I distinctly remember my very first interaction with Brandon. It was a phone call about 3 1/2 years ago after he was referred to me for our site by the one-of-a-kind Victoria Mackenzie-Childs, a StyleLikeU muse with rainbow colored hair who lives on an Alice in Wonderland refurbished steam boat in Hoboken. At that moment, Brandon was doing what Brandon does, walking everywhere and anywhere, with a course of direction that can change from moment to moment, depending on where his insatiable curiosity takes him. I was a complete stranger, but within minutes he asked me where I was and if he could come meet me then and there. I still have to let Victoria know how grateful I am for introducing me to not only my style twin, my spiritual twin, and my truth-seeking twin, but one of my heroes.
Out of central casting for a British boarding-school ingenue -- pale, tall, and classically handsome -- Brandon is anything but compliant with the rule book. With his eyes on being a shoe designer, he came here on his own at 19 to attend FIT. It was the kind of refuge you might seek when you are gay, creative, talented, and would be beaten one too many times in his city of origin if you are a man wearing skirts, dresses, or practically anything that Brandon would wear on a given day. Fashion, for Brandon, is at once a performance and armor. Like a warrior, he wears every detail in the name of revelation, with as much consideration given to the collar that peeks out of a sweater to how he wears his Tibetan lapis cuff over a bandana as a reminder of his goals. The layers are so thick that it's hard to determine where a garment begins or ends and the silhouette and textures are a piece of art in their totality. Take the distinguished poets of a 19th century Ingres Portrait and add the perfectly imperfect chaos of a Picasso and you get the picture (or painting) of Brandon, a muse's muse.
We became great friends immediately and I would come to value Brandon's visits at any given moment. Whether the doorbell would ring at 10 pm, where he would become a sudden dinner guest, or on a weekday afternoon, where he would take naps on the couch during one of our many meetings (or traumas) at SLU. He has been a steady comfort throughout our excruciating ups and downs as well our number 1 supporter. During these past few years, Brandon's desire to stay in the fashion business unraveled as his dreams of true creativity dwindled in the increasingly formulaic reality. Unwilling to compromise in anything that he does, Brandon was often distraught as to what his new course would be and he courageously let himself fall apart. After many lengthy walks and talks, Brandon discovered Bard college and it sparked a zeal within him to get a liberal arts education at an age when most American kids have already graduated. Fearlessly and anxiously he applied, got wait-listed, got in (after much persistence), and then deferred in order to work and save money so that he could pay his way for what many consider a passing entitlement long before they realize how lucky they are to have the privilege of a penetrating education.
This past week, Brandon moved into his dorm and began the untouched life before him. 24 years old and on his own, Brandon packed up his Brooklyn apartment (where he lived for all of his time in the US) and left behind the comforts of the NYC world as well as the family that he had so open-heartedly made for himself there. Unfazed by the fact that his hall monitor is 17 or that breakfast is over at 9:30 (he missed it on his first morning), Brandon's flooded me with ecstatic calls, emails, and texts about his joy of walking through the woods to campus, excerpts from Hannah Arendt, and then, as I am writing this presently, getting chosen by his classmates to read his writing in class (with many exclamation points.) The excitement with which Brandon told me about hearing Bard's president speak when he got there is infectious (and I remember, with a nostalgic heart, pushing Brandon to try to meet the president when he spoke at the NYC public library in order to win him over and get himself into Bard).
Steve Jobs said that if you want to know what's next, look at the fringe. So here's to the pioneers, the beginners, the ones who question, to not knowing, to not living life in a linear "fashion," and to Brandon -- it's people like you that make people like us feel that anything is possible.
You can watch Brandon's Closet here.
You can also see Brandon in our Sexual Healing fashion editorial here.