At fashion designer Brandon Maxwell’s studio in New York City, surrounded by the colors and textures of his Fall line, he reflects on the path that got him here.
“Everything I wanted to do growing up as a kid, I’m sure as a parent, that was terrifying. I was like, everything I ever—job or passion I ever had—I’m sure that they were just like, ‘how would you ever make money doing that? Are we going to have to take care of him until he’s 90 years old?’” Maxwell said with a laugh. “So I think that they’re just happy they don’t have to pay my rent, which is something to be proud of.”
And his parents could not be more proud. “Well I tell ya, there’s a lot of those moments— even from the day he was born. That was a huge moment,” said his mother, Pam Woolley.
“He truly has a God-given gift to do what he does,” said his father, Mike Maxwell.
Brandon was raised in Longview. His fashion experience un-officially began inside the building where his grandmother once ran an upscale women’s clothing store in town. “And I grew up there my whole life really,” Brandon said.
But designing clothes wasn’t always his dream. “So I don’t think I entertained the idea. The only thing I ever thought about was moving to New York City, I don’t think I thought about what I was going to do when I got there,” Brandon said.
And the streets of New York can be expensive when you’re a self-taught up-and-comer.
“I lost so much weight because all I could afford was like an apple and an orange. And I’m not an apple or an orange-eating person at all. So that was really devastating for me for like a year,” Brandon said with a laugh.
Finally, after sending out countless resumes he caught a break.
“He called and he goes, ‘mom, I got this job. I’m the assistant to Nicola Formichetti . . . he’s the stylist of Lady Gaga and I’m the assistant.’ And I said, ‘well, who’s Lady Gaga?” Pam said with a laugh.
Brandon is now Lady Gaga’s lead-stylist, but more importantly to him, he’s been her friend for around a decade.
“And it’s been a really fruitful creative relationship, but most of all it’s been a very fruitful friendship, you know, and I think that’s the thing I’m most grateful for. Obviously I love all of the work that we’ve created, but I love the 2 a.m. phone calls the most,” Brandon said.
“The things that I’ve been the most proud of him of all the people he’s dressed is still Gaga. Because Gaga helped bring him to the party in many ways,” Mike said.
From dressing a mega star to launching his own collection, Pam recalled what it was like witnessing Brandon’s first runway show.
“Because you’re talking to him everyday. You know, you’re talking to him, you’re going through the whole motions . . . you’re going through all of his feelings—everything. And then, his first show. And to see his name on that wall: Brandon Maxwell. And then the music and everything, everything! The clothes were just fantastic! I mean, I—I did, I broke down and cried I couldn’t believe it,” Pam said.
Brandon’s family is proud of who he’s become, but more so—they’re proud of who he’s always been.
“He’s genuinely a good guy, just a good man,” Mike said. “From a very young age, Brandon has always had a good heart. Brandon is genuine, Brandon is caring, he is driven, and he knows what he wants and I think that’s a good thing. But he’s not going to run over people in the process.”
“He’s such a good son!” Pam said. “He loves me well . . . and he’s just a good kid. He’s so kind and humble.”
“Everything I do it’s like, okay, would my mom and my dad be proud, would my grandparents be proud, would my siblings be proud and if that’s good then I’m good,” Brandon said.
His path has taken him around to world and fortunately for this once-starving artist—fashion is now paying the bills.
“It was awesome, then I got to be able to make money and eat fried food again. Never been happier, than I am right now,” Brandon said with a smile.