Brandon Blackwood On Interning At NYLON & Building A Brand From Scratch

The designer credits his success to “a lot of blood, sweat, and tears.”

Brandon Blackwood may be many things — a cultural icon, a Power Rangers stan, and a former neuroscience student — but a rookie isn’t one of them. The Brooklyn-born designer blew up last year due to the success of his coveted ESR (end systemic racism) tote but, contrary to popular belief, the sought-after brand was not an overnight sensation. He’s been building it for years.

“I think a lot of people think we’re really, really, new, but this is something that’s taken a lot of blood, sweat, and tears,” the designer tells NYLON. Blackwood started his company shortly after graduating from Bard University with a degree in Neuroscience/Psychology. He studied science to appease his family, but fostered his love for fashion on the side, interning for both Elle and NYLON magazine.

“I was in the fashion closet so you guys had me running all over town, with garment bags and shoes and things like that,” he recounts. “But it was great, a really awesome learning experience for sure.” After working for magazines, Blackwood took the plunge and started his own brand. His first collection, which is still available on his website, featured four designs named after his closest friends and brother.

They had a slow start, but Blackwood quickly grew a fanbase in New York, and today celebrities like Saweetie, Winnie Harlow, and Doja Cat all carry his creations.

Now, the designer is working with Glenmorangie Whisky to take his creativity from the studio to the bar. The liquor company is focused on re-imagining when and where we drink with its made-to-mix single malt, X by Glenmorangie. With the help of Blackwood, they hope to “share whiskey with a wider audience in an entirely new way.” For Blackwood that meant creating a drink that, like his frequently sold out bags, everyone would love. “I just wanted to make something really nostalgic,” he said.

Below, Blackwood takes the NYLON 19, revealing his signature cocktail (his take on an Aperol Spritz), the piece of clothing he wishes he kept, his dream music festival, and more.

What’s your astrological sign (and do you believe in it)?

I'm a Libra. I think my rising is Aquarius and my moon is also Aquarius.

Do you believe in ghosts, (and have you ever seen one)?

I don’t believe in, like, movie ghosts, but l do believe in spirits being around. I do believe in a presence being there that we can't necessarily see, for sure.

What’s your go-to drink order? (And if it's boozy, what’s your go-to hangover cure?)

The “X” Spritz.

(Recipe: Add X by Glenmorangie, Aperol, lemon juice, maple syrup and bitters to an ice-filled shaker and shake until well chilled. Strain into an ice-filled goblet. Top with sparkling water or club soda, stir gently, and garnish with lemon wedge and mint if desired.)

Who would be the three headliners of the music festival of your dreams?

It would be City Girls, Kanye just for the drama, and then, I was just listening to Fiona Apple before the call so, Fiona Apple. I would love to see that crowd.

What's the weirdest snack that you make?

When I was young, I don’t eat it anymore since I’ve developed, but I used to put mayonnaise on two pieces of bread and eat it like a sandwich. It was so gross.

Describe your worst date in three words.

Really, crazy, sober.

What was the last DM you received?

My DM’s are, like, insane so I barely check them. I would say maybe the last one I got was a horoscope meme from my friend.

What was your first concert, and what are your memories of it?

My first concert was actually at the park. It was a free concert, I went with my mom and it was a Brazilian girl. And I’d never heard of her before, before but it was such a great atmosphere. The song that they opened up with was literally called “Pussy Marijuana.” I was so young, I lost my mind. I was like, this is just so much fun.

What was your favorite movie as a kid?

My mom would buy me the Power Rangers videos, and I would play them until I knew them word for word. I would literally binge watch the same tape over and over.

What was your teenage AIM screen name?

Okay, this is so bad. It was Prince Balkwood, because I typed too fast and didn’t make it Blackwood and I was stuck with it.

What's your favorite meme/internet joke and why?

Do you remember when Lana Del Rey was spinning, and they had her spinning everywhere? That drove me crazy, I thought that was the funniest thing ever. They had her spinning in the hood, spinning on Saturn, spinning in someone's backyard, just spinning everywhere.

What's your go-to breakup song?

I’ve been in a relationship for like three years now, I haven’t had a breakup in a long time. But my go to break up song? I would go out and have a drink. Whatever the DJ plays. I’m not going to stay home, I’d be out with my friends!

What is your favorite red carpet look of all time worn by someone else?

Just for the drama of it, Rihanna with that yellow moment at the Met Gala. She made sure to be the last person going in, and just shut it down. It was iconic.

What is one thing everyone should buy that is under $10?


What piece of clothing from high school do you wish you kept?

My mom has this vintage see-through shirt that she used to wear. And when I was like 18 to 22 I was super, super tiny, and I never wore it, and I don’t know where it is now. But if I could find it again, I would recreate mom's look.

What is your go-to sad song?

All the sad Lana Del Rey songs, I love. Even when I’m in the best mood, I’ll still listen to them. But the song that makes me cry every time is “Ultralight Beam” by Kanye West. Every time I listen to it I just ball.

What is your best beauty tip or trick?

If your skin is having a little off day and you don’t want crazy makeup or whatever on. I always get a little bit of tinted moisturizer, and you just add one pump into your regular moisturizer. It’s the most sheer but covering coverage you’ll get, and it looks so good. It’s unclockable.

What is your coffee order?

I don’t drink coffee, but if I had a really rough night before and I have stuff to do I will. And it will always be a red eye. I go from zero to a thousand, just give me coffee with an espresso shot at that point.

What is your favorite fast food place, and what’s your order?

In New York it’s Wendy’s. I don’t care what anyone says, I’ll go to Wendys and I'll get a baconator with the fries. If I’m in the south, or at least Louisiana, Raising Canes. I wish they had one here, those chicken tenders, it's ridiculous, there’s nothing like that.