Brandon Maxwell's 2020 Collection Is Red Carpet for a World in Quarantine

When the global pandemic upended traditional fashion week in 2020, many designers (and fashion lovers) began to question the need for the seasonal calendar that has been churning faster and faster by the year. That's why Brandon Maxwell decided to make fashion on his own terms.

On Sunday, Maxwell hosted his Spring/Summer 2020, or "December 6th show" as he called it, for his eponymous label. The collection featured the usual structured glamour that we're used to seeing from the designer, but with a bit of a pandemic twist.

Voluminous skirts were met with sporty, off the shoulder tops and suiting was soft enough that it was essentially a sweatsuit. While you might call the collection a 2000s inspired, sporty glam, Maxwell insists that the concept was less coherent. He just wanted to make something his customer would love.

"When it came time for me to really sit down and actually dive in, I was asking myself what is this about? What am I doing? If I'm going to do it, why?," he tells me over Zoom days before the show. He's wearing a Patagonia baseball hat and he seems relaxed — a far cry from the expected chaos that usually comes just days before a runway show.

Before I even asked the classic questions about inspiration and hidden meanings, he stopped me and let me know that sometimes, for him, it's just not that deep. "This collection was just a wonderful reminder for me that there will be light again, after any storm comes the sun. Is it some big story? No," he explained. "I think the story of the collection is that it happened at all."

He went on, "It's the story of a small team making their way through and trying to come out whole on the other side."

brandon maxwell spring summer 2020

However, he did share that while he was creating the pieces, he asked himself one question, "How do we address the times that we're in for the woman that I make clothes for?"

The result was a colorful collection, full of gowns and suits that look dressed up at first glance, but up close, offer more comfortable fits. Essentially, the red carpet meets quarantine.

Like everyone else in fashion, Maxwell has had to address questions about what good, and more importantly what bad, the fashion industry has been doing when it comes to sustainability and ethics. "It's not something I address a lot but I know it's something we all are thinking about right now," he admits. "We are a small brand and we create small. I think we now know that we don't need to do as much as we were doing before and I think that we'll carry that with us forward."

In terms of seasonality, which the industry relies on to make money but has helped create a problem with overconsumption, Maxwell says it's something he's always wanted to evolve. "To me, it's just a collection and I think everyone thinks like that in reality," he says. "When I go to buy something, I'm not thinking 'oh this is from the 2019 Spring Collection, I think this will look nice on me and I really like it.'"

Courtesy of Brandon Maxwell

While he couldn't pull off a classic runway show — typically an over the top event filled with celebrities and Shake Shack — Maxwell says he was happy to pull back for once. "I didn't miss the self-criticism that comes with producing a big show," he explains. "I'm very, very critical of myself and there's a lot to be critical of. I'm one of the least perfect people on the planet. I don't miss beating myself up to the point of sickness leading up to it and questioning and erasing every good bit of joy that happened within my team while making it based on somebody else's opinion of it."

He continued, "And I'm sure some of that will come but the good thing about your cell phone is that you can turn it off."

Watch below for a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Brandon Maxwell's Spring/Summer 2020 collection:

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