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Leon was born Leonid Maxovich Rodovinski born in 1954 in Leningrad, Soviet Union (now Saint Petersburg, Russia). The son of a playwright, he attended an English school and read the novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald. On leaving school he became an apprentice in costume and set design with the Kirov Ballet aged 16, by 18 realised that the only way he could improve his lot was to flee Soviet Russia.
He said during an interview to the Daily Mail : '‘I was being driven through Vienna in a government van. The streets were very beautiful but the signs were all in German, a language I did not speak. That was the moment I realised I had to sink or swim.’'
Changing his name to Leon Max by taking his fathers first name as his surname, Max enrolled at the New York Fashion Institute of Technology. He worked for New York fashion house Tahari, and then Los Angeles-based Bis, a women’s sportswear firm.
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Max started Max Studio in 1979, and has over 7,000 points of sale.
In the boom years of the mid-1980s, Max commissioned avant-garde architecture firm Morphosis — then known for sharp edged constructionist compositions — to design a showroom in LA. The eventual stores employed an evolved version of this aesthetic developed by LA architecture firm Design Office.
Max is married to American model Ame Austin (born 1976).
The couple are regarded as architectural connoisseurs, and have previously lived in a Greene and Greene house, as well as one designed by modernist American architect Richard Neutra. They are currently awaiting the planning permission on a 11,500 sq ft (1,070 m2) futuristic cliff side home at Malibu.
In 2005, the couple bought Easton Neston in Northamptonshire, England from Lord Hesketh for £15 million. They converted the 10,000 sq ft (1,000 m2) of the fire damaged Wren wing of the house (mistakeny attributed to Christopher Wren), plus the out buildings which were the home of defunct Formula One team Hesketh Racing into their European business base. The remaining main house become their English country home for six months of the year, where they had been welcomed by a gift from Lord Hesketh — a bottle of vodka.
- Kay, Richard (2011-10-26). "Katia Who Got The Cream". London: The Daily Mail. Retrieved 2011-10-26.
- "Max Studio Makes UK Market Debut". Drapers Magazine. Retrieved 2011-11-04.
- "Katia Elizarova named as new face of Max Studio, replaces Rosie H-W and Lily Cole". My Fashion Life. Retrieved 2011-11-01.
- "Max Studio to launch in London". Retail Gazette. Retrieved 2011-10-26.
- "Max Studio Signs International Model Katia Elizarova as Brand Ambassador and New Face". Yahoo News!. Retrieved 2011-10-26.
- US fashion king pays £15m for Hesketh estate - Sunday Times - Times Online[dead link]
- Stately home to be UK's base for fashion empire - Northampton Chronicle and Echo[dead link]
- The Country House Revealed, episode 3.
- Spy - Telegraph[dead link]