I always had an interest in fashion | Fashion Runway was always inspiring to me.
Having had the opportunity to chat with Maxine about her passion for fashion design on one early morning, she shares her passion for her gender-neutral product and brand Mx Apparel Design. Maxine resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota where she attended the University of Minnesota and received a Bachelor of Science in Fashion Apparel. When choosing where to study fashion design, UMN was her first choice. The reasons are that the university offered both a creative writing program as well as a fashion design program. Another plus that she enjoyed about attending the University of Minnesota is that UMN has a supportive LGBTQ community student organization named the Queer Student Cultural Center, an on-campus LGBTQ community that she participated in starting in her freshman year and that too helped to shape her perspective on fashion as well.
Maxine describes her designs as colorful, bold, very angular, and graphic with some adhered details like silver accents like metallic accents. She is also interested in creating ready-to-wear pieces that are more casual but can be dressed up or down. Let’s now learn more about her story and continuing journey in fashion.
What does fashion design mean to you and how do you determine success when designing?
Maxine: Fashion is a way to express myself creatively and express how I see the world in terms of gender and fashion. I feel success through the messages people send me about what my clothes and my perspective as a designer mean to them.
When did you realize that you wanted to be a fashion designer?
Maxine: I always loved sewing on my grandmom’s machine, and Project Runway introduced me to the concept of being a designer at a young age. I sewed plenty of garments for myself and my friends. In high school, I was lucky enough to get to take sewing classes through my local community college, which solidified the career path for me.
What would you say is the most challenging when creating a design piece?
Maxine: In my work as a gender-neutral designer, I’m always trying to create pieces that will accommodate multiple body types and solve problems that are commonly experienced by trans and nonbinary people in their clothing.
How would you describe your designs?
Maxine: My aesthetic is very colorful and graphic. I’m often inspired by 80s’ details and silhouettes.
How would you classify your design style, casual, streetwear, etc.?
Maxine: My apparel lends itself to being dressed up or down. I do take inspiration from streetwear as well.
Who is the primary audience and or customer of Mx Apparel Design?
Maxine: My customer tends to be younger (20-35), urban, and appreciates bold fashion. They often feel connected to or understand the importance of gender-neutral design.
Is there a theme within your designs and if so what?
Maxine: I have themes for my collections, in terms of color and inspiration. Past collections have been inspired by the Paper Girls comics and City Pop music.
When you created your first collection, what was the most challenging part of that collection?
Maxine: Time! At that moment, I was a full-time student doing two summer projects and working three jobs. But I saw the opportunity to launch my line in a fashion week show, so I took it. It was also challenging because I put a lot of pressure on myself for my first collection to be perfect.
What one tool do you not ever want to have missing when designing and creating?
Maxine: Clear ruler.
Is the Mx Apparel Design a reflection of your inner-self or the external world outside of yourself?
Maxine: Both. I have my own aesthetic and my own beliefs, but these are also informed by my life and the world around me.
How did you decide on the Mx Apparel Design logo design and appearance; what does the logo represent?
Maxine: The logo doesn’t have very deep meaning, but the graphic shape mirrors my work. The Mx is handwritten by me, making it more personal.
Opportunity is the most important thing. If you see a shot, take it. You’ll never be 100% ready for your dreams…waiting doesn’t get you anywhere.
Who inspires you; is there a local or famous fashion designer that you admire?
Maxine: I admire other gender-neutral lines that are creating more colorful work, like Big Bud Press and Lucy and Yak. Mondo Guerra was my earliest inspiration, as I love his use of print and color.
If you could change one thing about the fashion industry, what would that be?
Maxine: I would eliminate gender categories from fashion. They don’t serve anyone and at least limit people’s creativity in how they dress, and at worst, create an environment where trans and/or nonbinary people can experience violence. Organizing fashion by style and fit is more helpful as well, because there is such variety in people’s body types, regardless of whether they are cisgender or trans.
If an aspiring fashion designer were to approach you and ask for advice, what one piece of advice would you give them that you wished had been given to you?
Maxine: Opportunity is the most important thing. If you see a shot, take it. You’ll never be 100% ready for your dreams and waiting doesn’t get you anywhere.
Covid-19 continues to linger on, how is it that you keep yourself motivated enough to continue to create and design during these challenging times?
Maxine: Last year was very difficult for me mentally as a designer. This year has been so different, in terms of the response my work is getting. Having people be really excited about what I do is the most motivating thing.
Are your designs created with a small carbon footprint in mind as in environmentally friendly and with sustainability as the goal? If so, how do you implement this into your work?
Maxine: As a small designer, my work has a limited footprint in that all of my manufacturing takes place in the Twin Cities currently. Making items to order also limits waste. I try to think about details, as well, like making all of my order packaging recyclable. These are tangible ways that my work is more sustainable, and I think that’s the best way to approach the area.
What one apparel design project, garment do you recall as a favorite creation?
Maxine: The dress I made as my finale for the Fashion Week show in the spring (is one of the images above). It is a recent favorite. I absolutely love how the prints and textures work together. I had planned a completely different garment for my finale, but it didn’t fit with the collection. So I made this dress the night before the show and that was also a special look to me. I was also able to get my model Jaarfaru into the show as this was her first runway presentation. Joe Dammel captured these amazing pictures for me in front of this sportscar. Love when collaborations work out so well!
Have you participated in fashion shows or events outside of Minnesota? if so where, and what was the experience?
Maxine: I was selected for the YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund as a Top Eight Finalist for my work on a case study. This was an incredible experience where I went to New York and presented my project at Macy’s headquarters. I also visited NASA in Texas as a fashion student at the University of Minnesota for a collaborative project.
New York Fashion Week | I love New York and grew up watching it through Project Runway
What design training have you received, was it informal or formal as in participating in an apprenticeship or attending a technical school or college?
Maxine: I attended the University of Minnesota: College of Design and graduated in 2020. This program was very beneficial for its holistic and scientific approach to fashion. I also was able to do independent research projects where I explored gender-neutral fashion, which I really value.
Have you ever been commissioned to create a specific garment or a collection for anyone and if so, what did you learn? Are you open to being hired?
Maxine: I have made custom items for people, and while I appreciate being asked, it’s not what I enjoy.
What is your long-term goal as a fashion designer?
Maxine: My long-term goal is to be one of the main brands people think of in gender-neutral fashion! I truly believe I have the passion, skills, and knowledge to make that a reality, especially given the types of responses I receive to my work and content.
If you had wish to participate in a fashion week showing anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Maxine: New York Fashion Week would probably be the most meaningful, as I love New York and grew up watching it through Project Runway.
If you were asked what is the one unique feature that identifies your designs, what would that be?
Maxine: There are certain cuts I use that are recognizable and unique, like the mesh panel tops and dresses I make.
In closing our conversation, what is that you hope the buyer of one of your apparel pieces experiences?
Maxine: I hope they feel like themself.
Interview by | Elaine Pizzini
Maxine Britt | Gender-Neutral Fashion Designer