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There are many inspirations behind the L.A. fashion brand Chelsea Mak—Chinatown, the late French monarchy, ’80s nightclubs, femininity, casual-cool L.A. vibes—some so specific the brand could have fallen deep into a dichotomous mess. But Mak, the founder and designer of her eponymous brand, has sewn them all together just right. Such a confident vision comes from leading a life with great intention. After studying at Parsons in New York, Mak made her way to L.A., where she worked at small brands such as Band of Outsiders and Dutch LLC. More than 10 years in design roles gave her the perspective to finally go out on her own.
In 2018, she launched Chelsea Mak into a fashion brand that felt deeply personal. The clothes are made in Shanghai, where Mak grew up traveling with her mom on business trips. Her mom would peel away from work so the two of them could explore fabric shops and tailors, which has a lot to do with why so many of Mak’s clothes are made with silks from Shanghai. From the intricate character she’s created to describe who wears ChelMak (as she lovingly calls it) clothes to the intimate shows she hosts at her home in Los Angeles, Mak cares more about creating a community that understands and appreciates her clothing for what it is than making hundreds of sales to people who don’t get it.
There’s an ethereal quality to her designs: Ruffled necklines, silk taffetas, and flattering cuts that accentuate the most feminine parts of the body make her clothes feel at once timeless and of a bygone era. “It pays homage to the old world—like if Marie Antoinette and the little old lady in Chinatown with the plastic slippers were the same person,” Mak says.
The new collection feels especially specific, though, with ’80s shrugs, minimalist cuts, and color blocking. It recalls nightclub scenes, which is fitting since Mak chose Sofie Fatouretchi, the Austrian Iranian DJ, to be the model-muse of the new line. Fatouretchi was one of the original members of Boiler Room and embodies the successful, multifaceted female Mak typically seeks to feature in the brand’s campaigns. The new collection launches today, and we have an exclusive sneak peek at the line before it goes live on the Chelsea Mak website. Be sure to check it out below, along with our interview with Mak.
First of all, how are you?
I’m doing okay! It’s come to a point where it’s hard to know what to think or feel anymore. We’re collectively living through such a big shift, and it’s honestly so difficult to navigate, especially from a business standpoint. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I will be able to contribute to the new world we’re living in.