Maximilian Davis – remember this name, as I’m sure it’s going to be big in the next couple of seasons. Fashion East’s newcomer, Davis has stepped onto Lulu Kennedy’s platform with the confidence and energy of someone who’s certain that the time is right for what he has to say. “Black people must be in charge of their narrative. I see them in such a regal way. I do elegant clothing and tailoring. I want to take people out of the idea of wearing streetwear because that’s not how I see them,” he told Vogue on a Zoom call. “That’s a message I want to put across, and that’s what I want to stick with for the duration of my career.” It’s uncommon, to say the least of it, to see a young designer with the forethought to articulate such a long-term purpose. He spelled out why. “Race has been such an issue for years, but I feel that only now are people wanting to learn more about it and are willing to support different races and try to make this world a better place. And I think now is the time to share my vision, to help support and educate people.” His debut collection, entitled “J’ouvert“, is an ambitious mission to bring sophisticated modern fashion to the fore, while simultaneously uplifting the history of Trinidadian Carnival that is intrinsic to his identity. “My grandmother passed away this year,” he explained. “She came to England from Trinidad and became a nurse. We went there every year. For me as a child, I saw Carnival as one big celebration, but I wanted to look more into the reason we were celebrating. I discovered that in Trinidad enslaved people were set free in 1834, but before that, they had performed for their slave masters. Carnival came out of their liberation. I wanted to put that imagery into my tailoring, comparing 19th-century history with the cutout garments that are worn at Carnival today.” Look one, a jacket that fuses a white frock coat and waistcoat worn over a miniskirt with a slashed waist, crisply encapsulates exactly that. Further on, halter-neck tops echo “aristocrat’s cravats” – an idea brought into the present from his research about Jean-Baptiste Belley, a Black Caribbean activist who was involved with the French Revolution. The aim and the energy, he laughed, overtook him as he made slashed calfskin dresses, an elegant black crepe fishtail gown, and a hip-slung knee-length skirt, decorated with goose biot feathers. He worked on menswear: harlequin prints and a tuxedo that honors his father. “My Dad wears suits every day. When he went to Trinidad, he had these suits that were oversized, loose, and easy. I think there’s a place for tailoring for men that is relaxed, refined but easy to wear.” All this was achieved “mostly in my bedroom, in lockdown,” Davis concluded. But he hasn’t been alone. The launch of Maximilian has been backed up by photographer Rafael Pavarotti, the super-stylist Ibrahim Kamara, and film director Akinola Davies, with music by Suutoo. Against the background of Black Lives Matter, this dauntless new British cohort of talent is making sure that progress in fashion is ever-expandingly real. As for me, he Davis can land at Mugler right away.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.