New Years Eve is approaching, and if you’re wondering where to shop for your holiday outfit, you should look no further than Ellaé Lisqué to help you make a glamorous entrance into 2022. The Los Angeles-based brand, founded by designer Maxie James (Maxie J), specializes in show stopping ensembles that make the perfect attire for special occasions. Whether it’s for a birthday, holiday party or just a hot night out, Ellaé Lisqué is the go-to shopping destination for all of the women that prefer to stand out including Tamar Braxton, Angela Simmons, Saweetie, and Summer Walker.
James, who is originally from Inglewood, California, was attracted to fashion from a young age, but being a designer was not always in the cards as she grew up in a household that promoted traditional careers for job security. “Fashion was always my thing,” she shares with ESSENCE. “I was winning best dressed in junior high school.” However, it took some time for James to fully step towards her passion and pursue her dreams. She spent some time after high school trying to become the things her parents wanted her to be out of respect and a desire to make them proud, but like most college students, it’s only a matter of time before you realize that not following your heart only sacrifices your own happiness. “I ended up dropping out of college to pursue my fashion career, and my parents were totally against it,” she continues.
The fashion designer began her career in the industry originally as a stylist. James would style her friends, who happened to also be some of the biggest influencers in LA like Bria Myles. Posting her clients in the final looks led to referrals and ultimately, more business. However, the hustle and bustle that came with styling was not favored by James. She craved more freedom as an entrepreneur, which led to becoming a fashion designer and launching Ellaé Lisqué.
Although James had the passion to pursue her dreams, not having an educational background fashion came with its challenges, but James worked through them. She often wandered in LA’s fashion district and searched the depths of Google to put the pieces together. Eventually, James figured it out and became the owner of a six-figure earning fashion brand. Her parents, who were once not the fondest of her fashion dreams, became her biggest supporters. “Now, 7 years later, they are my biggest fans,” she says. “I’ve retired both of them and I take care of both of them, and they tell me everyday how proud they are.”
Within the first couple of years of business, James built a steady and star studded clientele, while running her online shop and the physical store on Melrose. As the business grew, James realized that the brand needed a bigger location to keep growing. However, she eventually found that moving from the Melrose location was the worst decision for the business. Traffic slowed down and the brand’s sales declined by 50%, which led to closing the store and having to pivot away from the investment.
The next step for James was working behind the scenes. “I partnered with one of my manufacturers that was manufacturing for me at the time and I started to manufacture for other brands and develop other brands, and I did that for about two years and that was very profitable for me,” James reveals. Although the job wasn’t as glamorous as being a fashion designer, James did what she needed to do to save her business. The strategic business move allowed James to relaunch Ellaé Lisqué in September 2020, in the midst of COVID-19. James explains, “Although the timing didn’t seem so promising, I’d rather have taken a pay cut if I had to, because at least I was doing what I loved to do.”
However, the complete opposite of a pay cut happened. The fashion brand that had historically brought in six figures at the most became a multi-million dollar business. Now, James manufactures the designs in Turkey with the manufacturer that she previously partnered with.
If you want to take a page out of James’ guidebook to success, it’s important to note that she prides herself in specializing in glamorous evening wear. “I think it’s very important to be a niche brand, and I think that’s why I succeed in the fashion industry because I’m known for something,” James says. “I’m known for evening wear and birthday dresses, and it’s someone’s birthday every single day.” Rather than trying to offer every silhouette, James promotes honing in on what you’re best at. However, you can still be inclusive when choosing to be a niche brand as Ellaé Lisqué also takes pride in providing affordable luxury for all shapes and sizes. “I try to make sure I make designs for every body type,” James expresses. “My designs go up to 3X down to XS. I try to design dresses for women of all shapes and sizes to feel confident, sexy, and comfortable in my designs.”
Shop Ellaé Lisqué’s collections on ellaelisque.com.