Girl Next Door: Tour A Rising Designer's Inspirational Pad

The story of any collection is only as good as the designer behind it, and, luckily, Maya Lake is as inspiring as her budding line, Boxing Kitten. In fact, during our exclusive tour of Maya's NJ digs (yes, we said New Jersey), we found as much sartorial spark in her abode as we do in her clothes. Having learned to sew at the age of 11, Lake has crafted a brand that's as purposefully and expertly pieced together as the rooms she calls home. Sure, she may be holed up outside of NYC, but that doesn't mean her look and her line lack sophistication. In fact, we found that her bigger-than-a-Billyburg-apartment in the 'burbs allows for more room to squeeze in her covetable jewelry collection, matador heads, Virgin Mary candles, and, of course, plenty of square footage for designing her "ethnic rockabilly" range that we're all making room for in our own weekly wheelhouse of looks. Now, where's the closest PATH station?
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Photographed by Amelia Alpaugh
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Tell us about what you do! How did you get into it?
"I am a business owner and designer for Boxing Kitten. Right after I graduated from college in 2005, I started planning the launch of the brand and finally debuted my first collection for spring '09 in 2008. My mother sews, designs, and weaves, and taught me to sew when I was about 11. As a young adult, I knew I either wanted to be in the academic world or to pursue wardrobe styling, which are two very different worlds, but I could not escape my path as a designer."

Teal polka-dot shirt by Marc Jacobs, orange bra from Victoria's Secret, socks from Betsey Johnson, shoes by Osborn for Boxing Kitten, skirt from Boxing Kitten, and necklace from a collection of charms.

Maya considers this one of her favorite summer looks, because the peek-a-boo factor of the bra makes her feel sexy and flirty without being too exposed.


Photographed by Amelia Alpaugh
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Osborn Shoes for Boxing Kitten, part of a four-piece collaboration the two companies did for resort '10.

Photographed by Amelia Alpaugh
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What are your favorite parts of your work?
"Definitely seeing the samples I've created on a model for the first time. When I get on set for a photo shoot for our lookbooks and I see the model in the clothes, it makes all of the hard work and crazy schedules worth it! I also really love to see women on the street wearing pieces that I've designed. It's satisfying, and makes me proud."

Photographed by Amelia Alpaugh
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A few pieces of Native American jewelry, along with some pictures.

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T-shirt from a street vendor in Cape Town, South Africa, skirt from Boxing Kitten fall '11, Prada shoes. The necklace is from a trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico, Maya took with her father when she was 19.

Photographed by Amelia Alpaugh
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What do you love about New Jersey?
"New Jersey, despite the bad rep that it gets, is really quite beautiful. Not everything that you see on TV is representative of the entire state! I live about 30 minutes from the city, and it's just far enough and just close enough for me. My job can be very stressful, and it's nice to live somewhere that doesn't give off that 'hustle' vibe. But don't get me wrong, there's nowhere else like New York City, and I love being close enough to get a taste of the city when I want to."

Photographed by Amelia Alpaugh
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Describe your daily uniform or the pieces you wear to work most?
"It depends on what I have up for the week. But If I am sewing or making patterns, it's strictly leggings, or yoga pants and sweats. If I have office work, or if I'm heading to New York or need to visit my contractor, I am usually in my favorite pair of high waist jeans and a Boxing Kitten Oxford button down top. In the summer, I live in vintage late '50s and early '60s day dresses, and Boxing Kitten dresses of course."

Notice all of the scorpions? Maya is a proud Scorpio and loves to show it off. Amber bracelet from Dem Two Hands, Prada shoes.

Photographed by Amelia Alpaugh
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An antique bullfighter jacket from Peru. Maya became obsessed with these costumes after seeing Talk To Her, and she hunted this bright beauty down at a trade show with her mother.

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What's your favorite local distraction from work?
"I try and head to Speakeasy Vintage at 465 Bloomfield Avenue in Montclair at least every other week or so. They have a really great selection of vintage pieces and furniture, and it's a dope place to hang out for inspiration."

Maya's meditation corner, with images from the Virgen de Guadalupe that she's collected or has been gifted.

Photographed by Amelia Alpaugh
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Top from Boxing Kitten fall '11, jeans from Grey Antics, wedges from Julian Louie for Aldo, and turquoise squash blossom necklace.

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Turquoise is Maya's all-time favorite stone. She only wears these pieces on special occasions, and she especially loves the intricate workmanship on the squash blossom necklace.

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Tell usthe aesthetic of Boxing Kitten in just a few words?
"I always describe it as 'Ethnic Rockabilly'."

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Shoes by Julian Louie for Aldo.

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What is your collection's theme song?
"'Teach me Tiger' by April Stevens."

One of Maya's old mood boards.

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Blazer from Boxing Kitten fall '09, vintage green dress by Traina-Norell, which Maya considers to be her best vintage find.

Photographed by Amelia Alpaugh
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Maya found these busts at Edward's Antiques in Montclair, New Jersey, and knew they would look great in her apartment.

Photographed by Amelia Alpaugh
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Who was your hero growing up? And now?
"Hands down, my mother, Marion Lake. She has owned a small women's clothing and jewelry store in Montclair for over 20 years, Dem Two Hands, at 61 North Fullerton Avenue. Growing up, I was always amazed at her work ethic,  and ability to balance her business and family. She's definitely still my hero, I ask her for advice all the time and although I'm doing something that's different from owning a store, she always assures me that I'm making a good decision."

Maya accumulated much of this jewelry from working at her mother's store. The gold earrings are from Guyana, where her mother is from.

Photographed by Amelia Alpaugh
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Tell us about your home decor aesthetic — how would you describe it and where do you find so many collectibles?
"I think my home is very representative of my kind of eclectic world taste, mixed with vintage finds. I find a lot of things when I am shopping with my mother for her store. I buy some things from vendors that she buys from for her business, and many of the things I find at local antique stores, or on trips that I've made over the years."

Traditional Vodou Haitian art.

Photographed by Amelia Alpaugh
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Black and white dress from Boxing Kitten spring '11, shoes by Marc Jacobs, blazer by Betsey Johnson.

Photographed by Amelia Alpaugh
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If someone recognizes you on the street, what would you like them to say?
"You're taller than I thought you would be."

Photographed by Amelia Alpaugh
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Last meal in the tri-state area — what would you eat and where?
"I would probably eat breakfast food. Local restaurant Raymonds on Church Street makes the most phenomenal french toast!"

Tattoos by Mark Mahoney of Shamrock Tattoo in Los Angeles, who Maya says is "a master of single needle black and grey tattooing." People even stop her on the street to take a look at her Virgen de Guadalupe tattoo, because the intricate shading and light quality looks so photographic.

Photographed by Amelia Alpaugh
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Globe lamp on a Marylin Monroe table from Edward's Antiques, with Maya's passport and beaded bangles.

Photographed by Amelia Alpaugh
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What do we have to look forward to?
"I will be debuting my fall '12 lookbook in the next couple of days, and I'm really excited about this collection. I also just completed an exclusive dress for Urban Outfitters as a part of their Kaleidoscope collection. It was really great to work with them, and I'm hoping to do more work with both Urban and Anthropologie in the future. I am also planning on tinkering with some pieces for men for spring '13 and couldn't be more excited about that!"

Photographed by Amelia Alpaugh
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