it was spent at Harvey Nichols for the fall debut of the collection, followed by dinner and then a quick drive around the city to see the sites I never really get to see – Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, and London Bridge. I’m really looking forward to checking out the new Design Museum on my next visit.