I’ve seen a lot of enjoyable runway shows since Friday from designers who let their minds wander to places far away and long ago.
Tory Burch thought of her parents, Buddy and Reva Robinson, on their sailing trips along the Mediterranean, their journeys inspiring floaty caftans trimmed with gold coins and a lovely silk wrap dress. Marina Moscone, a new designer, looked to the 1960s style of Penelope Tree and Natalie wood to create some eye-catching dresses dripping with colorful embroidered threads. It was 1970s glamour, “the California spirit and an audacious sense of Parisian elegance” for Sophie Delafontaine, the creative director of Longchamp, who made a big splash with a New York show with the resources to draw Kate Moss, Kendall Jenner, Priyanka Chopra, Isabelle Huppert, and Awkwafina. (I was impressed by Delafontaine’s well-made, fringe-happy ready-to-wear for Longchamp, a label that is primariy known for its accessories – the featherweight dresses here were balanced with leather trims and belts in a clever nod to the house’s signature bags.)
Can you really be surprised that designers would be embracing a sense of escapism, given the mood of the world today? Hardly. This makes Brandon Maxwell’s decision to focus on both the past and present in his spring collection all the more brave, in a tight collection dedicated to the designer’s home state of Texas. It was mostly high-gloss pink or red or pink-and-red body-con dresses worn by a cast of glam models who bring a lot of life to his designs. The set featured Kia pickup trucks with the tailgates down and Yeti coolers used as seats, and the predominance of red made me think of the audience at a Texas A&M football game. Many of the models carried clear bags or hat boxes that contained bottles of pink champagne or red cowboy hats (a collaboration with the milliner Gigi Burris), which looked a lot like the one his late grandmother Dot wore back in Longview with matching cowboy boots.
Obviously, there were many notes of nostalgia for the Texas of Maxwell’s youth here – even the boots that were sent out to editors as invitations came from Lucchese, created by Italian immigrants in San Antonio way back in the 1880s. But there was also, importantly, a sense of today. Maxwell and his team designed the collection in Marfa, a part of Texas that many of us in the fashion world associate with fantastic art exhibitions, like the sculpture of a fake Prada store created by Elmgreen and Dragset in 2005. As he worked there, Maxwell discovered there was a real disparity between the art-seeking pilgrims who visit Marfa and its residents, and so he set out to create partnerships to help raise funds for its school system and other charities. Maxwell made a smart, 30-minute documentary on Marfa that can be seen at brandonmaxwellstudio.com that talks a lot about the community, with compelling interviews with local artists and residents. What I liked about the video, as well as the collection, was that Maxwell came across as entirely sincere in his intentions to do better than escapism, as a designer and a person, in both.
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That partly explains what happened at the end of the show, when Maxwell took his bow alongside his other grandmother, Louise Johnson, as the models watched from the sidelines with tears in their eyes. Grace Elizabeth, a 21-year-old beauty from Lake City, Florida, caught my eye, as I wiped it. “I’m crying too,” she mouthed.
Honestly, it must have been a bit of dust.