Walmart hires designer for Gaga, Oprah to steer upscale apparel

[NEW YORK] Fashion designer Brandon Maxwell has dressed Lady Gaga, Michelle Obama and Meghan Markle. Soon, Walmart Inc shoppers can wear his styles, too.

The world's largest retailer hired Mr Maxwell as the first-ever creative director for its Scoop and Free Assembly fashion brands, it said in a statement Tuesday. Mr Maxwell, 36, will oversee four seasonal collections a year for the two labels, starting by influencing this year's holiday range before his full lines appear in the spring of 2022. He will also get involved in marketing campaigns for both brands in the newly created role.

Hiring Mr Maxwell is Walmart's latest attempt to become more of a fashion destination to boost apparel sales, which deliver fatter profit margins than its core grocery business. In recent years the company has launched and acquired plus-size clothing brands, opened a dedicated online site to sell Lord & Taylor's more upscale offerings and elevated fashion-industry veteran Denise Incandela to run its apparel and private brands. The moves also aim to counter Inc's emergence as the nation's most-shopped apparel merchant.

A native of Texas, Mr Maxwell got introduced to fashion at the boutique where his grandmother worked. In 2012 he became Lady Gaga's fashion director, then debuted his own ready-to-wear label in 2015. Other women who wear his brand include Oprah Winfrey and Jane Fonda, according to his website.

At Walmart, he will design Free Assembly, a range of easy-to-mix basics for men and women that was introduced in September, and Scoop, a defunct brand that Walmart revived in 2019. Walmart has dubbed the two labels "exclusive, elevated" fashion brands.

"Everyone deserves to have access to well-designed clothing at an accessible price point," Mr Maxwell said in the statement.

Walmart has tried to go upscale before. In 2011, the company dialed back its ambitions after attempts to appeal to more fashion-forward shoppers - including ads in Vogue magazine - flopped. The retailer also shuttered its office in New York's garment district at the time. More recently, it sold ModCloth, an online fashion site tailored to young women that it acquired in 2017.

Mr Maxwell also designed a line of face masks that go on sale at Walmart on Tuesday.



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