My incredible friend, Maxine is the definition of making your dream come true with nothing less than hard work. Like all newbies in the work force, she started her professional career in the world of fashion by putting in long hours and learning from the ground up. It eventually led her to realizing she needed to follow her heart and start her own shoe line, Maxine Shoes. Most people would have let the thought sit and day dream about it. Maxine did exactly the opposite. She worked herself to the bone to launch this line. I know because we FT’d two weeks before her launch. The girl was down to the wire and she still took time to have a chat with me about my own project. That’s how incredible she is!
Just this month, she was one of only two winners chosen to have her designs sold in a boutique in NYC and have them showcased for Fashion Week in NYC and Paris. It is an exciting milestone for anyone just starting out. She has been generous enough to share her thoughts, her road and lessons learned, so far. So dive in. #besinpired
It is such a difficult thing to do, and unless you’ve done it, I don’t think people quite grasp what it means to start something on your own and then build its legs. So, what made you decide to go out on your own start your own business?
I have always had a soft spot for shoes, but only realised during my time in NY that starting a shoe brand was what I really wanted to do. The fashion industry has changed a lot in the past years, not only product offerings, but the way products are offered. Consumers are increasingly interested in sustainability and ethical aspects of businesses.
I think realising that most big brands are past the point of pivoting to truly sustainable processes, I felt a certain urgency to offer a well- and responsibly-made product.
Not having much of a work-life-balance back then was not easy and I noticed over time that my relationship with what had been my passion and work had changed…it was mostly work and I felt habits sticking. Something I was taught is not what one should aim for professionally. I guess this was the very moment I knew I had to move on in order to grow and contribute more in a different way.
Just recently, you have definitely hit a milestone. Tell us about it.
Since February I have been showing at designer showrooms during London and Paris FW. A few weeks ago I participated in a competition for young designers. They chose 2 winners, who would be sold in a boutique in NY (Flying Solo) starting this season (not charging any commission or wholesale prices, but providing us with the full retail amount to reinvest). When I found out I was one of the winners, I was also told that they have a catwalk in NY (and as I just found out in Paris also) showcasing their community of designers. We are an international bunch and were around 50 designers collaborating, resulting in 320 looks. The show was at Pier59 studios and my shoes were used for 3 designers; in total 24 looks. In a few weeks a similar event will take place in Paris with a smaller selection (total of 37 designers).So it’s been super exciting! Happy to send you pictures this week once I have them – waiting for the final ones from backstage and the runway.
What was one of the hardest mountains you had to climb, personally, while you were trying to achieve your dreams and how did you deal with it?
I think doubt and anxiety were (sometimes still are) my two big challenges. There were days, sometimes weeks – especially in the beginning – when I questioned everything, especially myself.
Starting a label is an incredibly personal endeavour. Not only is it a financial and professional risk, but as a designer you open your heart to the public. The aesthetic of the brand and every single design reflects me. Which is the very reason why it was hard not to take feedback and critique personally in the beginning.
Starting my business with the help of a fashion incubator program based in London was the best decision I could have made. Having a life coach and mentors was incredibly helpful not only for the building of my brand, but my personal growth. Being open and honest about struggles is key to moving passed them and improving.
If you had to give one piece of advice to someone who is trying to pave his or her own way, what would it be?
I think setting goals is incredibly important. Aiming high and visualising your definition of success helps to stay positive and those of us who have read The Secret know it will do us favours… But most of all change goals along the way, have milestones and reward yourself for even the smallest success. I really noticed how my motivation and also my pride grew as I took in even the tiniest success and felt joy and gratitude.
Chicken or egg?
Absolutely egg. Being a atheist (and having watched Big Bang Theory too much as a student) I believe in science and a something pre-eggy evolving into an egg as we know it.
If you had a superpower, what would it be?
I would love to be able to create through thought. If I could create objects and feelings through visualisation…that’s the dream!
What’s one thing you’d do differently if you were to start this process over again?
Probably I would go on a holiday before I start the business. I got so caught up since business plan stages that I was too excited to even think about a holiday. I love travelling for work, but its not the same. I wish I would have enjoyed the quiet before the storm a little more. Over all I think there is no perfect preparation, and whilst I don’t have a regret, I think it’s important to take everything in and enjoy even the craziest times of building the foundation of the business. Looking back, these days were still slower than the ones now and it’s a very special period that doesn’t last forever. Its like a honeymoon phase with yourself that hits once you start breathing and living your brand.
Who has had the biggest influence in your life?
My family! I know this is (gladly) the answer of most women, but I cannot thank my family enough. I grew up assuming being a female entrepreneur was no less realistic or hard than being a male one, as I was surrounded by my parental grandmother and mother both being entrepreneurs.
My grandmother taught me that a right mindset will get you anywhere, my mother is responsible for my work ethic, and my father – probably the biggest feminist of all of us – taught me how to make things happen for myself and not let anyone answer for me. And my sister of course, apart from having to stand up for myself from an early age, she has taught me positivity. I truly would not be anywhere close to where I am now without their support and advice, which I still make use of multiple times a week.
What are you most proud of?
I am not a very proud person, it usually hits me months past others told me to be proud of something. Looking back I am proud to have grown and nourished industry relationships independently. Having built my career without any support has given me wonderful and kind mentors and friends, who have been by my side during this journey.
Do ghosts exist?
No – but I do think that we are able to feel the spirit of someone even once they have passed. Whether it is triggered by a sense or memory, I believe we want to see and feel loved spirits until we are ready to let go. When my grandmother passed, I could feel her in the house, her scent, I heard her voice, it was like she was still there. I think only once we are ready to let go, spirits fade.
What kind of music do you like?
My parents raised us with an attitude that we could do and achieve anything, which was great. Except I got bored quickly, so I learned a lot of instruments and went to choir practice. I still play the saxophone, but piano, guitar and drums unfortunately are not really my strong suits anymore.
I enjoy various genres, but especially jazz and soul can make my day. I love how music influences our emotions, I think that is absolutely beautiful.
If you had to do it all over again, would you? And no, you can’t start with the lessons you’ve learned this go around.
Big fat YES! I have never been happier. Probably not more tired either, but my excitement levels have also never been higher. Since my e-launch it has almost been 1 year and I could not be more ecstatic about what has happened since. It’s such a privilege being able to start my own line, I could not be more grateful and joyful!