New York’s Museum of Natural History always has one or two special exhibits that require purchase of an extra ticket above the standard price of admission, but that’s because they are worth it. One of the museum’s current special exhibits is called The Nature of Color, and it is just fantastic. The exhibit is immersive and contains many different galleries and rooms. For example, the Red Room highlights how the color red can mean status, power, and fertility while simultaneously representing sports teams, political parties, and religions. The centerpiece of this room is a flowing Red Silk Chiffon and Organza Gown created especially for the The Nature of Color by fashion designer Brandon Maxwell.
Maxwell chose the color red for the dress because he sees it as an inherently powerful color. “When I designed this dress for The Nature of Color,” he explains, “I wanted to showcase the joy felt through strength by creating a beautiful, flowing silhouette.” Maxwell also admits that he’d wanted to do a runway show at the AMNH for years, and had asked many times. When museum officials came to him in fall of 2019, asking if he’d contribute to this upcoming exhibition, it was the perfect opportunity to ask if he could stage a show inside the museum, and they immediately agreed.
The fiery red, diaphanous, flowing gown, with a bow around the neck, was the grand finale in the designer’s Fall-Winter 2020 show, hosted by AMNH during New York Fashion Week on February 8th, 2020, where Maxwell’s runway snaked through the Hall of North American Mammals, past some 43 dioramas representing dozens of species.
Maxwell’s design process starts with an inspiration drawing, which he transforms into a gown through hand-draping, first on a on a mannequin and then on the model. This silk chiffon gown was fitted to the model just before she walked the runway to ensure a tailored fit.
Photographed at the American Museum of Natural History in December of 2020