Fashion / Style

Famed Texas Fashion Designer Gets Wild After Austin Sojourn — Brandon Maxwell Embraces His Animal Side

From a Sweet Nursery to a New Collection and Love For Textiles

BY // 05.13.21

Known for his chic monochromatic designs, Brandon Maxwell has taken a big step outside his fashion comfort zone. The Texas native, who previously featured only one print in a runway show during his five-year fashion career, has done an about face, unveiling a new collection filled with polka dots, tiger and zebra stripes, leopard spots, oversized lips, butterfly patterns and floral designs.

Call it the pandemic effect.

When COVID hit, Maxwell decamped from New York for Austin to be near his sister, who was expecting her first child. What was planned to be a short trip turned into a five-month stay, and during that time, Maxwell bunked at the home of Austin interior designer Erin Driscoll Thornton, where he began to appreciate his surroundings.

“I found myself getting further and further wrapped up in the old-fashioned luxury of hosting,” he explains in an email. “I got lost in table settings, fabrics and finishes.”

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Lynn Wyatt, Brandon Maxwell at the Texas Medal of Arts Awards in Austin. (Tyler Schmitt Photo)

When Maxwell discovered that his sister had not begun putting together a nursery, he and Thornton designed a budget-friendly space with padded walls covered in tweed fabric from JoAnn Fabrics  and sticky-back green velvet piping. They lined two IKEA wardrobes with Scalamandré peel-and-stick wallpaper in a zebra pattern, which was also used to wrap floor lamps purchased from Amazon with pom-pom shades from Anthropologie. For the walls, they found vintage rodeo-themed animal art on Etsy.

Maxwell documented the project on YouTube.

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Brandon Maxwell Turns to a Texas Guru

With his newfound love of prints, Brandon Maxwell decided to create his first all-patterned fashion collection and sought out Texas textile designer George Venson, the founder and creative director of Voutsa, the wallpaper brand with a cult-like following. Venson, a San Antonio native with a visual arts degree from Rice University, opened his archives to the Maxwell team, and they created 11 signature prints for the collection.

“They gravitated toward some of my earliest work,” Venson explains in a webzine Maxwell created to document the collection. “There was a femininity in those early works that I see in Brandon’s clothes too.”

Maxwell chose Venson’s signature florals, tromp l’oeil Audrey dots and the iconic “lips on red wallpaper” print, which decorates the walls of rooms at Liz Lambert’s hip Austin Motel, with new color variations. He also commissioned new tiger and zebra striped patterns from Venson.

“Brandon loves animal prints and asked me to try them on for size. Once I started, I couldn’t stop, and now it’s something I think you’ll see in our permanent collections,” Venson says.

Brandon Maxwell pre-spring 2022 collection
Brandon Maxwell dresses in butterfly and floral prints. (Photo by Venetia Scott for Brandon Maxwell)

The result is a colorful mismash of prints, patterns and textures, albeit with Maxwell’s signature tailoring and “uptown girl” sophistication.  Bold butterfly print coats contrast with breezy dotted day dresses. Chic zebra print jackets with wide lapels have a ’60s vibe, particular when worn by models with teased hair. One dress is even split down the middle with florals on one side and leopard stripes on the other.

The daring prints even extend to accessories, with classic pumps, scarves, belts, handbags and knee-high boots in lip print, animal stripes and floral patterns.

“Initially, I thought this kind of collaboration would be a big step outside my comfort zone but as I went through the process, I realized that the collection was ultimately a reflection of my sanctuary,” Maxwell notes. “The interior spaces I love spending time in are wild: saturated with prints, color and textures.

“I used this collection as a framework for revisiting ideas of comfort and luxury while upending the signatures people have come to expect. The result is structured and refined but with a new layer of complication and play.”

After skipping last fall’s fashion season, Brandon Maxwell is looking forward to showing a new collection in front of a live audience at New York Fashion Week in September. But he admitted to Women’s Wear Daily that he’d just as soon premiere the collection in Dallas.

“I could put some flyers up in town, and people would come and I’d feel good about that. That’s how I grew up, with my grandmother doing fashion shows on tables in the convention center,” he says. “Wouldn’t it be great, models coming down a runway outdoors, and everyone sitting watching, eating queso and drinking beer?

“What would I need? A Texas-based travel sponsor. American Airlines, call me!”

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