EFM Exclusive Story - Fashion Editor/Stylist Brandon Maxwell




fter my conversation with Brandon Maxwell, I found him to be considerate, genuine, and coherent; which makes key ingredients for an absolute editor and stylist — very straight forward and a particular person.  He’s laid back and his favorite brand to wear, while working non-stop hours is Nike.  While doing his daily routine and walking his French bulldog [Stella], he gave a detailed and precise interview.

Originally from Longview, TX, Brandon had his sights on moving to New York.  He decided to attend Marymount Manhattan College in New York [a private liberal arts college, studying painting].  He wasn’t quite sure if this was the path he really wanted to pursue.  “I really didn’t know if this was for me.  I just knew that I wanted to live in New York. After two years, I transferred to a great school in Austin, TX called St. Edward's University.  It sort of changed my entire life by being there.  It’s an incredible school that has amazing facilities.  I felt like when you go to college in New York it’s sort of transient  and in Texas, it was a real community there for me.  Young creative kids there who were doing all sorts of different things; we were there all day long until 4 o’clock in the morning working together.  I remember we found a group of people who actually helps me in my career today.  It was all about working together; and I think that, had I not had that experience in Austin, I don’t really know if I could do what I do now.  After I studied photography there it took me 3 years and then I finished.”

Brandon decided to give New York another try.  “I sold my car; I bought a backpack and moved to New York I shared a little tiny room, like the size of a closet out towards Coney Island.”  I just knew that photography was there mathematically I knew that photography wasn’t for me because during my time in school, I was always buying vintage dresses, hair extensions and putting them on my girlfriends, and taking pictures, I knew in school I wanted to work in fashion.  Most people were doing more artistic photography and I really was very interested in fashion.  When I moved to New York I actually really wasn’t aware that was a career where you could do that, I really had no idea,” he says.

Brandon wrote up a resume.  “When I was in college I had interned a couple of times at a fashion magazine a lifestyle magazine in Austin.  I learned a bit, just basic things —I put that on my resume.  I remembered just waking up every morning and sitting in my house and just thinking well, ‘I have $10,000 to my name from selling my car and I need to get a job, or I’m going to have to move back home,’ so I literally beat down every door; I mean, I emailed agencies all day every day, called people all day, every day trying to get a job.  Thank God I was so naive at that point, because I didn’t realize how many kids were in New York, doing the same.  I wasn’t so scared to fail because I really had no other option.  I just kept asking people.  Finally, I remembered like it was yesterday walking down the street and my cell phone rang, it was a fashion editor, Deborah Afshani, she called me and says, “Oh hi, I got your resume from an agent and I’m doing a shoot tomorrow for L’ Uomo Vogue and I need an intern. Can you come help me,” and I was like, yes!  I remember showing up that first experience for me was so life changing and I will never forget, because this industry can be very hard and people can be very cold.  Deborah was so warm to me and so friendly.”  Brandon explains how his first day on the shoot was and how his career took off from there.  “I had no idea what I was doing.  I just knew that I needed to show up early and stay late.   I was googling how to do things and I just didn’t know what I was doing, but she totally gave me a chance.  I kept working with her and in a couple of weeks she started using me as a freelancer, and I started working with her full-time.  I learned so many things from her; about patience and kindness, how to treat people, and how not to yell — and if things don’t work out, they don’t work out. She was such a lovely, sweet person. She really paved the way for everything I did.  After I was with her for about a year, she started to say, “Maybe you should look for other people to work with I think that you are ready to work with other people.”  She recommended me to a few other people and I started second assisting then, fashion editor Edward Enninful.  The first job I did with him was with Dior [John Galliano].”

While working with influential individuals in the fashion industry, such as; photographer Steven Meisel and makeup artist Pat McGrath; Brandon began to desire to build his career even more.  He eventually met Nicola Formichetti [Lady Gaga’s former stylist].  “Nicola Formichetti and I had lunch.  We met for just an hour and he hired me there on the spot. We worked together close to three years.”

I asked what he thought about assisting Nicola and the importance, in general, assisting an established fashion stylist.  He responds;  “For me assisting is so essential and there are so many things that you really can’t apparently know.  I think that you need to be around someone that is incredible and Nicola is really incredible, he’s just a great fun caring person that people love to be around.  I think for me that experience was so essential.  Nicola really thinks outside the box, he sort of has no rules.  He really looks at it in a very child-like, fun way, and for me, that helps so much because I try to carry that into my own work now, and remember the times that we had.  I was so lucky to watch him come up and how he handled things and to see his career grow in such a massive way while I was with him.  And for me, I just feel like it wouldn’t have been possible to do what I have done and what I do now.”

I asked Brandon what keeps him grounded?  “I think that no matter what, when you have great success in life and lots of failures in life, I really feel, if you don’t handle both with the same grace, you really have no business doing this, because you’re not going to succeed all the time.  You should always know and believe in what you’re doing, but once you start to believe that you are superior and better than everybody else that’s sort of the beginning of the end.  I really look at it as, I work every day and I usually travel 365 days a year this is my job. I leave my job and I come home and I still have the same friends, and they still accept me, even though I’m always gone and traveling and have to do ridiculous things all the time, if you don’t keep that around you [family/friends] in the business, then you can start to lose everything around you and for me it’s been so important.”  He continues; “I really don’t go out a ton, I’m not super social going to places, because for me you always have to remember that you’re doing this because you love the work that you are doing and not for the things that are around you or the glamour of it all.  I’m in my sweatpants when I’m working I never really changed who I am.  I mean that’s something that I really enjoy about myself, if I had to pick one thing, I am who I am, and I don’t think that I’m going to change.”

