Colourful, delightful and downright fun are just a few adjectives we can think of to describe our latest Skattie Fav. The milliner and stylist Crystal Birch is probably one of the most fun people we know but she is also hard working, which is admirable and commendable. We loved the hats she made for Lukhanyo Mdingi’s collection at SA Menswear Week and we loved the colourful Plushie collection she recently made but never put out for sale. In between her busy schedule and jet setting, we caught up with her to chat more about what she does and what she is currently exploring.
Tell us about your recent “Plushie” collection of hats.
The Plushie collection is an unwearable plastic and furry set of visors with matching fluffy (probably itchy too) bikini tops. It was inspired by Furbies and the fetish for soft toys, hence the name Plushie. Each hat is named in Furby language like May-Lah, which means ‘happy’. This was a fun, playful project, purely for expression purposes and they are not for sale.
You are relaunching the lookbook as “This is NOT a lookbook. Why? What happened?
I often get in trouble, especially when communicating with model agencies. I’m removing the models’ faces completely. I do feel modeling agencies overreact because of the vision they have for their model. This was a harmless and quirky shoot. If anything the model will generate more money out of it, because of all the different sides of her that were captured on the original shoot. Most of the time the model is completely unaware of what’s going on too, which is sad.
The Plushie range was your third one this year alone. Why so many in such a short space of time?
I decided that this is the year of the hat and I am super inspired. I had many deadlines and it helped me push myself to make it happen. I am busy with the next one at the moment.
You’re also a stylist. Where do you get all the time?
The hats and being on set goes hand in hand, because if I’m not on set , I get to play and make something new. I am not stocking places at the moment, so there is no heavy pressure to make deadlines for buyers yet. This is slowly changing and I can feel the hats are taking over my world. But I also have this philosophy that if you want something done, give it to a busy person! They’ll always make time.
Why millinery and not, say, clothing?
I wanted to specialise in something that makes me happy after I graduated in fashion. Hats can be ridiculous and conservative. Stephen Jones, a British muse and incredible milliner once said: “a hat is the dot on the exclamation mark!” People’s attitude and behavior changes when they wear a hat.
You share your time between Jozi and Cape Town. Why not choose one?
Jozi is a gigantic city with a pulse and a rhythm that inspires me at the moment. I know CT well and have lived there for 20 years, but I need to be somewhere more unfamiliar to stay driven at the moment.
What are your ambitions for your brand as milliner?
I would like to grow, register and start functioning properly as a business. It’s freaky and intimidating as a creative to talk numbers and make sales. I would like to keep people warm in winter and protect them from the sun in summer. I would like to be ridiculous and play with my brand as an art medium and present each hat in a ludicrous way. I would like people to wear more hats and come talk to me about what they want so that my brand can listen to them, but also surprise them.
Anything interesting you are working on at the moment?
Yes! I am currently working on a pop-up showcase with Missibaba and Kirsten Goss in their store. This is so surreal to me. They offered their space as a playground for my hats. Also I am on my way to Holland and been asked by a PR company to bring my Pom Pom collection along. Stay tuned!
How does one get their grubby hands on your hats?
You can always contact me directly for a customize piece, look book, prices via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
by Sandiso Ngubane
Images by Malibongwe Tyilo