Brandon Maxwell Exclusively Speaks On His Family History Driving His Latest Project With Ecco Domani

American fashion designer Brandon Maxwell has partnered with Ecco Domani Pinot Grigio wine for a limited-edition wine label, which features his signature leopard print and ‘B’ initial pattern. Additionally, the wine brand is donating $50,000 to Meals on Wheels COVID-19 Response Fund. Here, the Project Runway judge and I chat exclusively about why the partnership was organic for him, his inspiration behind the design and more. Also, click here to enter into the sweepstakes to win a virtual dinner party with Brandon, wearing a piece from his collection and enjoying some Ecco Domani Pinot Grigio! 

Brandon MaxwellPhoto Credit: Ecco Domani

DEYVANSHI MASRANI: Why was designing a wine label a natural extension and a good fit for you and for your brand?

BRANDON MAXWELL: In my design career, so many people have heard stories about me growing up in a clothing store with my grandmother and becoming a stylist, so fashion was always in my blood since I was a kid. I’ve chosen things in my career that are true to my story, I always say ‘no’ to things, more so than I say ‘yes,’ because it’s hard for me to go out there and do things inauthentically a lot of the time. Some people are made for that but I personally, am not. One part of my life that people don’t know a ton about is that my dad’s family were beer, wine and liquor distributors, so one day of the week I’d be in my grandmother’s store after school, and one day after school I’d be with my grandfather and grandmother who ran the liquor distributorship—and they sold Ecco Domani! It actually put me through school. I always had talked to my dad about [getting into the liquor business] for so many years; [the] fashion and wine businesses seem so far apart, but for me, I always hoped there was a way that I could find my way back into the family business somehow, especially since so many people in my family did go into it. On a personal note, when I called my dad and told him that I had this opportunity, I think it was one of his proudest moments. He was so excited when the box came and the very first time I saw it, it definitely made me really emotional. I know it made [my dad] really proud that his son was able to accomplish something in his life that would be on a bottle. It was a great ‘full circle’ moment for me and it’s a brand that that I know very very well that I’ve been familiar with my entire life that helped, in many ways, to build me and my brand. It’s a very authentic partnership so for me, it was a no-brainer.

DM: Can you explain your design for the Ecco Domani label in your own words?

BM: When you look back at my very first collection, which was primarily black and white with a few pops of blush, I was kind of known for doing that for a couple of seasons. The print that’s actually on the bottle was very finely imprinted on the fabric for that season. And just because the leopard is such a classic to me; black is my favorite color and leopard is my favorite print. It felt like it was bold and strong and it really, for me, embodied what the brand was about. I remember for many months trying  to come up with what the first print would be [for my collection]…and I went back to that same pattern because I felt like it was timeless, classic and bold. Many years later I had my ‘B’ put into it. I feel like many projects that I do, that is sort of my signature. And selfishly too, I just wanted leopard ‘B’ wine bottles in my house! And I think everyone knows that I’m such a wine person—publicly and behind closed doors—I talk about my wine a lot! It’s also just something I’d buy off the shelves.

Brandon MaxwellPhoto Credit: Ecco Domani

DM: How does the world of fashion design lend itself to label design, and specifically, wine label design? 

BM: The presentation is very important in fashion. In a way, you’re metaphorically bottling everything up whenever you’re having a show; whenever it comes out, it’s all packaged and put together. For me, it was a really easy process because you have to think so much in fashion when you’re doing the collections, [about how] it’s more about the image sometimes than it is about the item. Also too, on a basic level, as designers, we’re labeling everything. We’re creating new labels for the company, everything has some label on it. That’s a really hardcore question—that’s really intelligent! I feel like I need a coffee for that one! [Laughs] As soon as you’re out of the gate, [in fashion,] you’re pretty much labeled exactly what they want you to be, and they don’t let you—in the press or in the fashion industry—deviate from that much, as much as you try. They like to keep you there, and I think that’s sort of a constant challenge, to break out of that.

DM: You share a lot on your social media about both your personal and professional life, including the Ecco Domani collaboration. Can you speak on how you choose to use your voice in that space, specifically? 

BM: You never really know if you’re making an impact, but I do think about how inconceivable it is for someone like me with no formal training or pedigree, can make it in the world that I dreamed of. I still wake up everyday so glad to do this job and I know right now it’s frightening for young people especially, certainly young people coming out of school with debt and going into a career that on a good day is uncertain. So, I always want to use that space [social media] to be positive. Fashion to me is really not about the big, high moments—which I am grateful to have had, as well. I think really what makes you great at anything—and I’m not saying I’m great, it’s something I’m working towards becoming—but I think that [what] makes you great is in those little, sometimes overwhelming moments that are borderline terrible, where you think you’re going to lose everything. I’m also relatively young in the business, so I’ve been going through that for many years. And I also know from a bigger level, people are feeling that in all areas of life. So, I’m glad I can send that message of, ‘As bad as it may feel, it is going to get better and that’s when the greatness happens.’

Ecco DomaniPhoto Credit: Ecco Domani