Interview: Kristine Crabb
We talk to Kristine about her brand, inspiration and the Miss Crabb x Mi Piaci collaboration.
First things first, if you could describe your clothing line Miss Crabb in one sentence, what would it be?
Miss Crabb is a state of mind; singular, fun, kind hearted, earthy and a lil bit rock and roll. Glamour!
So, you’ve endured successfully in this business for quite some time, what led you to first open Miss Crabb in 2004?
I had an amazing opportunity to have the lease at 41 Ponsonby Road from my friend Natalija Kuchija, it was my ultimate retail space. I wanted to create something really unique; an alternative to what already existed in fashion, which at that time I found a wee bit restricting. I wanted to create something beautiful and kind of liberating for all women - a sense of fun and fluidity in fashion with the clothes, the ways of wearing them and the lifestyle. Breaking conventions yet being a total classicist at the same time is I think my singular vision for the clothes and the brand, and also sitting a little bit outside of the industry. It’s what people love and is what has kept us going; it’s unlike other fashion brands.
What was your background before then? Why (and how) did you get into the fashion industry?
I went to fashion school, and then my first project in business was Rip Shit and Bust on K Road where some art school friends and I would make one-off pieces to sell in our studio-come-store. It was so great, the things that came out of there were next level. We ran it for three years before [I opened] Miss Crabb; it was a great time of learning about business, the importance of media and the industry, and where I sat within it.
What inspires the Miss Crabb label? Do these inspirations change and evolve?
It’s the same things that inspired me since the beginning - a need to create something challenging and beautiful but also commercially successful, something my friends, family and the amazing team at Miss Crabb will love, and that will be practical for their lifestyle. I’m very technical when it comes to the clothes...It’s like geometric problem solving and sculpture. Music is a big part of what inspires me. I think it’s the most powerful art form there is.
How do you think the Miss Crabb woman has evolved over the course of the brand’s history?
I think the evolution is that everything in the clothes and the brand has gotten better, stronger and more refined. But I feel like the ethos is still the same - it’s what I mean when I say it’s a state of mind. It has always been a slow burn, kind of cult-like following. Each year we scratch the surface a lil bit more in terms of who we are reaching and the products we are making.
You’re renowned for being a very hands-on designer. Can you talk us through a bit of what makes your process so hands on, and why you like it that way?
All of our patterns have been touched by me in some way; I think that’s the essence of Miss Crabb, most of them have been made from scratch by me. The way we cut our clothes is everything – it’s usually simple, refined, geometric shapes. Also the special way in which they are produced has usually been well thought out by me. There is a sense of poetry in it all that makes it pure Miss Crabb. It’s very complex but very minimal too.
Where do you think you get your truly unique style from?
I think I’m really lucky to be able to do what I do, and that people seem to pick up on it. I think my style and way of thinking comes from my Nana Crabb, she's my inspiration for life. She was very singular and a kind, curious woman. Nana’s heyday was rural New Zealand during the 1920’s and 30’s where she flew planes, rode a motorbike, voted Labour, and was open minded and inclusive.
What influences the way you dress and how you approach clothes?
Like any woman, I just want to feel beautiful and have fun, with not too much fuss.
As a fellow New Zealand label, we actively design everything with Kiwi women in mind. How does your locality influence your brand and business approach?
I love New Zealand and the landscape, and the creative things that are happening here. But unfortunately I don't identify much with a lot of mainstream NZ culture, so I think I’m working on creating an opposite direction or world of our own for people to follow.
We have neighbouring boutiques on Ponsonby Road, but you’ve been there a lot longer than us; what makes this part of Auckland special?
I think the people and mix of businesses here are the best... Lots of beautiful people! We have such lovely neighbours with cool offerings. I think the geography is the best too - it’s close to town but laid out in a spacious way, so it feels easygoing even though it’s really busy these days. Also people tell me I’ve got the best shop window in town!
We’re so excited about this collaboration! From your side of things, how did the collection come to fruition?
We are too! It’s a special project. Well, I’m pretty obsessed with shoes (maybe a lil bit over the top and borderline problematic) and designing our own shoes has always been something we were going to do. When you folks asked me, I thought it was so cool and I could tell right away that you would be wonderful to work with and let us design what we wanted - lucky! For us it has been all of the fun stuff and none of the boring stuff! I hope people love it too.
What inspired this footwear collection?
Dolly Parton, Russian ballerinas, fairytale dancers and good witches, all realised in a modern way - a lil bit trashy and a lil bit fancy.
Did you approach it the same way you do your clothing line?
I felt a lot more freedom with this; starting a fresh, getting to reference in a different way and not having to physically make or produce the pieces was great! Working with you guys at Mi Piaci was so easy and very positive.
How does the footwear in this collection reflect the Miss Crabb aesthetic?
They are very easy to wear, yet very glamourous and elegant with beautiful, high quality materials. We've used textures such as leather, suede and patent leather, in colour tones like pinks, reds, yellow and purple (and black of course).
What do you think it is about clothes and footwear that is so powerful and important for women?
Wow big question! It’s about looking and feeling beautiful, and it’s also symbolic of your outlook on life, so it’s pretty important.