Brandon recently styled Lady Gaga for the cover of Porter Magazine Issue 2.  I asked him what was the process and concept of the cover and the full story shoot.  He responds; “That shoot boiled down to the chemistry between everyone working together. Inez and Vinoodh, who shot this story we all had been working together for quite some time.  Inez and Vinoodh so kindly gave me my very first job when I went out on my own.  We’ve worked together for years; we’ve done music videos, we’ve done other cover photo shoots together.  Inez and Vinoodh and I have such chemistry together.  Inez and Vinoodh love to see Lady Gaga in a very raw beautiful way because they know her personally; and they know the beauty that she has.  Porter is such an incredible magazine.  It’s all about the woman inside and strong women.  We just talked a lot about old music icons, Stevie Nicks, Barbara Streisand, and Linda Ronstadt.  Really what people forget they see all the costumes they forget that Gaga is an incredible musician and she has a voice that can rival anyone. She writes everything herself that’s what I always want people to know. She’s an incredible singer and I think Inez and Vinoodh really recognized that and this shoot was a representation of that. I thought that she was so stunning on the cover; fresh and beautiful.  It’s good for people to see that once in a while.  It wasn’t something that we were doing on purpose.  I think we all just get there; the mood is very quiet and harmonious.  We didn’t plan too much and kind of went with the flow; when you do that, you click with everyone and get the best work.

During your down time, what are your favorite things you like to do?  “I don’t have a lot of down time.  But, my favorite place to go is Austin, TX.  My best friend and my sister are there.  I go and spend time with them. On my down time at home all my friends I went to photo school with in Austin moved to New York, we spend time together.  Most importantly I have my dog [Stella, French bulldog].  I spend a lot of my time with my dog taking her to the park.”  She’s sort of my happy time; he adds.

Brandon tells me what has been, so far, the highlight of his career?  “I feel like honestly, I really never thought that I would be successful in anything.  I really thought that I wouldn’t have a job.  Everyday I’m so thankful for the people around who allowed me to have a job that rehired me, and believed in me.  So I feel like every day is a highlight of my career.  I’m really proud of having been friends with Lady Gaga for so long, I’m proud of the work I do with her and what we do together.  I know that maybe a lot of people don’t understand it but, it really allows me to feel free in a way that I haven’t felt since my late teens so fun for me.” 

“Another professional highlight for me was the campaign I did for Barneys with Inez and Vinoodh.  When I came to New York for the first time I was 16; I went to Barneys and bought myself a little Prada messenger bag.  They were so kind when they did the windows for the store to put my name in the window.  I sort of walked by that day and stood there.  I was so grateful to Inez and Vinoodh for giving me that opportunity and to the wonderful people at Barneys for trusting me with that.  I really was so proud of that and so honored to get to do that; it was a real full circle moment for me.”

What gives you inspiration?  “I’m a Virgo so I’m an earth sign.  I feel like going outside really, really helps me a lot.  Being outside walking around, and anytime I get to watch a sunset.  Just to be in nature is a big thing for me.  I’m not a person who reads a lot of magazines or look at a lot of reference books; I feel it throws me off.  When I do that I sort of feel like I subconsciously veer towards copying.  So I try to not do that, I just try to sit and think of things on my own.  I’m also a person who has a jam box in every room of my house so music for me is really, really helpful.  When I’m showering, brushing my teeth, laying in bed, and cooking, I’m always playing music; it’s really inspirational for me.  So what kind of music do you listen to?  I mean I listen to everything but Opera,” [we laughed]. 

How important do you think it is to have an agent?  Do you think an agent helps you in your career?  “I had an agent since the beginning of my career and that is the one thing I’m most fortunate.  I have an incredible agent, Deana.  Obviously everyone at CLM agency is incredible and super supportive. I really feel like it’s been a great place for me.  I think ultimately it’s up to you as an artist to do the work yourself through net working.  Showing up on time, being reliable, work hard to make sure that the client wants to work with you again.  I definitely do think that people will take you more seriously if you do have an agent, but in terms of getting work, I think it's ultimately up to you — for the rest of your life you will have to hit the pavement and show everyone your book; always constantly proving yourself, which I love.”  



What advice can you give to the aspiring fashion stylists?  “To stay true to yourself.  We live in 2014, we live in a world where everyone who has a cell phone is a photographer. Everyone who has access to clothes is a stylist.  To me the most important thing is to work hard, do everything that you do with conviction, treat people with respect, no yelling, and to never forget, that no matter where you go and what you do; don't forget where you came from and who your true friends are.  I think once you start doing things for the glamour and all, and not the passion for the work, I say just quit it all together. I feel like there is not a thrust for greatness anymore.  For me, I never ever take for granted when I’m on the set with Inez and Vinoodh or Steven Klein, — many photographers who have chosen to work with me, when God knows they have thousands of other options of incredible fashion editors.  I never ever take that lightly and I’m so thankful and I think if you don’t live your life like that, — as a freelance person, it doesn’t matter how great you are as a fashion editor, it’s just like being an actor; you are only has good as your last job.  As a freelance person you are constantly waiting and hoping and praying for a job.  So if you start to get too big for your britches, people don’t want to work with you, you’re out of a job.  Honestly to me, what other talent do I have, it’s not like I can go be a lawyer, I better be on my best behavior.”





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