Image Credit: Kent Andreasen
SOL chatted to the quirky Cape Town-based Milliner Crystal Birch about her journey into Fashion and owning a millinery brand, her latest collection QUACK ATTACK AW19 and how one should always wear a hat to avoid duck attacks!
Did you always know you would end up in the Fashion industry?
I think I knew, as I have always wanted to alter the way my clothes looked and admired people who added some quirk to their style or owned their look.
Has creativity always been a part of your life?
Absolutely, I grew up in a small town where it was warm and free. My Paternal gran played a big roll in nurturing my creative thinking. I think everyone is creative, it just needs to benurtured, like any other way of thinking.
One of your earliest memories that hugely impacted you and pushed you to your vocation?
I once wore a sunflower denim hat that matched my dress for 5 days and 4 nights refusing to take it off, even when I was in the bath. If that does not say anything as spot on, then I don’t know what does!?
Aesthetics is fundamental to me. Aesthetics is a matter of harmony and balance, balance between colors, shapes, composition and subject. In the last years, especially in the emerging art, ugliness, randomness and imperfection are characteristics of the new aesthetic; there can also be harmony in ugliness. As you can control randomness and that there is order in chaos.
As someone involved in the field of Fashion, aesthetics plays a vital role- what does it mean to you on both a professional and personal level?
It means that I should design my world, people that are not used to design, only realise that something was designed, when its badly designed. We have the chance to customise our world, our look, our food, interiors and design spills over to all aspects of one’s life. Better design, ergonomic and practical but also aesthetically appealing is very important to me.
Take us through your creative process when coming up with a new collection?
The most recent collection, QUACK ATTACK AW19 was inspired by when I got attacked by flying ducks! True story. I tried to help the little struggling duckling across the road. Stopped all the traffic and the duck parents viciously pecked me on the head, leaving me with scabs on the back of my head.
If I wore a hat, none of this would have happened…which means, safety first…wear a hat!!!! Just in case those ducks come for you!
What inspires you on a daily basis and where do you go to find it?
Currently CHEFS TABLE and the extreme dedication and how chefs push them to the limits and Beyonce’s HOMECOMING documentary, its just POWER! My little girl is also like a little magical tv to watch and observe the creative freedom she dances with.
How do you envision the role of the Creative Director in years to come? And in particular within small fashion labels?
The more we can make hats for local and international label, the more we can push ourselves to come up with more styles, price ranges and the awareness that hats complete a look!
Do you believe in creative collaboration and if so are there any creative you would like to collaborate with in the future?
I love collaborating and some of my favourtite work has been with African designers like Rich Mnisi, Chulaap, Thebe Magugu Tony Gum, Sindiso Khumalo (check them all out, they are so so talented!) My door and mind is wide open and ready to collab with talented designers or brands out there, we will be able to make magic together!
What have been some of your professional highlights thus far?
Moving from a small studio with one assistant to an 83 year old hat factory and having a 85 year old business partner and mentor…has been a dream come true and a major highlight for me, and will always be. This has changed my life, the way I think, the skill under one roof to learn from and also it has opened my mind in the way I think. It is also a huge responsibility.
How would you like to see TRCB in the years to come?
I would like to see my brand in special stores across the world hanging out with other special brands, that have the same handmade ethos. Im working on TRCB premium, there should be a kids collection popping out soon, everyone keeps asking me.
Where can one keep up with the world of Crystal Birch?
Instagram - @therealcrystalbirch
We are making head pieces for someone über well known and talented and I hope they will be all featured soon! I will only be able to share when it’s live. I cannot contain myself!
Finally if you could be summed up in hat from TRCB- which one would it be and why?
Is that a trick question? I would say the Fly away Fedora would be my current favourite and feels like it shouts my name!