‘Project Runway’ Designer Judge Who’s Dressed Lady Gaga Is Working for Walmart
Brandon Maxwell, the new creative director for Walmart's Free Assembly and Scoop brands, with Lady Gaga at The Met Gala in 2019.
A designer whose creations have been photographed on Lady Gaga, Oprah, First Ladies Michelle Obama and Jill Biden and Meghan Markle is bringing his expertise to head up Walmart’s pricier fashion brands.
The retail giant has appointed “Project Runway” judge Brandon Maxwell as the creative director of its Free Assembly and Scoop private brands in an effort to establish itself as a true player in fashion. As creative director, Maxwell will design the brands’ seasonal collections for men’s, women’s, children’s and accessories. In the role, Maxwell will be responsible for collection design and providing input into material selection, sourcing and production. He will also be involved in brand marketing initiatives and campaigns for both brands. Maxwell has already delved into his first project, launching an exclusive face mask line with Walmart. Beyond his work in founding and running his ready-to-wear Brandon Maxwell line, Maxwell collaborated with Lady Gaga on her fashion division, Haus of Gaga, and received the CFDA Fashion Award for Women’s Wear Designer of the Year.
“Working with Walmart has long been a dream of mine. Like many people across the country who live in a small town, Walmart was the destination for everything where I grew up in Texas, including clothing,” Maxwell said in a statement. “This partnership allows me to bring the experience and joy of fashion to countless people who live in small towns across the country. Everyone deserves to have access to well-designed clothing at an accessible price point. I am energized by this collaboration with Walmart, as it is not only an opportunity to make exceptional design accessible to all but with our charitable initiatives, we will work to help people improve their lives. That is after all the most fashionable thing we can do.” Texas-born Maxwell will oversee four seasonal collections annually for Free Assembly and Scoop. He will start by influencing the Holiday 2021 collections before his full collections drop in Spring 2022. Denise Incandela, the former head of fashion at Walmart who was recently promoted to executive vice president of the company’s apparel and private brands, has thrown her full support behind Maxwell, who she described as a fashion “powerhouse.”
“Our shared fashion values of accessibility and commitment to incredible design and quality make him an ideal partner for Walmart,” Incandela said, noting Maxwell’s “beautiful, youthful, timeless and expertly tailored” designs. “Bringing his distinctive design talent to our elevated brand collections of Free Assembly and Scoop, allows Walmart to offer customers stylish, high-quality fashion at an extraordinary value.” It was under Incandela when Walmart acquired the dormant Scoop brand in 2019, relaunching the fashion-forward collection as its own private label in the midst of building a fashion platform. Scoop had closed all of its 15 stores three years prior, but founder Stefani Greenfield teamed with Incandela with the idea of honoring the boutique brand’s original vision to help shoppers build “The Ultimate Closet” with premium products such as certified vegan leather and faux fur, fully lined outerwear, novelty denim washes and trendy shoes and handbags.
Since 2017, when Incandela joined Walmart, the mass merchant bolstered its apparel portfolio with acquisitions of digital brands such as Bonobos, since-sold ModCloth, Moosejaw, Bare Necessities and Eloquii. Additionally, the retailer launched exclusive fashion lines with A-listers Sofia Vergara and Ellen DeGeneres. Walmart launched the Free Assembly brand in September 2020 in an effort to target shoppers looking for quality wardrobe staples at affordable prices. The private brand offers dual-gender fashion essentials from an in-house design team, led by Dwight Fenton, who was initially Bonobos’ vice president of design. The brand first launched online and in 250 stores, and offers pieces like denim, sweaters, blazers “that are staples of any wardrobe and can be worn for a long time, season after season,” according to Fenton. Timed with the face mask launch, Walmart will donate $100,000 to DonorsChoose.org, a charity selected by Maxwell for its dedication to helping public school teachers access funding for materials and experiences that improve students learning.