Why this New Zealand fashion designer is closing her brand

5 December 2018
By Fashion Quarterly
5 December 2018

Miss Crabb, an icon of our local fashion industry, is coming to an end.

Kristine Crabb established her brand and opened her flagship store on Auckland’s Ponsonby Road in 2004, quickly helping to define a certain era of NZ’s fashion scene with her signature dreamy silk dresses that could be worn however you liked.

Today, the final Miss Crabb collection arrives in store and online, with the boutique closing its doors at the end of March and a made-to-order service available until February 1.


Portrait of Kristine Crabb by Rebecca Zephyr Thomas.

“I’m kinda tired of it, tired of the hustle!” says Kristine of her reasons behind her decision to leave the industry. “I’m feeling creatively satisfied or stagnant and a bit bored, so I feel like it’s time to refresh and do something different.”

The industry has changed dramatically since 2004, and the closing is reflective of those challenges across production, media and retail. Kristine acknowledges that the evolution of fashion has impacted her decision to close, with the increasing focus on PR, branding and social media instead of the actual clothes.

It’s a big loss for our local fashion industry: a genuinely creative designer who brought a much-needed rowdiness and irreverence to Auckland.

She developed a cult following among women who were drawn to her independent spirit and respect for their bodies and tastes (although boys did love Miss Crabb too). Fans and customers – the Miss Crabb community – include Anika Moa, Aldous Harding, Bic Runga, Jacinda Ardern, and every cool, arty It-girl of Auckland since the early noughties. Miss Crabb’s clothes are made to have fun in.

Kristine also knew how to throw a good old-fashioned party – a dying breed in fashion circles. In 2016 her models arrived to her NZ Fashion Week show at former K Road strip club Las Vegas on the Link bus; a throwback to a wild party/show at Auckland’s Pony Club bar a decade earlier.

Count on her to keep the fun, celebratory buzz going for her final months…

A Q&A with Kristine Crabb on closing her brand:

What has been the response from friends and fans that you have already told?
Everyone is really supportive of my decision. They understand what I sacrifice to do this project so they are happy for me in my next direction in life. They are also pretty sad, nobody wants Miss Crabb to stop and they are worried about their wardrobes too! One friend did say to me, ‘I wonder how long it will take you run out of clothes and you have to make some more’”.

What do you have planned for your last few months?
I’m really looking forward to reconnecting with my customers, fans and industry people. Spending more time in the store and taking care of our special make service, Dreams Top Rock. I also have some exciting things up my sleeve surrounding my most loyal fans and my vast archive, a body of work from over the 15 years!

Miss Crabb store (left) and Kristine in her studio (right).

You’ve done so much throughout your time in the industry, from your K Road boutique Rip Shit and Bust in the early noughties to the community you have built up today with Miss Crabb. What are some favourite memories from that time?
It’s always been about the clothes and the people. My favourite pieces that have been career highs in themselves are the Summertime dress, Witches, Dreams Top Rock, Sovereign, Fleetwood Mac, Diamond Star and Rise. Such subversive yet successful pieces.

Plus, the wonderful friends I’ve made, beautiful customers, people I have met and worked with is a dream. Also the business network, it’s so interesting.

It really is such a special, dynamic industry with many strings to its bow now, related to art, music, performance and media. It’s so real in New Zealand; everyone is so humble and cool – because we have to work so hard!

What’s the biggest lesson that you’ve learnt over your 14 years in the industry?
I’ve been grateful for every lesson I’ve learnt, and I’ve learnt so much. It’s funny, but it would be to stress less and enjoy more, have faith in the world and your ability. It’s easy to say when you’re financially stable and your kids are bit older though!

Kristine Crabb at her studio photographed by Andrei Blidarean.

What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the local industry in that time?
Social media, definitely. It’s such an amazing platform for getting your work seen! And it’s fun too. But take it with a grain of salt: it ain’t real. The real things are your relationships with people next to you.

What would you like for the ‘Miss Crabb Art Project’ to become?
Hopefully, it stays alive through the many Miss Crabb pieces out in the world, and that I see on the streets for a few more years to come; the message is in the clothes.

Miss Crabb has always been a bit of a political statement in regards to discarding conventionally held beliefs around size, age, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomics, being appropriate, also being a working mother and the general rock n roll style of everything we do… I would like to think that these themes become stronger and continually more relatable for people. I want my work to be more political and I want the freedom to do that.

Interview: Zoe Walker Ahwa
Photos: Supplied

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