Boxing Kitten’s Designer Maya Lake: Re-Defining Afro-Chic
by R. Asmerom
When Erykah Badu rocks an outfit on stage or for a photo shoot, you can pretty much guess the flavor and style; eclectic, punchy and bold are adjectives that would come to mind. That’s just what the fashion label Boxing Kitten stands for and offers in its latest ‘Resort’ collection.
Since Badu modeled the vibrant pieces in Giant magazine’s February 2008 issue, the designer and founder of Boxing Kitten, Maya Lake, has not been short of word-of-mouth publicity and celebrity buzz from the likes of Solange, Alicia Keys and Rihanna.
Using African ankara fabrics and pleasingly bright prints, Lake is one of the few designers reinterpreting African patterns for an edgy and urbane, fashion-conscious audience.
The young designer’s sensibilities started to form early, informed by her own mother’s design savvy. “I started really designing stuff as a kid because my mom is a seamstress, and she has a clothing store so I was always interested in getting dressed up when I was younger,” she said. “It wasn’t until I was in high school that I really started actually making clothes for friends and family.”
Lake attended Wesleyan, the prestigious liberal arts college known to attract and churn out the creative types, and while there, continued to work on projects that supported her design instincts. “I worked in a costume shop, so I had the chance to fine-tune my sewing skills,” she said. “We made clothes for all the school plays, dance recitals, and that was a really good way for me to learn the craft a little better.”
Although Lake’s own mother went to school for fashion design and went on to open a boutique in New Jersey, Lake’s own path wasn’t so direct. “For a long time, I wanted to be a stylist, but I’ve always been interested in African-American studies, and the two fields to me have never been separate,” she said. “It’s never been one or the other. If I hadn’t been a designer, I think I’d be somewhere in the academic world, so this is the perfect blend.”