“I had it written down on my list of things to do in my life,” says fashion designer Brandon Maxwell about having a line of clothing at Walmart. Cue the power of manifestation. His dream came true last year when he was named the creative director for not one but two Walmart brands, Free Assembly and Scoop. He recently launched his first collections at the helm. “I grew up shopping at Walmart, and I always felt really strongly that if I went out into the world and learned how to do something, I would want to give back to the community that I came from and make work that my mom, my sister, or my best friend could drive down the road and try,” says 37-year-old Maxwell, who is from Longview, a small town in Texas.
Growing up, he often spent time at the clothing store his grandmother managed. “I can still smell the wood paneling of the dressing rooms,” he recalls. Customers would come in and Maxwell would watch her lay out everything to match with this and go with that. “What I took away from that experience was [that it’s] our job to serve the customer,” he says. “That’s my job at Walmart, and that’s my job at Brandon Maxwell.”
Maxwell started out serving customers of the celeb kind, most notably Lady Gaga, as a stylist before launching his eponymous line in 2015 creating elegant wares for everyone from Michelle Obama to Jennifer Aniston to Meghan Markle to Blake Lively to Oprah herself. “It was so great working with Brandon to create this incredible custom look for O’s December 2019 cover,” says Oprah Daily creative director Adam Glassman. “I know he’s just as meticulous and considerate designing these everyday pieces for Walmart as he is doing high-end fashion.”
You may have seen Maxwell mentoring budding designers as a judge on Bravo’s Project Runway. “I love being a small part of someone’s journey to where they want to go in their life and watching that evolve,” he says. “It feels very much the same here at Walmart. It’s the conversations that you have working through things and working with people that are really the most rewarding for me.”
He makes it a point to visit Walmart stores to get a feel of how the lines are being received. “When you see customers shopping the collections, you ask them what they’re looking for and where they’re looking to go in it, and that informs how you move into the next season,” Maxwell explains. For this spring, the Free Assembly line is all about joy, optimism, and color. The lineup of elevated essentials is meant to be mixed, matched, and layered, and everything is at a great price point. Maxwell’s faves? “Well, it’s like picking a child. From the women’s line, I just love the knits and denim. From the men’s, there’s a great rugby shirt—I just bought another one.”
Oprah Daily creative director Adam Glassman gives his tips for wearing pieces from Free Assembly and Scoop with style.
FREE ASSEMBLY FINDS
As for the Scoop women’s line, pieces are more trend-inspired. “It’s really designed to help you build the ultimate closet,” says Maxwell. The color-blocked pink and red dress tops his must-have list. And then there’s the blazer that his girlfriends back home went gaga for. “I remember when we were making it, I just loved it so much. And it’s such a nice feeling to have people responding to the things you love.”
Everything Maxwell has learned on his fashion journey is applied to his work with Walmart. He believes that everybody deserves access to great style at an affordable price from day one, and now he gets to make good on that guiding principle. As the world starts to open up a bit more and going out into it becomes routine again, budget-friendly, mood-boosting fashion is right on time—and also timeless. “Pandemic or not, everybody wants to feel beautiful in what they wear,” he says. “And I think that’s forever.”
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