On Saturday evening, Brandon Maxwell honored his grandmother Louise Johnson, known as Mammaw to him, at an intimate and personal show held in the Daryl Roth theatre in Union Square. His Fall Winter ’22 show began with a video of Siri reading the designer’s Wikipedia biography asking, ‘Who is Brandon Maxwell?’ The footage featured some of his professional highlights, followed by family videos and photographs of his grandmother. Johnson, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, has served as an inspiration to the Texan designer since his childhood.
Karlie Kloss, who hasn’t walked a lot of runway shows in recent times, opened the show in a long white trench coat. Models such as Kloss, Precious Lee, and Paloma Elsesser walked to Brandi Carlile’s cover of John Denver’s Take Me Home, Country Roads. It was a more somber mood compared to other seasons where the designer typically has a pre-show party.
Maxwell’s gorgeous collection featured his signature red carpet looks and a bevy of ballgowns, interspersed with more classic denim looks. Many of the models also carried oversized bags that caught the attention of my seat mate Tina Chen Craig aka Bag Snob. The flowers on Kloss’ finale dress were taken from a painting he asked his grandfather to make in his grandmother’s honor. “The finale is a literal valentine,” Maxwell wrote in his show notes. “It is a painting lifted from a letter from a shoe salesman to his bride. It pays homage to 65 years of love and the seams that hold it together.”
Maxwell took his runway bow with his proud Pappaw by his side. Interestingly, it looks like the designer is hitting reset—if Instagram is any indication. Today, his brand account only has two posts from the show and is following zero others. Welcome to a new chapter for one of fashion’s greatest stars!
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Here are Maxwell’s lovely words honoring his Mammaw:
In 1956, a shoe salesman met a young woman by chance. They were married two weeks later on purpose. They both loved family and the business of fashion, so they made their own. In the early days, she would travel from city to city by his side helping to sell those shoes that would build their home, and in the later days, he would sit transcribing at the kitchen table the dress orders for her clients that would sustain them. Somewhere in between, their family made their own families; they went from Mom and Dad to Mammaw and Pappaw, and in that little home overflowing with love on Groveland Avenue, we all became who we are.
The school of Mammaw was one of hands-on discovery. I found my way to her closet of treasures, the same way, I found my way to those pictures of her and her sisters in all their 1950s glamour. The world in those pictures folded seamlessly into my own styling vernacular at the time: bed sheet and blanket ball gowns accessorized with her emptied-out jewelry boxes. Mammaw’s clothes, and those in the store she managed, taught me forms that I wanted to take further. I liked this idea so much that I made it my life’s work.
Now I have the privilege of dressing women of all ages and backgrounds and still it is always Mammaw’s approval that I seek. When I try to dazzle her with the theater of the runway, she only has eyes for my seams – (typical of someone who pursued a life adjusting them). Sometimes it feels like they are the most important lines between us. Because when communication gets harder, clothes step in as a telephone, a way to dial into a shared frequency. Recently when we get together, we hardly talk at all. The show goes on in our eyes.
Over the past years, I’ve struggled with the reality of losing shared threads yet, I’d never considered memory’s ability to keep us close. This season required me to summon the past to move forward. To this end, the FW22 collection is an exercise in confrontation, acceptance, reverence and legacy. The finale is a literal valentine. It is a painting lifted from a letter from a shoe salesman to his bride. It pays homage to 65 years of love and the seams that hold it together.
Peruse the gorgeous collection below.
(Images by Greg Kessler courtesy of Brandon Maxwell)