Last night I interviewed stylist, milliner extraordinaire and gal-about-town, Crystal Birch. Well, sort of. I arrived at Crystal’s Vredehoek apartment armed with a laptop, a bottle of Saxenburg guinea fowl and a ‘mik en pik’ camera, eager to have a mini snoop about her wardrobe and an improvised interview on her balcony overlooking the city over some wine. Having just moved in, she showed me around the spacious, parquet-floored apartment, already home to a number of interesting artefacts (tattooed pig’s trotters in jars, anyone?) I can’t wait to see it finished, because Crystal and her flatmate Sean’s taste is eclectic to say the least – something to see or touch in every corner, a lovely citybowl view, and a tree-shaded courtyard.
Spending an hour with Miss Birch is nothing short of miraculous. She’s a pale-eyed, fast-mouthed little tornado, a zip of colour from corner to corner. Bursting at the seams with stories and laughs, she literally unpacked and rearranged her entire room while I did a surreptitious trawl through her collection of gradually accumulated wonders – scraps of fabric, fabulous hats, chunky jewels, peeks of sequins, the protruding toe of a well-worn leather boot, millinery implements, fake flowers, real furs. Glass in hand and camera on wrist, I slunk about, a yellow feather boa slung around my shoulders, cat’s eye spectacles missing their glass perched on the bridge of my nose, a fedora here, a bowler there, and a chunkette of a silver shongololo neckpiece that I soon claimed as my own. With her bed in place and her clothing rail assembled, we were about to get down to business, when the phone rang. Crystal’s friend Morne: meet at the One & Only in ten minutes for the Fabiani / Callaghan party. No sooner had my eyebrows raised in consternation than Crystal had slipped a pair of patent Nine West shoe-booties onto my feet and her trademark headgear onto her blue-tinted barnet and we were in the car. Dashed home, threw on my Rolling Stones Tshirt and fool-proof velvet cropster and off we went, manic as can be. Morne, a model booker at Vision and owner of a crop of luscious, unassuming curls, met us at the door, cool as a cucumber in slouchy tailored trousers and two tone shoes that I spotted from a while away amidst a sea of cocktail dresses and gladiator heels. I was immediately glad I had rocked up in cut offs, because the dresses were a dime-a-dozen and I at least felt comfortable.
A few champagnes later we watched the Fabiani boys and the Callaghan girls strut their stuff. Loved the men’s floral shirts and the girl’s matte sequinned bolero’s, but to be honest, I was too busy checking out the other outfits in the venue. Saw one or two very stylish women and a lot of dapper older men, but also lots of shockers, including many a pelmet (a koek rokkie, Morne exclaimed) and lots of mutton, if you know what I mean. Most of the frocks were very safe, with the exception of one or two silken crochet-type numbers and one stylish woman in boyfriend jeans with drop-dead diamante heels, a black blazer, a vintage clutch and a silky cream turban. She looked extremely chic.
This selection of photos is intended to be a teaser for Crystal’s actual interview, which I will conduct this weekend (unless we get whisked off to some other high falutin’ event, ho ho)… I wish I could reveal all of the photos I took, but consider this a coy and colourful offering in the mean time. The picture of Crystal with the floral lampshade on her head? This is the piece that made her want to be a milliner. And there are plenty of other magnificent, madcap tales where that one came from. Stay tuned!