Sophia Max Brown… Woman of style
With her vivacious personality, a generous dash of style and an aggressive approach to business, Sophia Max Brown is the epitome of the woman on the go. When All Woman caught up with her, she was hard at work, determined to meet the December 16 deadline for the opening of her newest store, Max Brown Unlimited.
A departure from the signature all-male collection her other stores offer, the latest in the line of Max Brown boutiques, an exclusive outlet for the Versace designer, but with a distinct male accent.
“It is very difficult for men to find good quality clothing, and I have made a personal commitment to see that they step out this season in fashion’s best,” Brown said while attending to other details.
Her interest in fashion began at age 18, shortly after graduating from high school in Canada. While harbouring ambitions to pursue a law degree, she did not make it to college. Instead, she took a job as a sales representative with one of the top fashion houses in Toronto.
“Although I was working with women’s fashion, I gained five years of invaluable experience sourcing and delivering high-quality fashion from all the major distributors around the world,” she offered.
Max Brown worked her way steadily to the supervisory level, and settled into a career in glamour she says she would not trade.
Sophia Max Brown was born in Jamaica, but lived for many years in Canada where she grew up with parents Carlene and Roudolph. The only Black student at the private high school she attended, Brown was a star of sorts in her community.
“She was a darling in Toronto and was always on stage acting, (as a) model, dancing and of course designing fashion,” said mom Carlene, doting in her daughter’s accomplishments.
The only girl in a small family of three siblings (brothers Carlos and Raul), Brown has always had a very special relationship with her mother. Actually, this was what prompted her return to Jamaica in 1985.
“I took a year off from work to visit my mother who had just gone through a divorce. She was in the shingles and plywood business, and I wanted to give her all the support I could,” she told All Woman. “But after one day in her office, I realised that this was not for me, I could not sell lumber.”
In a bold move, Brown decided to open an exclusive male boutique, and almost single-handedly changed the face of male fashion in Jamaica.
“Most persons discouraged us because they felt men were not really fashion conscious and at that time, they really were not, they were on the conservative side,” she recalled.
“But I wanted to capture a different market, too many persons were into women’s fashion and not many places catered exclusively to men.”
Within a few years, Max Brown Limited was entrenched as a leading fashion house not only in Kingston but Montego Bay as well. “As Men became more fashion-conscious, demanding more style and variety, we expanded to meet this demand,” she explained.
In partnership with her mother, Brown has achieved relative success, and is often called upon to assemble wardrobes for corporate executives, musicians, recording artistes, as well as to costume movie groups.
“I have dressed prime ministers in the Caribbean, the likes of Shabba Ranks, Beenie Man, Freddie McGregor, to name a few artistes. I was also lead fashion consultant for the movie, Third World Cop and Hammer Head,” said Brown.
While anticipating many more years of favourable business, Max Brown knows too well the risks involved in this type of venture, having had to open and close in different locations to capitalise on sales.
“We have gone through some very difficult years. The first five years in business were amazing, however, things have got extremely difficult over the past few years especially sourcing and financing men’s designer apparel, which is much more expensive than ladies wear,” Brown reflects.
She continued: “Staying afloat in today’s world of business means putting back every dollar made into the business, it’s a lot of compromise and sacrifice. I live very simply, I don’t even own a car; the business takes priority.”
On the lighter side, she enjoys travelling which is integral to her job. With many friends and business associates in Hollywood including Young and Restless star, Shamar Moore, Brown takes time out ever so often to go relax up north. Confessing that she does not “exercise, and I am not into sports,” she offered, she also delights in entertaining friends at home.
While not dating at the moment, the 30-something Sagittarian, who celebrates a birthday on Christmas Day, anticipates getting married and having children. But for now, she intends to continue working hard and to give as much as she can to charity.