Photography by Joseph Ford
Hair by Zaree Kimoree
Make up by Jose Zepeda
While many fashion enthusiasts continue to have conversations about inclusion in the fashion industry, Maxie J, founder and designer of Ellaè Lisquè took matters into her own hands and built a table of her own.
With uncompromising ambition & talent, James first gave birth to her love child Ellaè Lisquè in 2014-a line intentionally created to make women feel sexy, bossy and sophisticated.
“Entrepreneurship comes with great struggle. However, after doing this for seven years, I’ve finally realized everything is aligned and finally working in my favor this year.” Though many romanticize the idea of entrepreneurship, Maxie James honestly admits that her journey has been anything but that.
She started her line in the summer of 2014, releasing a small collection of six dresses, and selling them online. After experiencing initial hardships, the line has since grown to a successful brand with an online and brick-and-mortar presence. And has been adorned by many celebrities from Summer Walker to Saweetie to name a few.
Finding that sweet spot of success is another level of the entrepreneur journey. With my path looking a bit clearer, I’m still experiencing growing pains,” Maxie honestly admits.
Her flagship store is located on Melrose and rightfully named “Stylehouse by Maxie J”. Here, customers receive a full service “Maxie J” experience.
In just a few hours, James will host her annual Fashion shown in Los Angeles, California revealing her latest line-respectively named “Birthday Collection”. After seven years of trial & error, it’s only right that the #GirlBoss has her cake and eats it too.
Maxie opened up to us at BOMBSHELL about her journey, her inspirations and how she’s doing her part in making sure other Black women can pull a chair up to her table too.
Bombshell: Prior to becoming a designer, you were immersed in the industry as a stylist. How did you first get your foot in the door? Tell us about your backstory.
Maxie J: When I was a stylist, I started out styling my friends and family. People would reach out and ask me to style them. I didn’t think styling could be a career. I just really love clothes, reconstructing clothes, and styling them differently. As I was styling my friends, I began to start getting referrals, and then those turned into celebrity referrals. After becoming a stylist, I continued to reconstruct pieces by turning a jacket into a dress, transforming a skirt into a shirt or adding fabric to other designs. I could never find exactly what I wanted in stores. I would see something sort of like, but never the perfect item I had in mind. So, I went to Google and researched how to make clothing, took multiple master classes and essentially taught myself how to be a designer.
Bombshell: What is the meaning behind the name Ellaé Lisqué?
Maxie J: ELLAE – is pronounced as L.A. – like the city I’m from. I did not want to simply have the letter LA in my brand name, so I thought of a cool way to spell it out. Lisque is from the word risque. I make sexy clothing but did not want the word sexy or risque my brand. After matching every letter in the alphabet to risque, came Lisqué, and I was like wow, that sounds cute. Thus, came the name Ellaé Lisqué.
Bombshell: We all know entrepreneurship comes with great struggles, but what was the defining moment in your career where you knew everything would work?
Maxie J: Entrepreneurship comes with great struggle. However, after doing this for seven years, I’ve finally realized everything is aligned and finally working in my favor this year. Throughout my trials and tribulations, I could not find it in my spirits to completely give up. I’ve tried other business ventures and have other businesses, but nothing fuels my soul like Ellaé Lisqué. Even with me losing everything last year, I still mustered the courage to try it again. This year, I’m finally starting to ripe the fruits of my labor. I believe God could finally trust me with the next level of success that I’ve been fighting so hard for and now I’m receiving those blessings.
Bombshell: Social media has glamorized entrepreneurship. Can you talk to us about the challenges you faced in the pursuit of your dreams?
Maxie J: Every level you reach in entrepreneurship has its own level of hardships. In the beginning, the hard part is starting. You don’t have the resources, money or relationships. You’re basically believing in the unbelievable and unthinkable. But, you get through that hardship despite doubts. Now, you’re at another level of success where you do have the resources; however, this level comes with different hardships. You must stay relevant while maintaining high-quality products and keeping a strong team, although your business has grown beyond your wildest dreams. Finding that sweet spot of success is another level of the entrepreneur journey. With my path looking a bit clearer, I’m still experiencing growing pains.
Bombshell: Relationships are keen in the fashion industry. What advice do you have for new brands on building beneficial relationships?
Maxie J: I always tell new brands not to spend your business capital on paying people to wear your products, especially if you have great products. You can always build relationships with stylists in exchange for great images and content to help build brand awareness. Through good relationships, you’ll be able to see growth within your business without spending extra capital.
How critical is it for you to create opportunities for women, specifically women of color, in fashion.
I’m all about women empowerment, especially empowering women of color. Hints, why 99 percent of my team is Black. I intentionally aim to hire Black women. Even with my upcoming fashion show, on September 2nd in Los Angeles, I was very specific by choosing a woman host, performer and even models. Empowering Black women has always been my thing.
With your next Fashion taking place in just a few hours, what story do you hope to convey through your designs?
For my fashion show happening today. The story I hope to convey through my designs with this new collection is for women to know they can dress sexy and demand attention through their clothing while still being tasteful.