After a breakneck couple of years, Brandon Maxwell has learned the value of slowing down. The 2019 CFDA Womenswear Designer of the Year award winner and Project Runway judge spent the height of the pandemic at his Brooklyn home and studio, where he rediscovered his love of the design process. As part of ELLE's look at the future of fashion, he talked about the perks of pulling yourself together for Zoom and why it's OK to take it easy sometimes in the name of self-care.
I’m curious to hear how you’re approaching your next collection, as there have been so many conflicting opinions on how to approach Fashion Week.
So I can't really speak for the industry as a whole. I can only really speak for myself personally, obviously, but one thing that I've done—and I don't know that this is the appropriate word—but the gift I've given myself during this time is to not push myself to do anything. This is a mentally challenging time for everyone, and I want to be kind to myself and also to give myself the time to process how I want my work and story to be.
Have you felt the urge to design during this period?
In the interest of being 100% honest, I have a studio in my house and I've made some clothes. But I wouldn't say that I've overly challenged myself to understand what that will look like come September.
Safety is really important for me personally and so until I really know what that looks like, I'm not challenging myself to come to a conclusion. One thing we have been doing is focusing on pre-existing collections that were already in the works or rolling out limited products that feel timely, not necessarily full collections.
How do you feel about the possibility of not staging a big show come fall?
If you look at the experience of my show, it's so personal and it's definitely about the human interaction. There's lots of of yelling and clapping and screaming but even pre- this moment I’ve been feeling like a need to return to a more intimate format.
My very first show was very small, uptown, and it remains such a special memory for me because it was filled with people I really knew and had personal relationships with. I'm hopeful that we will find a way to strike that balance going forward, whatever that means.
What lessons have you learned since March?
That you have to stay fluid and nimble and change with the times, so we try to focus on doing that as best we can.
Do you think when this is over, people will be excited about getting dressed again?
I would say that I have already had a point personally when I'm dressing up again, just for myself at home. I'm naturally someone who's always in Nike wind shorts and a T-shirt, but this period has been a whole other level of dressing down. I've just noticed in my own disposition whenever I do make an effort to get ready or schedule a Zoom cocktail with friends, it’s less about the item and more about giving yourself the gift of feeling good. And I don’t think that will go away.
Are you optimistic about the future of the industry?
I'm not quite as pessimistic about the future of fashion as others maybe are. Speaking for my customers, they are purchasing items to dress up right now even if it’s just in their own backyard. Technology is now such an incredible asset to designers, and I see that more and more while engaging with design students. It opens the door for new ideas and new people. I think that's something we need to and brave and joyful about, in the midst of so much sadness. I'm really hopeful that this experience has highlighted how connected we all are, and maybe weren't aware that we were.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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