Girl you need to know: Ellis Hong of Ellis and Friends

10 May 2017
By Fashion Quarterly

Ellis Hong - Feature image

Ellis Hong is the leading lady behind the online store, Ellis and Friends and has just recently ventured into designing her own line of gorgeous clothing. Miss FQ intern, Ashleigh Ilton caught up with fashion and entrepreneurial guru, Ellis in her dreamy Kingsland studio to get the deets on how Ellis and Friends became the store we all know and love.

Miss FQ: What’s your story?

Ellis: I grew up in few different areas of West Auckland. I remember dressing up as a little kid and have been into fashion for as long as I can remember. During my awkward teen years I fell out of touch with it a bit, but during high school I found my way back.

I completed a four-year degree in graphic design while doing numerous internships in the fashion industry. Given my line of interest, I’d actually planned to switch courses to do a fashion and business major instead, which would have required me to go down to Wellington but my dad fell sick that year, so I decided to stay by him. I ended up completing the design degree but knew that I ultimately wanted to work in fashion. You could probably say that point in my life was the turning point for me, to only do things that you really love and enjoy!

Ellis and Friends is now a full-time job for me – if not more. But it definitely didn’t start off that way…

We absolutely love your online store and Instagram! How long have you been running Ellis and Friends and how did it all begin?

That’s so sweet, thank you! I started Ellis and Friends back in 2014 a few months after I graduated from university. I’d applied for two jobs in fashion straight after graduating but didn’t get either of them and actually gave up on the idea of finding something. It was only after my mum suggested the idea of starting my own shopping platform after seeing my buying and selling habits (which was purely to my unhealthy shopping addiction while studying!) that Ellis and Friends was born.

The store, which started on Facebook, was only meant to be temporary. I literally began with no real plan or knowledge in business, so a few months down the track when it came down to the technical stuff, I became really stuck. I gradually started losing creativity and momentum, so I decided to put the store aside for the time being and found a full-time job.

After taking some time out from E&F, I realised it was the store that I’d become passionate about. From here, I decided to dedicate all my extra time to properly plan and re-launch it while managing my other full-time role. I did this for about 6 months and was burning myself out, so I had to pick one or the other…

Bowie-cami-red---Ellis-Label---Womens-fashion-designer-new-zealand

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Why the name Ellis and Friends?

Ellis & Friends came to me while brainstorming a jewelry label I wanted to create, but I soon realised there was more meaning in what I actually wanted to share through the brand name: a platform where we can all inspire each other through our wardrobes and personal styles. The name became quite handy when we started to think of what to call our new label, Ellis, as well. Makes sense now, doesn’t it?!

Tell us about your own line Ellis and where you get your design inspiration from.

Ellis is just about creating lustworthy, yet wearable pieces and sharing them with others to have in their wardrobe. Unlike many designers, we decided that Ellis wouldn’t release by collections nor abide by any rules on what is up and coming because we realised one day you might vibe jeans and a top, whereas the next day you might want to wear a slip dress. Ellis is about ticking those types of boxes and understanding how everyday girls are.

Undone. #bowieminidress #ellislabelA post shared by Ellis and Friends (@ellisandfriends) on

Who are your favourite designers and why?

My favourites would have to be Chloe, Isabel Marant and Aje. They’re all designers with an easy and relaxed aesthetic with a bit of playfulness and femininity that I love.

What are items are currently in your to-buy shopping cart?

I’m currently eyeing up these boots from Allsaints. They’re the perfect height and edgy, but not too much. I need! I also have a few pairs of jeans by Levis and Citizen of Humanity that I’m quite into. Oh and the Starsign necklace by Reliquia Jewellery and a loose cropped sweatshirt that is currently in the works that will be available in our store soon.

What are your top three clothing pieces that can transform any wardrobe into something magical?

1. I’m always into a good white blouse whether it’s floaty, fitted of oversized. They’re always good for when you’re on the run and want to be comfortable but also look professional.

2. A pair of classic blue jeans. I’ve been thrashing my Levis straight-legged pair and have been wearing these with almost anything. I never really like to look too “done up”, so they are perfect for looking effortless.

3. I also love a good belt. I have a few vintage ones that I like to rotate with my tops and denims.

Perfect rose. Perfect tee ✨ Link in bio to shop. #chosenbyellisandfriendsA post shared by Ellis and Friends (@ellisandfriends) on

Tell us, what’s the secret to a beautiful Instagram feed?

I’m not sure if there is a secret! I do try to post when I’m in a pleasant or relaxed state of mind though. I’m admittedly quite uptight when it comes to the images that are shared and will only ever really post images that I feel we could all connect with or aspire to.

We’ve noticed that most of your online pictures are real girls who are wearing Ellis and Friends labels. Why do you choose to use your beautiful customers instead of models?

I think showing everyday girls wearing their pieces in their own ways helps visualise ourselves in the garments. It never gets old seeing our customers in our pieces! They always look so happy and beautiful in their pics and we love to share these with the rest of our followers.

Looks like this. ✨ The Whiskey high waist jean with something that looks like the Rosa embroidered tee. #howsheworeit

A post shared by Ellis and Friends (@ellisandfriends) on

What are your hopes and dreams for Ellis and Friends in the future?

At the moment our next step is getting our studio/showroom ready for our customers to be able to come by and try things on! For the distant future, I’d really love for Ellis and Friends to be identified as not only a store, but a go-to platform for all things inspirational with styling tips and possibly some light reading too. Of course, I’d love to grow our label, Ellis, as well and produce pieces that we might be able to share at an international level.

Top three Instagram accounts that every fashion loving gal should follow?

There are so many! It’s quite hard to choose but I always end up on bloggers @negin_mirasalehi @mayawyh, @chiaraferragni and @patriciamanfield because they all have their own personal styles and literally just rock anything they wear. I’ve also lately been vibing on @kellymaker who’s a photographer and an artist. Oops, that’s more than three.

Words and interview: Ashleigh Ilton
Photos: Supplied

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