Maximilian Raynor Is Toying With London’s Romantic Fashion Scene
Hypebeast speaks with rising British designer Maximilian Raynor on his boundary-breaking design language, dressing the world’s biggest stars, and his eye for the future.
It’s no secret that London is having a moment right now, producing wave after wave of heavy-hitting talent from the UK’s top fashion universities. Central Saint Martins is at the heart of it all – and British designer Maximilian Raynor is a designer right under London’s current limelight. The CSM graduate is an undeniable romantic, channeling an intimate mindset into his rising namesake label. Raynor bounces between men’s and womenswear, creating performative garments that assume diverse identities. His ever-expanding imagination is evident in every design, from medieval leather ensembles to strap-infused coats that drag onto the floor with a rebellious attitude.
Maximilian Raynor creates with a distinct “London energy” that is equally theatrical and boundary-breaking, dressing the world’s biggest stars, including Ellie Goulding, Shygirl, Rita Ora, and more. The designer recently presented a singular collection alongside Lulu Kennedy‘s Fashion East, shown at the capital’s Royal Opera House and in New York, China, and Rwanda. Earlier this summer, Raynor participated in the six-day Fashion District Festival supported by London College of Fashion. He exhibited whimsical creations for all to see next to emerging talent looking to revolutionize dated industry standards.
The British creative prefers to stray away from gendered norms, envisioning his designs on people from all walks of life — male and female, young and old. Raynor’s “The Hotel for Heaven” collection continues to expand his defiant ideology, setting his sights on haunting lodging experiences that offer increasingly wearable designs. The range promotes grandiose coats that drop to the floor, 100% British wool jackets, and warped denim uniforms with an otherworldly feel.
As Maximilian Raynor continues to cement himself in the UK fashion landscape, the designer sat down with Hypebeast to discuss his creative mindset, his whimsical design language, and being part of London’s Fashion District Festival showcase.
Hypebeast: How would you define your time at Central Saint Martins, and how did it shape you into the designer you are today?
Maximilian Raynor: Central Saint Martins is an incubator, playground, and melting pot. I think you get out what you put in there. A strong sense of self and confidence in working independently is crucial in order to enjoy it. Studying alongside talented peers with radically different design languages and tastes diversifies your eye, challenges you to think outside the box, and also helps you to understand what you like and how you fit into the industry.
Tell me about your childhood. Was there a defining moment here when you knew you wanted to be a designer?
My mum has sketches of mine dated age 3 and garments I made out of curtains and dog blankets aged 6, so fashion has always run through my veins. A defining moment for me (when fashion became a serious professional path to follow) was when the late great Dame Vivienne Westwood replied to a letter and drawings I’d sent to her, inviting me to meet her and spend time in her studios.
This wild experience at age 10, where the early spark of my talent was validated by one of my idols, became the encouragement I needed to keep pursuing my goals. I met designers, models, and industry icons like Anna Piaggi, Erin O’Connor, and Hilary Alexander. I felt I’d set the bar pretty high for myself very young, and returning to the normality of a Derbyshire state school education was difficult at times. I was then, and am still, a dreamer with huge ambitions. A lot of my life thereafter was chasing the same thrill of being in the presence of genius and working hard to ensure my goals could become a reality.
How would you describe your design language?
Romantic, dramatic, and glamorous. I specialize in gender non-conforming clothing for both editorial, red carpet, music artists, and designer customers. My brand aesthetic is a juxtaposition of historical elegance and experimental textiles with a more anarchic and distinctly “London” energy.
As an emerging designer, what new things do you wish to contribute to the fashion industry?
I find it odd how in fashion, people are often intensely critical of anything they feel has been “done before” and singularly fixated on contributing something “TOTALLY new,” but I think fashion can be more like literature or theatre. No one objects to the Royal Shakespeare Company doing another production of Romeo and Juliet, because each and every time (with new actors, staging, and interpretations of the story), something original and fresh can be found in the words. I love to tell my stories, which borrow and steal from every book I have ever read and every elegant stranger I’ve observed in the streets of a faraway city. My eye is what I offer. My taste is my contribution.
I think a designer is also like a chef. Yes, we’ve eaten this vegetable or this spice before, but it’s how I choose to put it together that makes it special. I cook with fabric, I dance with styling, and I write with fashion. Everything I do is an emotionally charged regurgitation of history, cinema, poetry, and music.
