At swanky Mr. Chow’s on New York’s Upper East Side, Brandon Maxwell was getting ready to present his debut collection on Monday night. But one look at the entrance was enough to know that this wasn’t your typical inaugural show at New York Fashion Week.
Public relations flacks and security guards milled around, rigorously double-checking attendees against the guest list and keeping the moderate-sized crowd of onlookers at bay.
This group of lookey-loos wasn’t just an overzealous bunch of fashion lovers. They were craning their necks in eager anticipation of catching a glimpse of Maxwell’s bestie and No. 1 client: Lady Gaga.
The Mother Monster may have been the main reason the newbie’s show was so well attended and promoted in the press, and she did her part on arrival, posing for the frenzy of photogs against the shiny black runway backdrop with “Brandon Maxwell” written in bright white lights.
With her best serious fashion face on, Gaga gave them a good look at the plunging neckline of her Brandon Maxwell suit before turning around and posing with one arm raised above her head, seductively looking over her shoulder as lightbulbs flashed on her derrière.
But, once the show started, all eyes were on the runway where Maxwell’s vision was all his own.
Since 2010, Maxwell has been a stylist for the audacious pop star.
For the first two-plus years, he assisted lead stylist Nicola Formichetti on such sartorial stunts as the infamous dress made entirely of meat that Gaga wore to the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards, and her eventful arrival to the 2011 Grammy’s, during which she hatched out of an egg.
After Formichetti left to become artistic director at Diesel, Maxwell took the reins and, under his guidance, Gaga’s style has lately trended more old-school glamour than outrageous antics.
Maxwell designed her 2015 Grammy’s gown, which was all hip-hugging sparkle complete with what is quickly becoming his signature plunging neckline and thigh-high slit.
And he dressed the singer for her Cheek to Cheek tour with Tony Bennett, where her wardrobe called to mind classic Hollywood—floor-length gowns, sumptuous feathers, and seemingly endless sparkles.
Given that daring fashionista Lady Gaga is Maxwell’s primary client, this debut collection at first sight bordered on boring.
Maxwell hewed to an almost strictly black-and-white palette (with a few pops of blush pink thrown in) and focused on impeccably constructed women’s basics—pantsuits, blazers, little black dresses. But he elevated these glamorous looks with twists of interesting detail.
There were structured bell sleeves, high neck collars, blazers with mini tails, playful asymmetry, and slits for days. The collection harkened back to the ’70s, but not in an overdone, costume-y way. Instead, Maxwell’s collection was full of day-to-night elegance, wearable in both office and a bar.
Maxwell ended the show with several evening looks. All were lovely but only one was a showstopper: a Gaga-esque black gown with giant pouffy sleeves that cascaded down the back in a cape-like fall of fabric that made getting through the narrow aisles of the runway a difficult prospect for the poor model underneath it all.
The impact of the piece provoked a spontaneous mid-show burst of applause from the largely adoring crowd.
The No. 1 fan, however, was the Lady herself, who reportedly teared up when the models took their final walk. (In a reversal of roles, she also “interned” for Maxwell over the past few days, lending a hand to help the designer/stylist get ready for the show.)
It was a star-studded affair no doubt thanks to the pop star. (Other notables to grace the dining room floor-cum-runway included designer Alexander Wang, photography duo Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, star stylist and Maxwell’s former boss Nicola Formichetti, and even royalty, Princess Deena Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia.)
As the lights came back up, the young platinum-blonde—and clear Gaga acolyte—sitting next to me exclaimed in the most dramatically serious voice imaginable: "The collection is everything. Oh my god.”
That may be overstating it a bit, but it will certainly be intriguing to see what Brandon Maxwell does next.