10 Questions with Maximilian Raynor

The designer’s latest collection has been photographed by Christoph Langenberg…

Maximilian Raynor recently showed his latest collection at London Fashion Week as part of the Central Saint Martins show. Through an hour-long display of some of the UK’s most exciting emerging designers – a dozen masks mimicking one designer’s face, another student following his clothes down the runway and sticking up two fingers to the crowd – Raynor’s work did well to not get lost. Instead, his collection carried a socio-political punch that generated a buzz through militaristic silhouettes and patterns that flirt with quaint British nostalgia. Below, Raynor answers 10 quick-fire questions accompanied by imagery by Christoph Langenberg.

HUNGER: Hey Max! Congratulations on your recent show. Can you give us a general look at the collection…

Maximilian Raynor: It’s an anti-patriarchal protest set in my fictional version of purgatory ‘The Manor for Heaven’. A condemnation of box-ticking and a celebration of otherness, the collection invites my audience into a whole different world. 

How did the starting point come about?

MR: Born from my anger towards systems of control and the creeping right wing nationalism of our political landscape, my characters have a fully developed backstory and myriad of cinematic/literary references.  From ‘The Faustian Footmen’ who are my take on the witches in Macbeth, equal parts Queens guardsmen and hotel bellboys to ‘The Bullingdon Boy’, a farcical political cartoon of the Tory stereotype dragged through a protest in his grandmothers Chanel suit, the cast questions the status quo and deconstructs symbols of privilege and glamour. 

How collaborative was the collection?

MR: The collection wouldn’t be possible without the minds and hands of so many creatives and collaborators. During these financially challenging early stages of starting an emerging brand, such an ambitious project is only possible because of my community’s support and good will. I have a team of younger students who work in my studio and I strive to make their experience as educational as possible. With hats by Cate Sarci, knitwear with Isabella Egan and Cordie Saville Smith, and jewellery by James Tapner Evans + Grace Alexander, here Christoph Langenberg’s moody and electric photographs highlight the hard work of my team. I also have LVMH to thank. I was chosen to win the LVMH scholarship which was an absolute game changer for this collection and took an immense amount of financial pressure off my shoulders. It enabled me to thrive.

What can you say about your commitment to sustainable practices?

MR: All fabrics are deadstock luxury materials that were otherwise destined for landfill and the majority of garments use zero-waste cutting techniques. I also received a sponsorship from Louis Lucano, a sustainable accessories brand. They donated me a roll of vegan, biodegradable apple leather and to them I am extremely grateful. Whilst I never greenwash and suggest the entire collection is sustainable, I have made more conscious decisions and believe the collection proves that going greener does not prohibit glamour. 

These images see the clothes in a new light, a new narrative, right?

MR: Christoph shot these images the same weekend as the big film shoot in Derbyshire, my home county. We had to be so dynamic and collaborative to balance time between still and video and I largely left Christoph to his own devices to capture this incredible feature. Meanwhile I was directing a cast and crew of over 30 individuals. My taste for filmmaking has definitely intensified and I hope to be able to continue to bring my stories to life in this way. My childhood best friend who has started ‘Torriano’ produced the film and I am so proud of what we created. 

Why was it important for you that your mum walked in your CSM show?

MR: My mum has been my creative muse my entire life. We’d had a lot of conversations about all the roles a mother must take in the lives of the people around her and sometimes how invisible one can feel as an older woman in our culture. We liked the idea that mum was simultaneously the maid, the mother and the filmstar, being all things to all people, doing everything for everyone. She was my sounding board for so many ideas and helped with everything from driving cast to set to hand sewing. It was a special moment to walk that LFW finale hand in hand.

How do you hope that people respond to your work?

MR: I think the Margiela phenomenon proved that people are CRAVING a story, an escapism and a whole new design world. I am confident I offer that. I hope people feel entertained by my collection and film’s theatricality but for those that choose to learn more about the stories (my documentary is all over my Instagram) I hope they can take away a rejection of the status quo and share in my celebration of otherness.

In terms of technique, how did this collection of pieces differ from previous work you have done?

MR: There’s a definite newfound discipline to this collection. Whilst there are moments of extravagant volume, the foundations of this body of work comprise of impeccable, well-made clothes that I feel are sexy, desirable and can be worn in real life. It’s not all about the drama. The collection uses a wider range of colour and fabric, it’s slightly kookier, nerdier even, and yet still undeniably me.

What kind of person did you have in your mind when designing these pieces?

MR: Each look is a character and each character is as vivid and fleshed out to me as a protagonist would be to its writer. The Widower Poet is a dishevelled artiste who betrayed his lover to gain access to heaven and waits at the manor for their return from hell. The Attic Apparition has been at the manor so long she is part of the cobwebs (my take on Bertha from Jane Eyre and Jean Rhys’ postcolonial take on the story). Yet when the clothes get into the real world I don’t fixate on the image of my ideal customer, I find that quite limiting. I am surprised daily at the range of people responding to my work, from models with Down Syndrome, to ‘plus-size’ activist James Corbin with whom I have a close working relationship. It’s not up to me who has access to love what I do, if they love it, it’s theirs!

What are you focussing on now?

MR: For now I am focussing on the response to the collection and getting as many eyes on what we created as possible. After that I am an open book, eager to share my talent, be that within a house or independently as ‘Maximilian Raynor’. It’s scary and it’s financially tough but I am hoping I have proven myself with this body of work and the opportunities will come. 

PhotographerChristoph Langenberg
WriterRy Gavin
HairCharles Stanley
MakeupMandy Gakhal
AssistantsGabriel Bowden, Reuben Harris, Jocelyn Andra, Lucie Gonder, Alex Lyons