Boxing Kitten pieces are certainly not for wallflowers. In fact, the African wax print fabrics will likely have everyone staring when you walk into a room. And designer Maya Lake’s wardrobe will have you doing just the same. The vintage lover merges her fondness for retro fashions and Ankara fabrics with a unique twist she refers to as “ethnic rockabilly,” her signature look for both her personal style and fashion line. Here, she shows and tells us all about her passion for prints.
ESSENCE.com: What inspired you to create Boxing Kitten and make African print fabrics the basis of the collection?
MAYA LAKE: The initial point of departure for the collection was envisioning what two women — a woman involved in the Civil Rights movement and a woman involved in the Black Power movement — would look like combined together. I took different style elements of each woman, like the classic and conservative lady-like silhouettes, and the African fabrics that women in the Black Power movement wore, and put them together as part of my senior thesis in college. After I graduated in 2005, I launched the brand in 2009 with a Spring/Summer '09 collection.
ESSENCE.com: How did you come up with the name Boxing Kitten?
LAKE: I had a dream that I knitted a pair of mittens and when I put them on, my kitten would stand up and box with me. I traveled the world with this novelty act and became world-famous. It was such a powerful dream I woke up feeling legitimately famous. My friend suggested that I should hold on to that feeling and keep the name "Boxing Kitten" for the future. When I started the brand it was just a natural fit. I love the dichotomy of the name and it really fit with my aesthetic.
ESSENCE.com: How would you describe your personal style and what inspires you?
LAKE: I would describe my personal style as modern pinup, rockabilly, print explosion. I am a passionate collector of vintage fashion, but it's important to me to mix those pieces with modern ones to create a relevant look. I am influenced by all kinds of things, but the real thing that drives me is prints. As you can tell from Boxing Kitten, I love prints, and they can inspire a whole look for me. I love Dita Von Teese, and old photos of Lena Horne, but I am currently obsessed with Russian designer and photographer Ulyana Sergeenko. She exudes an effortless sophistication in her personal style that I really admire.
ESSENCE.com: Your piercings and tattoos are a major part of your style. Could you tell us a little about them?
LAKE: I really love modern body modification — it has always intrigued me, even as a little girl. I first got my nose pierced when I was 15 and from there I had my labrum, septum, and second nostril pierced. The basic design behind my facial piercings is symmetry. I only wear yellow gold jewelry, and I think that my piercings complement my modern pinup style and aesthetic. In addition to my piercings, I have had the pleasure of being tattooed by a legend and innovator, Mark Mahoney. Mark is one of the best black-and-gray artists in the industry and is responsible for all of the work on my left arm. My most recent addition is the model form on my bicep, which sits next to my vintage Singer sewing machine. I really love to wear ultra-feminine looks, but my tattoos and piercings give me an edge and rebelliousness that fits my style.