Brandon Blackwood, Jamaican-Chinese handbag designer and Bed-Stuy/Bushwick resident, embodies the Brooklyn ideal: authentic, ambitious, cutting-edge yet pragmatic. And today, Sept. 12, his brand will be celebrating its official premiere at New York Fashion Week at MILK Studios. We’ve got a feeling it won’t be the brand’s last Fashion Week presentation.
“Brandon Blackwood, as a brand, is what I call New York City Luxury,” Blackwood tells Bushwick Daily. “The best materials, hardware, and craftsmanship go into every single bag…every piece is practical, durable, and makes sense.”
“I don’t design just to design. I have the quintessential New York Girl or Boy in mind. The pieces are timeless and work in all different environments. My pieces make sense on the girl wearing Gap Jeans and a Uniqlo shirt to the girl in head to toe Proenza Schouler. It doesn’t matter.”
While Brandon humbly designs his bags for the everyday New Yorker, A-Listers flock to the brand just the same. Brie Larson, Lupita Nyong’o, Amandla Stenberg and Cardi B have all sported his designs, both on the red-carpet and incorporated into everyday, casual attire.
““It’s about time! It’s been two years of grinding my butt off and it’s finally here. Contracts signed, guest list in place, PR ready, and product ready to be showcased. I’m so nervous but also so proud. Looking back even five months ago, I wouldn’t have thought this would happen, especially at a venue like MILK Studios. Things just all fall into place perfectly when you work hard.”
“I’ve had amazing support from my family, friends, stylist, and editors, but I’ve also had a crazy amount of support from my die hard customers who DM me almost everyday asking what’s next, and always trying to put orders in ahead. I feel like thats why I took the SS/18 theme so literally — installing a live butterfly garden in MILK studios. It’s a renewing of the brand, a new chapter of sorts. This is my coming out to the world.”
On getting his start
Despite the brand’s remarkable success, the Bard College graduate didn’t always foresee a future in the fashion world. “I didn’t think fashion was going to work out by junior year of college, so I stuck to thinking I would end up in the medical field. I was attending Bard on an academic science scholarship, and was accepted into a Radiation Therapy program to start the fall after graduation.”
“I realized that it wasn’t my calling, and started working at Crossroads Trading Co. as a buyer. I was making horrible pay, working for a horrible district manager but stuck it out until I could save enough money to start my line. That first collection never saw the light of day, but I kept designing and saving. I bought my LLC, my mom gave me cash, my best friend Serena saved up her whole two weeks of pay and gave it to me as well, and that’s when I launched Brandon Blackwood New York. It was scary, but within a month of launching I was in Essence Magazine.”
“As far as role models, I come from a family of very proud, strong Jamaican women. Every woman in my family took pride in how they appeared to the world, and because we didn’t have tons of money growing up, it was really how they styled pieces that elevated their looks. My grandmother never had a hair out of place and was always perfectly poised—even the way she spoke was perfect. My mother Carleen had the largest collection of work suits in almost every color and she would change her natural hairstyle almost every week—she also color blocked her outfits perfectly: a grey pencil skirt and blazer with a large purple trench and dark sunglasses—things like that.”
As for why Brandon chose stay in Brooklyn, after having grown up between Bed-Stuy and Tokyo: “[Brooklyn] felt like home. The people, the spaces— old and new—the food, everything. I love it here.”
“When I was younger, my favorite time of year was summer. We would have block parties, barbecues and fish fries, play music on the weekend all day from someone’s car. When we were kids we would wash cars to make cash for the block association, which funded our block parties. Everyone knew everyone and everyone’s business.
“This environment is really missing in a lot of other boroughs and major cities as a whole. Now that I’m twenty five and living on my own, my favorite part of Brooklyn is still similar to when I was a child. All of my friends are living here now and really enjoy it the same way I do. We have our go-to spots, have kickbacks and dinners at each other’s apartments, and just really enjoy the easier kind of lifestyle Brooklyn offers.”
As for how he describes Brandon Blackwood’s Spring 2018 Collection: “Your new favorite handbag.”