Brandon Maxwell has always worn his heart on his sleeve, but this was his most personal show yet. It opened with Siri reading Maxwell’s Wikipedia page before cutting to a short film of spliced together family photos and video clips, many of Maxwell through the years with his grandmother, who is now suffering from Alzheimer’s. The Wikipedia page reminded us that Maxwell spent much of his youth in her Longview, Texas clothing boutique. He credits his grandmother with his passion for design.
“She’s a big part of my life,” he said at a preview. “I was going back to when I was a kid: While she was cooking I’d be in the back room taking blankets and wrapping them around my sister, emptying out her jewelry box, and making my sister carry one of her bags. When we decided to do a show, I wanted to make something that if it was my last one it would be a bookend that I was proud of.”
The blanket shawls, antique jewelry, and clutch bags Maxwell remembers were recurring motifs here, talismans from his youth. Fabrics felt chosen to conjure a feeling of home, too, from the crushed satin of a double lapel coat, to the oversize chenille stitch of a short belted sweater dress, to the rich brown interior textiles Maxwell used for tailoring. The flowers on Karlie Kloss’s finale dress were taken from a painting he asked his grandfather to make in his grandmother’s honor.
The last couple of times Maxwell was on the runway, the mood he channeled was slicker, more glamorous. That’s territory he’s at ease in, as the five outfits he made for Lady Gaga’s appearance at 2019’s “Camp” Met Gala make clear. The softer, more romantic tenor of these clothes was “a way to dial into a shared frequency” between himself and his grandmother, he said.
This was a poignant show, a thoughtful and heartfelt goodbye to the woman who set him on his path. In his show notes Maxwell said his grandmother only had eyes for his seams, “typical of someone who pursued a life adjusting them.” Our eyes were particularly drawn to the fisherman sweaters and crushed satin maxi skirts near the end of the show that combined comfort and glamour.
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This article was originally published on Vogue.com.