Walmart in deal with Project Runway judge to oversee its elevated fashion brands

Marianne Wilson
Marianne Wilson profile picture
Fashion designer Brandon Maxwell is collaborating with Walmart.

Walmart has brought on a well-known designer to help pump up its fashion credentials. 

The discounter has hired Brandon Maxwell, who designs a high-end label sold in upscale stores, as creative director for its two “elevated” brands, Free Assembly and Scoop. Maxwell, who also serves as a judge on Bravo’s popular “Project Runway” television series, will be responsible for collection design and providing input into material selection, sourcing and production. He will also be involved in brand marketing initiatives and campaigns for both elevated brands.

“Like many people across the country who live in a small town, Walmart was the destination for everything where I grew up in Texas, including clothing,” said Maxwell, who counts Lady Gaga as one of his earliest fans. “This partnership allows me to bring the experience and joy of fashion to countless people who live in small towns across the country. Everyone deserves to have access to well-designed clothing at an accessible price point.”

Maxwell will oversee four seasonal collections annually for Free Assembly, which is made up of elevated everyday essentials, and Scoop, a more trend-driven brand that is named for the legendary fashion boutique. The collaboration is a first for Walmart’s private brand apparel business, which has been expanding its assortment beyond basics to include better quality, on-trend and accessible fashions. It has added more name brands to its offerings, including Levi’s and Champion, and has launched two exclusive elevated brands in addition to Free Assembly and Scoop: Sofia Jeans (developed in partnership with actress Sofia Vergara and plus-sized Eloquii Elements.  

Despite its efforts, Walmart is still primarily seen as a purveyor of low prices than fashion and a good deal of its more fashion-forward clothing is only available online. But Denise Incandela, executive VP of apparel and private brands for Walmart, told CNBC that is changing. More national brands will be sold at stores and clothing displays will be made more appealing with mannequins and creative imagery.

“Brandon is a powerhouse in the fashion industry,” said Incandela. “His designs are beautiful, youthful, timeless and expertly tailored. Our shared fashion values of accessibility and commitment to incredible design and quality make him an ideal partner for Walmart.”

As a part of the new partnership, Walmart is rolling out a line of face masks designed by Maxwell and is donating  $100,000 to, a charity selected by Maxwell for its dedication to helping public school teachers get the funding they need for materials and experiences that will help their students learn.