Project Runway is coming back to Bravo and the show is bringing an almost entirely new cast with it. With longtime host Heidi Klum and mentor Tim Gunn leaving, we’ve already gotten a few details on who’s going to take over. Karlie Kloss will be hosting and Season 4 winner Christian Siriano will take over as mentor. Joining them on the judging panel are veteran judge Nina Garcia as well as two new faces: Elaine Welteroth, former Teen Vogue editor-in-chief, and fashion designer Brandon Maxwell.
If you don't know much about Brandon yet, you will soon. He already has a crazy successful career despite only being in the business for a few years. Keep reading to meet one of the newest judges — and get ready to see him in action when the show comes back in 2019.
1. He is Lady Gaga’s fashion director.
Brandon’s clientele is elite, to say the least. His designs have been worn by celebrities including Meghan Markle, Michelle Obama, Naomi Campbell, and brand new Project Runway host Karlie Kloss. But of everyone he’s worked with, he’s created quite a special bond with Lady Gaga. Not only is he her “fashion director,” he spilled to W Magazine that their relationship goes far beyond that. “Her support is as authentic as you’d expect from someone who writes every single one of her notes and lyrics,” he said. “But it’s been hard to express that because I don’t want to cry in every interview.”
2. He’s already won high profile awards for his designs.
While Brandon only launched his own label in 2015, he’s already begun collecting awards for his work. His 2016 womenswear collection won him both the Fashion Group International Rising Star Award and the Swarovski Prize at the CFDA Awards. He was also a finalist for the 2016 LVMH Prize, which recognizes young designers and offers them financial and technical support. More recently, he was a semi-final winner of the Woolmark Prize, which "celebrates outstanding fashion talents from around the globe." He'll move on to the final round of the competition in London in 2019.
3. He wanted to be a painter before discovering the world of fashion.
Brandon didn’t always dream of being a high-profile designer. He actually pursued a career in painting, first. He made the move from his hometown in Texas to New York City for a painting program at Marymount Manhattan College. It didn’t work out, so he went back to Texas to study photography — only to come back to New York a few years later before his designing career took off.
4. His Texan roots are often reflected in his designs and collaborations.
Though he no longer lives in Texas full-time, Brandon’s love for his hometown is obvious. Not only does he have a tattoo of the state’s outline on his wrist, but that ink was used as the inspiration for his Spring/Summer 2019 Runway Collection. Along with his team, he relocated to Marfa, Texas in March 2018 to create the collection. In addition to his clothing being inspired by his home state, he also created a nine-piece makeup collaboration with MAC Cosmetics to correspond with his SS 2019 collection — the packaging even featured a replica of his tattoo!
5. He advocates for women’s and gay rights through his work.
For Brandon, fashion is more than just clothing; his ultimate goal is to empower people through this work. He told W Magazine, "I think there should be joy in clothing...the most important thing for me to know, as the protective older sibling of a bunch of sisters, is that when a young girl in the middle of nowhere comes across an image of my collection on social media, that she sees someone like herself. Not just African-American, but also Indian, Asian, Hispanic." He also told the magazine that he uses his work to advocate for matters that mean the most to him. "Women’s rights and gay rights are really important to me. During the worst times of my life, when I’d go to school thinking I’d be beaten up or something terrible would happen, I retreated into art and the things that made me feel safe. All we can do is be a light in some way. My goal going forward is to make sure that women know I stand by them and that I’m here for them.”