The Curated Closet: Maya Maniktala, Marketer for Chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo
Maya doesn't believe in following the trends—in fashion or food. "How can you differentiate yourself but stay true to what you believe in, in an industry that doesn’t want you to do that?"
Learn how Maya answers this question for her closet too.
So, who are you? :)
I do restaurant marketing for chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo [James Beard Award-winning chefs of Animal, Son of a Gun, Jon & Vinny's, Trois Mec, and more of LA's top restaurants... no biggie]. I am also currently in grad school at USC getting my masters in marketing. When I'm not working or at school, I like to walk my dog—to LACMA, the La Brea Tar Pits, to decompress and reset. I also like cooking and have gotten into it more recently. I have always been in interested in cooking and the restaurant industry for the sense of community and culture that food brings.
For work, I look to what can we do to have longevity in such a fickle industry. It is a challenge—restaurants close every day. How can you differentiate yourself but stay true to what you believe in, in an industry that doesn’t want you to do that? It wants you to follow the trends. I like challenges. I am a scrappy person and I think that is why this is the only industry I really see myself in.
My mom and grandma are very inspiring in the terms of the way that they cook. As a first generation American Indian, my family wanted to fit into the American culture but the one thing that stuck with us was food as an identity. We celebrated Christmas even though we aren’t Christian. I went to an Episcopal school even though that isn’t how I identify, but my roots were always represented in food. My grandma lived with us and she would cook and my mom is an amazing cook too. There were always different great smells in the house. My sister [chef and general manager at Destroyer LA] and I grew up with a discerning taste and an appreciation of food and saw our roots being represented in the food we were eating.
How would you describe your style?
It is very simple. I like to find pieces I know I can wear over and over again and repurpose. In my closet there are jackets and shoes I have had for years. I really like timeless pieces more than trendy pieces. I like the simple t-shirts I can dress up or down—those have to be a staple in my wardrobe.
How has your style changed throughout the years?
My style hasn’t changed too much. It has been my way to feel comfortable in my own skin, to stick with what I feel comfortable in, instead of putting on things that aren’t going to work for who I am and misrepresent me.
Figuring out and staying true to my sense of fashion was my way of staying secure when I wasn’t necessarily—in those awkward teenage years. I try not to spend too much time thinking about myself and what I am wearing. If it takes me longer than 30 minutes to get ready I am doing something wrong. And I have been that way my whole life.
How do you make sure your outfits can go from work to school, to any aspect of your life?
I don’t need to dress up or wear many different outfits. I am working in a laid back environment—in restaurants, and warehouses, and kitchens, and have to wear closed toe shoes, sneakers. I’m moving boxes around. It’s not the most glamorous. I love my jumpsuits I found at Uniqlo. They are baggy and comfortable. I can move things in them but they can also dressed up. You can put a nice jacket and blazer over a casual outfit and throw on boots to dress it up easily.
What is your go-to look?
It can take me through my day from work to school to walking my dog, and doesn’t restrict me in any way.
This bracelet is from India and I dress this bracelet up and down. I saw it on a trip to Jaipur, India and fell in love with it. It is comforting for me and reminds me of my culture—something I have been embracing more and more as I have gotten older. When I was younger I tried so hard to fit in and not be Indian and as I got older I realized it is something that should be embraced, There is something so unique about the culture as a whole and as I have gotten older and more secure with who I am I try to always keep a part of that Indian culture on me.
What's a piece in your closet you wear to make more of a statement?
I love this Anna Sui wool skirt I got on super sale when I was 16. It is a statement. You can’t wear everyday. I pair it with Loeffler Randall heels and a tank top from Everlane. I’d wear this to a wedding now that everyone is getting married.
What brands do you love?
I love Loeffler Randall. I will always chase the brand. More aspiration brands are Off-White, Prabal Gurung, and Alexa Chung’s line. It is so representative of who she is—she can do no wrong. She has always stayed true to herself, is hilarious, and takes chances with her clothes. All of these designers are so signature in their ways.
What's your advice on finding a style and building a closet you love?
You have to figure out what makes you feel comfortable and stick with if even if it doesn’t reflect what’s going on around you. If you can find what you feel good in, that is really all that matters. Trends come and go and you have to be happy with yourself through all of it. Just do you, girl (don’t put that in).
What’s missing in your closet or in fashion?
I think there is more room to remove things in my wardrobe than add things. To add to my wardrobe is removing things and that gets me closer to where I want to be. I used to get heels all the time but I never wore them because they are just not that comfortable. As a whole we should all look at what we are wearing. Why am I getting this thing? Is it me wanting it? Is it society telling me I’ll look good in it? What will I truly feel good in?