How A Self-Made, Self-Taught Fashion Designer Became A Major Hollywood Player In Just 3 Years – Forbes

Maxie James is a fashion designer to the stars, including Blac Chyna, Letoya Luckett, Erica Mena and India Love, and a boutique owner who “won’t let anything stop me from going after my dreams.” Her clothing line, Ellae Lisque, held its second annual show this past Sunday, the same day as James’ 30th birthday. Her line will appear in New York Fashion Week this coming weekend. Style House by MJ, her clothing store, is one of the only Black-owned businesses on LA’s swanky Melrose Ave.

Maxie James

Maxie James models one of her creations. (Photo by Justin Coxx)

What’s even more remarkable is that James only started in the fashion business three years ago. In her first year, she accumulated over six figures in revenue and had a return rate, while most fashion businesses don’t manage that until they’ve been operating for five years. Even so, James was “feeling stagnant” because she averaged the same numbers the first two years in a row. “My business was doing okay, but I wasn’t okay with doing okay,” James said. “I’m only okay with doing great. Until I challenge and impress myself, I can’t be content.”

At the same time, she became embroiled in an online celeb designer feud. This situation would have undermined many people’s confidence. But such was not the case for James. “I am confident when it comes to fashion,” said the entirely self-made and self-taught business woman. “I don’t care if I’m up against someone famous. I never feel intimidated in this domain.” She kicked into even higher gear with design, production and promotion, and opened her store on Melrose. And she has seen the results of her efforts. Her bottom line has grown significantly this past year, as has her A-list client base.

Maxie James

James at her boutique on Melrose Ave. (Courtesy of Maxie James)

Although James always has had a passion for fashion, she didn’t align her career with her life purpose until a few years ago. She had been laid off from eBay when she decided to pursue her interest in fashion seriously. James began her career as a stylist, but didn’t enjoy “running around town buying and returning clothes.” Moreover, she couldn’t find the styles she envisioned for her clients on the rack. “It wasn’t until I was able to put the styles in my head down on paper that I knew designing was my gift,” she explained.

It was stumbling upon a Steve Harvey YouTube video that really got James going. She had been watching inspirational and motivational videos online when the Harvey video automatically began playing. “He was speaking about the difference between being passionate about something and being gifted at something,” James said. “I realized that I had a gift for fashion and that I should start paying attention to this gift. My whole life, I’ve always been gifted at putting outfits together, and friends have always asked me for advice. I thought, this is what I love. Why not make a career out of it?”


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