Brandon Maxwell on Smelling the Bullshit


A room full of fashion critics, students as well as professors, murmured dos and don’ts of the outfits of the night as they waited for the designer, Brandon Maxwell and WSJ fashion journalist, Ray A. Smith to take the stage. Maxwell and Smith commanded attention on the stage in their dark ensembles. (As black was the unspoken dress code of the night.) Maxwell wore a true black sweater, pressed black trousers, and tan distressed ankle boots with buckles. Maxwell’s touch of individuality in his monochromatic outfit set the tone for the lecture.


“You have to learn how to stand out, but not for the sake of standing out,” said Smith.

As a student at one of the most competitive art schools in the country…or world for that matter, you quickly realize that sensibly standing out is harder than it seems. How does one stand out in the sea of artsy, fashion forward, students that populate the street of Savanah? (One, you can ditch the all black ensemble and valley girl talk.) How do you make a name for yourself or stick to an “aesthetic” when so many others are doing the same, but better?  


Maxwell harped on his belief of individuality and self determination in the little time he had to speak with students. He honed in on his humble start in one of the “bitchiest” industries. From moving to New York on a whim and living in the closet of a friend with nothing but a sack of quarters to feed his passion and stomach; Maxwell climbed the somewhat slippery rungs of the fashion ladder.


“When I moved to New York I literally put in thousands of resumes. I realized the sack of quarters I had were running low and I was tired of paying for groceries with quarters.” Maxwell said.


For many in the audience, the willpower and drive Maxwell had was beyond their belief. When he mentioned wanting to take janitorial positions in some of the greatest fashion houses whispers of disgust slipped through matte Koko K lips.


Nearing the end of the lecture Maxwell went on a motivational mini-rant when asked about reviews of his collections and if he took what critics said to heart.

“I appreciate constructive criticism. Don’t say mean things just to say mean things. You wouldn’t go into a design class and tell your friend their piece looked like crap just because. If it looks like crap tell them why.” Maxwell preached.


Maxwell offered one last bit of advice for the room full of eager fashion students, “After a while you start to smell the bullshit.” Referencing his tight knit group of friends and inspiration. “You have to find yourself and find people that allow you to be yourself. If you’re around people that change who you are inside, they aren’t your friends.”


As it seems the key to life and success is finding your true self. Not the self that stands out on Instagram’s explore page or the self that attracts mass followers. Find the self that stands apart for what you believe in and what your art means to you. And in the words of Brandon Maxell, learn to smell the bullshit.