On the downward slope of New York’s six-day fashion week, trends are coming into focus. While there are designers still chasing virality, another camp has turned its back on that. Brandon Maxwell has architected his fair share of Instagrammable moments—Lady Gaga’s multiple red carpet wardrobe changes at the 2019 Met Gala being the most famous and memorable—but he’s part of a significant NYC contingent emphasizing wearability and wardrobe building. Their focus is on grown-up tailoring in neutral colors with minimum embellishments. You could call them the new American minimalists.
Maxwell said he went back to the beginning for this collection, picking out a bell sleeve peplum top that he felt was ripe for revival. In that first collection he cut it in what he described today as a “cumbersome” crepe; this time around, with half a dozen years under his belt, he used an alpaca wool stretch knit that follows the contours of the body. “It was about taking stock of who I am and asking ‘what can I do better?’” he said backstage. The same shape turned up on an off-the-shoulder dress and on a strapless top.
On the tailoring front, he broke convention, pairing trad jackets with deeply cuffed shorts featuring elasticated waists. Cara Taylor opened and closed the show in black and white versions of the playful look. Leather was everywhere, from a shirt, maxi skirt, and bandeau top combo, to a plunge front dress held together under the bust with chrome hardware, that repeated on the jewelry. Maxwell called out an understated black wool shirt dress as his favorite piece.
Though there were a few bejeweled items, the big takeaway here was the collection’s grown-up restraint, for both day or night. “I don’t know that evening for me right now is a gown,” he said. I had a hard time with anything that felt too ‘dressed.’” Favoring subtlety over drama, one sylph-like look dress combined a sweater with lightly padded shoulders and a bias cut silk skirt, another spliced together a knit tank and a fuller silk skirt. In recent season Maxwell toyed around with color and a variety of prints. He said goodbye to all that for fall. Almost everything came in monochrome, and 100% of it was in neutrals. He seemed to anticipate questions about the palette. Brandon Maxwell faded to gray? “Actually,” he said, “it came from a place of joy.”