Brandon Blackwood
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Doing the Work

Brandon Blackwood Is Just Getting Started

“All the stores I’m in now have said no to me,” says the CFDA-nominated designer.

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I may not be a fashion girlie, but I know one thing: There is no contemporary fashion discourse without Brandon Blackwood. It’s ironic, considering the fashion industry was initially unwilling to see it that way. “All the [department] stores said no,” the designer, nominated in 2022 for accessories designer of the year by the Council of Fashion Designers of America, tells Glamour. “They saw the stuff, and it was literally stuff that I still sell now, but they all said no.” Then ShopBop gave Blackwood his first retail partnership—and the rest is history.

Today, Blackwood has more than proved the naysayers wrong. Between launching and subsequently (consistently) selling out of his viral End Systemic Racism tote, casually hard-launching his first original gown design via Sheryl Lee Ralph’s Emmy-winning ensemble followed by a second on Serena Williams (NBD), and successfully expanding his line into outerwear, accessories, and shoes, it’s practically impossible to go shopping—or scroll through social media—without passing a Brandon Blackwood design. You’ve likely even done so without even realizing it: Cardi B, Kourtney Kardashian, Quinta Brunson, Megan Thee Stallion, Winnie Harlow, Ice Spice, Olivia Rodrigo, and more have rocked Blackwood’s designs, proving that Blackwood is not just getting started, but that his unique designs defy demographics. How else could the Kendrick trunk go viral while Charlotte carries a Medium Kuei on And Just Like That…? That’s versatility!

Austin Quinn

Considering Blackwood’s monumental success, it’s unsurprising that those who initially rejected his work have since come crawling back. “One huge department store literally emailed me on the thread from 2017,” Blackwood recalls with a laugh. “I was like, ‘Aren’t you embarrassed?’”

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Ahead of the line’s upcoming shoe launch (mark your calendars for March 17), we spoke with Blackwood about his design process, his office uniform, what he wants from social media, and more for Glamour’s latest installment of Doing the Work.

Glamour: What’s your typical morning routine?

Brandon Blackwood: Okay, this is sad. I wake up at 10 a.m. every morning, because I normally stay up until 4 a.m. working. Then, this is so gross, but I drink one iced coffee, plain. I take my multivitamins, and then I have a smoothie.

What kind of smoothie?

I go to,—what’s the name of it?—Pressed Juicery, or I have it delivered. I literally have it on auto deliver. I’m going to pull it up right now. I’m opening my Uber Eats. A mango passion smoothie with extra spirulina, and I substitute the almond milk with coconut water.

Yum. What was your childhood dream job?

What I’m doing now. I used to go in my mom’s closet, cut up clothes, and then make my cousins wear it and force my family to sit down for fashion shows. That happened during the holidays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, when everyone was here. I would do whole productions—makeup, hair, and the clothes. I didn’t have my own music and didn’t have anybody play music, but I would time it during 106 and Park. So when the music videos played, they would walk, because I was limited with my CDs.

What was your first paying job?

I was at the barista at the…oh, my God, Choice Market.

And what was your first job in fashion?

It wasn’t a job. It was an internship at Nylon.

Have you ever faced rejection in your field? If so, how did you deal with it?

All the department stores. All the stores said no. They saw the stuff, and it was literally stuff that I still sell now. But they all said no, but then they kept calling me back for meetings, which made me feel hopeful. Everyone said no until Shopbop decided to pick me up. They were the first store. All the stores I’m in now have said no to me.

It’s really funny. One huge department store literally emailed me on the thread from 2017. I was like, “Aren’t you embarrassed? I literally wrote her. I was like, “Oh, it’s been a while. Yes, please talk to my wholesale coordinator.” Like, things have changed, girl. I don’t even know all the stores I’m in. [Editor’s note: As of now, you can purchase Blackwood’s designs at Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, ModeSens, and more.]

What is the best piece of money or career advice you’ve ever gotten?

Invest. All my friends who have had really successful businesses would tell me the same thing. Which was one, never keep too much liquid cash, and always reinvest. 

Also, someone who owns a business, who I don’t know personally, but I watch all her blogs. Her name is Supa Cent. She is from Louisiana, and she has a brand called The Crayon Case, and she just gives her business advice. She was a waiter who now owns a multimillion-dollar makeup company, and Black-owned. She always says, “Stop thinking your stuff selling out or stuff out of stock is a flex.” Do you know what I mean? If people want it, they should be able to go and click and purchase it. Never run out of product. I was like, “Noted.”

What is your go-to work outfit or piece?

My last birthday, actually, I went to the office and everyone dressed like me. It was hilarious. It’s a New York Yankees cap. I don’t even watch baseball, but I just like how they look, and they go with everything. So, New York Yankee cap, an oversized white T-shirt, and black jeans. That is my go-to. If you see me in that, I’m going to work or I’m just off of work. It’s crisp, it’s clean, you can go to a meeting in it and not feel embarrassed, or you can just lug around all day. It’s comfy and it works for everything. An office uniform saves lives. You don’t have to think about it.

New York Yankees Classic Baseball Hat

Explain the moment you realized, Okay, I’m actually successful.

I remember I did a drop once for my [Kendrick] trunk, and it all sold out. I was reading the comments with which ones they bought, how many they bought. I don’t know what happened, but I just started crying. Because I was like, I can’t believe people are so excited about this thing I make.

