Time for Radical Change
For many creative operators, the time of COVID-19 and lockdown has resulted in catastrophic setbacks and even permanent closures. That includes designers of all mediums - among them independent store operators and makers.
With drives towards transparent environmental sustainability, higher quality and localised production come smaller profit margins and greater chances of risk. For Kristine Crabb, former owner of the esteemed Miss Crabb fashion label, the lockdown created the right conditions for a radical change in the nature of fashion design, one that fitted in line with slow, thoughtful production.
Launching in Lockdown
Known for being both original and timeless, always resourceful and able to proliferate even under challenging circumstances, this New Zealand designer launched Gloria in the middle of the pandemic and on her own terms of common sense. The motto was to continue “creating a product that is beautiful, commercially viable, wantable and wearable”.
Kristine Crabb explains “over the COVID rāhui I just thought, ‘I’m going to give this new project a really good crack.’ I have ideas that I want to make, and to live my artist dream of having a home studio, making work and putting it out, in and around my kids and life.”
From early experimentation with the initial Rip Shit and Bust store to what evolved into Miss Crabb, and now Gloria, the vision and fluidity remain: “to make dream clothes that made sense to me and the people around me.
“Gloria is a dedication to my divine grandmother, her strength and love of life, curiosity and beauty. It is wonderment at the beauty of nature and bodies, and a premise ethic of nothing more, nothing less. Beauty is a resistance!”
Kristine Crabb in her Gloria showroom Photo: Billie Rogers
Statue Without Limitations
Always instrumental in her design practice, with a reputation for her artisanal qualities as well as the opulence of colour and materials that she uses, Kristine Crabb has been communing with bodies and striving for body positivity for many decades.
“When I was closing down Miss Crabb - which was a 6-month process - I had beautiful messages from people saying how Miss Crabb had helped them to accept and love their bodies. This meant everything to me, I know I had done my job and what I had set out to do.”
Kristine Crabb in her garden. Photo: Billie Rogers.
Through the medium of fabric and how it drapes us, this designer continues to experiment with concepts of ‘sculpture,’ exploring the limits and constraints of sculptural architecture of our very own statues. Kristine Crabb’s designs are a tool for embracing the flux and simple modernism towards the authentic.
“Our bodies change all the time. We also get tired of wearing the same style - hence ‘fashion’ - so I wanted clothes that were fluid for both bodies and for style. If you are going to spend $500+ on a piece it needs to really work quite hard!
“When I was pregnant and having my kids, I thought it was quite a yummy time so it was fun to design and dress for these times. It was also challenging having your body change both as a female and as a designer, so I wanted to embrace this and just love it all. It was a different time 15 years ago, now it feels like anything goes - it’s the best!”
The Gloria showroom, Ponsonby - where folks can come to see the collections and discuss getting their new custom pieces made. Photos: Billie Rogers.
Controlling Your Creative
“I know that my work has had a transformative effect on people, garnering strength and power from wearing those pieces. I am also guided by colour, which I think is life and extremely powerful. All colour comes from light/life and vibrates this life energy.”
With kids and creativity being the focus, Kristine Crabb knew how to slow and scale down to feel balanced emotionally and environmentally. She reminds us that the future of fashion is in its lasting use, aestheticism and practicality, not in ephemerality. “The most important challenge for the fashion industry and consumers is to consume well and consume less. Buy them because you love your clothes and look after them. Most people do this out of necessity anyway. Seek out things that already exist; vintage, surplus and dead stock, renting, swap meets and customising and getting creative with existing garments to give them new life. I think it’s getting more and more exciting!”
Curio Noir and works by Ruth Buchanan and Racheal Phillys Gabor-Duval inside the Gloria showroom (left) and the showroom entrance, featuring part of the wild fragrant garden, echoed in the Gloria parfum. Photos: Billie Rogers.
Gloria is about execution and revolution disguised as fashion. With the joy of textiles up her sleeve and equipped by her imagination, with an element of freshness and subversion, Gloria is grounded in Kristine Crabb’s skills and life experience. ‘I believe people will always need beautiful and practical clothing and the need to feel inspired and energised by style, art and photography.’
If it all sounds too much like a manifesto to grant us embodied relationship with our inner and outer activism, you are right, because it is. Gloria is not Miss Crabb 2.0, but she is most certainly fluid, and back with red lipstick!