“I cook with fabric, I dance with styling, and I write with fashion. Everything I do is an emotionally charged regurgitation of history, cinema, poetry, and music.”
How does being based in London impact your work? How do you insert “London energy” into your designs?
London is the real-life embodiment of diversity, chaos, tension, activism, glamour, and poverty. It’s kind of a gloriously f*cked up city where many thrive, find their queer community, dance till dawn, visit the best museums, drink at the finest bars, and walk the oldest streets. But it’s also a place where rent is astronomical, the government is farcically out of touch, and many are left isolated in their anonymity or forced to leave thanks to the cost of living.
I hope the community that I have attracted with my work reflects the multifaceted nature of London; drag queens, gay boys, elegant octogenarians, yuppie millennials, affluent heiresses, and out-of-pocket students. My world is open, and my world is flawed. We’re all just trying to have fun and find beauty in the madness.
You recently presented a one-off collection with Fashion East. Tell me about that experience and what you created together.
Lulu Kennedy, founder and director of Fashion East, contacted me to present as one of five emerging designers at the Royal Opera House. I’ve always loved that building, and it was an honor to present in such glamorous surroundings. Lulu creates a very fun, youthful, easygoing environment, and I respect her massively as a powerhouse supporter of young talent in London. Without her, many designers would not be where they are today. The whole team was a joy to work with, and it really gave me a taste of showing in fabulous historic venues.
The looks were a selection of my signature ribbon textile pieces. I’m conscious of becoming too known for the ribbon idea, so I am focusing on other new textiles and signatures for now. The Fashion East show was definitely a “goodbye but see you soon” to that technique.
What was your experience like participating in Fashion District Festival 2023?
I am always thrilled to participate in events like the Fashion District Festival. They really focus on community, education, and bringing together and uplifting emerging designers, so taking part was an immediate yes for me. I’m a huge fan of Spitalfields Market and often spend my Thursdays there researching and sourcing, so it’s cool to have my looks walk in such an important historic London landmark. George and Angus of AGRO Studio are also some of the rare gems in the London fashion scene — they’re innovative and talented, yes, but they’re also kind and respectful of people’s worth; their involvement was a major pull for me.
“I’m a huge fan of Spitalfields Market and often spend my Thursdays there researching and sourcing, so it’s cool to have my looks walk in such an important historic London landmark.”
Walk me through your “The Hotel for Heaven” collection. What was the inspiration and design process behind it?
I envisaged the recent pre-collection as a prologue to the full “Hotel for Heaven” collection, which I am working on now and will release next year. I wanted to show some (by my standards) more paired-back and ready-to-wear garments, focusing on the “menswear” characters in my cast. I always start with a cast. I like to imagine a whole environment and the people that reside there. The characters “The Moirai Bellboys,” a homoerotic, witch-like trio who greet you at the hotel doors but already know your fate, and “The Bullingdon Butler,” an anarchic punk raging against the privilege of the guests he serves. The climax of the pre-collection was “The Puppet Master,” aka the devil himself, who is the manager of this dystopian hotel which quickly emerges as a possible pandemonium or hell. Garments included a series of coats and jackets, all made in British wool as well as distorted animal print denim pieces and hand-feathered silk organza garments.
How do your menswear and womenswear collections differ, and what makes them undoubtedly unique?
I try not to think too concretely in terms of “menswear vs. womenswear” — rather, for me, it’s like ready-to-wear vs. my version of couture, aka elaborate, time-consuming art pieces focused on spectacle. Of course, I do women’s ready-to-wear and men’s couture, but it’s all fluid to me; sometimes, I’ll design a look I imagine is for a stunning older woman, and it ends up worn by a young male rapper and vice versa. When I say menswear pre-collection, it’s partly to coincide with the industry schedule, but also, I just mean clothes I actually wear and clothes that make me feel luxurious and sexy. The casting was mainly queer friends of mine, but I’ll probably shoot it on totally different people of many ages, bodies, and genders.
What can we expect to come in the near future from Maximilian Raynor?
The aforementioned “Hotel for Heaven” collection should show the world a different side to me while staying true to the drama I’ve always loved. Meanwhile, I am constantly working with fabulous clients, from musicians and actors to everyday people who live to dream. I’d love to present with the British Fashion Council for London Fashion Week — so that’s the next goal I am chasing.