They were very excited to own it and have it, shit I literally put my name on. That made me cry so much. That was a really big moment. I waited until all my employees left, and I just started sobbing. That was a moment where I was like, Oh, shit, this is a real thing.

Brandon Blackwood Mini Kendrick Check-Print Box Bag

Brandon Blackwood Mini Kendrick Denim Logo Top Handle Bag

How do you come up with ideas for designs?

I literally have a bag that’s coming out that, [my partner] Roberto and I were walking, and it was winter, and there was an ice cream shop. I think this was in Europe. Maybe it was in Paris. There was fog inside the shop—you know when the windows get foggy? The fog made a shape, and I took a picture of the shape and was like, “That could be a bag.” And I made it. So the inspiration comes from everywhere.

How would you describe the design process?

It’s gotten easier over the time. Before I had to really sketch out every little detail. Now my factory and I have been together—it’s my longest relationship, eight years now—and they know me so well. My factory has literally grown because of the brand in size, and they bought their neighboring factory. It’s been such a symbiotic relationship. Because of that, now I’ll tell them, “Okay, I’m making the top handle like this; it should be stronger.” And they know exactly what I mean. We just get each other so well now, so it’s gotten easier over time.

I’ve hired an outerwear and a shoe designer, because I’m not really well versed in how to do the technicals for that. I’m going to Turkey next week to go check on our swimwear and our coats that are being produced right now, which I’m really excited about. I have a factory in Portugal that’s doing some of our swimwear and our shoes, so I’ve been visiting there.  It’s learning while creating. I’m very hands on with it. I like seeing the shipped sample and then tweaking it from there. I have to be there [in person]. Everyone jokes I’m in the office every day; when I tell people that, they’re shocked. I’m like, “What do you mean? You have to be there!”

What is your go-to thank-you gift for colleagues and friends?

I have perfected, and I will own this wholeheartedly, the art of sending flowers. No one does it anymore. During Fashion Week, I normally just attend my friends’ shows or the shows of people I know, because I don’t have time to go and sit for 10 minutes and clap for people I don’t know. I always send them flowers afterwards, and they’re always like, “Oh, my God, thank you.” People just don’t do anymore. I love, love, love sending flowers.

What are some work essentials that you can’t live without? 

I never use my laptop, which is really funny. I design everything from my phone, so I always need my phone. In my office, we have two refrigerators filled with snacks, waters, and every type of drink. We have more snacks than pens. More snacks stored in utility closets. But the one thing I need is my green teas. I have one every morning, and that’s the only thing in my office no one else is allowed to touch. Everything else, go for it. I need it every morning.

And good, comfy furniture. I don’t like stuffy office furniture. We have two offices now, and I got these giant custom couches made so everyone can hang out on them. They each fit 16 people, and everyone just works from there and hangs out there, eats their lunch there. It’s really nice. I  think it’s super important that wherever you’re working, you should be comfortable and not just sitting up straight looking at a gray wall.

Ito En Oi Ocha Green Tea

What is your go-to treat to have after you finish a big project or you’re done with work?

My go-to treat would definitely be HydraFacials for sure. If it’s a daily thing, I love, love, love, love, love ZZ’s Clam Bar. If I’m celebrating, I always go there. Or a really good bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.

Whose stories will you never skip over on Instagram?

Oh, God, there's so many. Raul Lopez from Luar Designer. If you’re not in his close friends, you’re missing out on life. It is funniest thing ever. Mario Abad from Paper, his IG Stories are fucking hilarious and amazing. He does such great fashion commentary. And then I love your Instagram, [Danielle]. When you're really pissed about something you really care about, you really go ham. I’m like, yes!

Anyone who’s unfiltered, who’s like, “Yeah, well, fuck this.” That's what I love. I hate the fake, “I’m going to look perfect on Instagram.” I hate that. What’s the point? Just be a little chaotic. That’s what we’re all here for. Get the fuck out here with your coffee and croissant, you know what I mean? I need puppy photos and hot takes on celeb events.

Fill in the blank. People would be happier doing their work if…

If they realized how important their job is. People don’t realize how important they are within their company. I think a lot of people get lost, but you’re there for a reason, and when you do your reason, you’re helping the whole ship go smoothly. That’s something that people need to focus more on. You’re going to be happy when you know you’re making a difference, and I don’t think you should ever have a job where you don’t feel like you’re making one. Whether it’s within the company to help the overall company, or for yourself, people would be happiest in their jobs if they know they’re making some sort of difference. You need things to be able to look back on and be proud of, or else what are you doing?

Finally, if you weren’t in your current career, what do you think you would be doing?

Interior design. Hands down. Literally my office space, when people come in, it’s almost a little insulting. They’re like, “You designed it yourself?” I’m like, “Yeah.” And they’re like, “Wait, what?” I mean, from custom furniture, to artwork, to colors…I love it. My house was in Domino Magazine. They were like, “Wait, you didn’t hire an interior designer?” They went to get quotes from the interior designer, and I was like, “No. It’s just me.” I really love it. It’s my calming moment. I just love a good comfy space.

Do you think you would ever have a Brandon Blackwood home line?

Oh, definitely. My psychic told me that’s my next venture, so we’ll see.

Danielle Sinay is the associate beauty editor at Glamour. Follow her on Instagram @daniellesinay.