Maximilian is back for AW21with a second round of sexy, elegant fashion
The Manchester-born designer has grown up a lot since his debut with Fashion East last season. This season, his vision of Black elegance is couture-worthy.
Courtesy of Maximilian
What if the canon of fashion history, and its reels of photography, had people of colour firmly in the frame? That was ultimately the question Maximilian Davis asks with his AW21 collection, titled ‘Mass’. Of course, there have been Black and brown models since the halcyon days of haute couture, and couture clients of colour too, but so often they are forgotten from the annals of fashion’s chronology, almost as if they didn’t exist during the 20th century’s tidal waves of era-defining trends and style movements. “When you try to research it, it’s very difficult to find, and that’s because people haven’t been consistent and those people have been written out from history,” Max points out. “It made me want to recreate the ‘60s couture look with the idea of Black elegance.”
It was in that period in particular — the late ‘60s and early ‘70s — that Max’s own grandmother, Shirley, had moved to the UK from Trinidad and began living as a first-generation immigrant in Manchester, working as a nurse and a machinist on the side. Max thought about her, and his church-going family’s ‘Sunday Best’; how his family would get dressed-up — his grandmother for church, his older sisters for the club. And therein lies the juxtaposition that Max is carving out as his speciality: seriously sexy, seriously elegant clothes. Clothes worthy of ritualistic worship, be that in the pews or on a dancefloor. Last season, he mentioned the freed slave Jean-Baptiste Belley and Lil’ Kim in the same breath. This season, it’s the purist lines of Cristobal Balenciaga, and the photography of Malick Sidibé, that rare example of Black fashion history being documented and celebrated.
Max chose to fuse the high-waisted, dancing clothes from those very pictures with space-age Balenciaga and Courrèges-era couture and the Swinging Sixties psychedelic prints by the likes of Emilio Pucci. The latter informed his first logo, which comes fragmented and emblazoned across crisp white Japanese denim and lycra bodysuits. Elsewhere, he has transformed charcoal Melton wool into insanely precise coats, jackets and tailoring with just one or no seams at all, their sculptural silhouettes the result of masterful darting a la Cristobal, the designer whom Christian Dior once described as “the master of us all”. It’s all the more impressive considering Max has had limited fittings during lockdown — one jacket, he says, took nine versions and two months to create. It helps that he began his training with an apprenticeship with his family’s local tailor, Tony, before enrolling at London College of Fashion. The skills he picked up back then have served him well as a self-sufficient designer in the midst of a pandemic.
Least so when it comes to tailoring, of which there is plenty this season. Max has made satin-lapelled tailored pieces (all with concealed buttons, très couture) with long, lean trousers and neat shirt-and-ties. Gorgeous clean-lined wool coats and jumpsuits with resin-buckled belts, too, and devoré-velvet harlequin dresses and crackled-leather pieces that, he points out, are inspired by his grandmother’s worn-in sofa and curtains. Not that you would guess it. Probably because you’re likely to be distracted by the incendiary plunging necklines, sculptural skin-flashing cut-outs, and miniskirts that are resolutely not best for Sunday. Oh, and by the way, this is 25-year-old Max’s second collection — and yet it is at the level of a designer with decades more experience. “It definitely feels a lot more mature than the last collection,” he demurs, modest as ever. “It feels like I’ve grown up a lot in the last five months.”