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
Originally from Longview, TX, Brandon had his sights on
moving to New York. He decided to attend
College in New York [a private liberal
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.
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
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,”
Brandon wrote up a resume. “When
I was in college I had interned a couple of times at a
— 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
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
The first job I did with him was with Dior [John
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
responds; “For me assisting is so essential and
there are so many things that you really can’t
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
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
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
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
— 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
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
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