Tag Archives: Maya Prass

Dia de los Muertos

Today marks the traditional Mexican celebration, Dia de los Muertos, or ‘Day of the Dead’. The Mexicans believe in honoring the dead and find beauty in the macabre – the ornate Mexican sugar skull is the most well known symbol of the tradition. These bright, flora and heart-festooned totems have become popular symbols of otherness in Western pop culture over time, and are more and more frequently incorporated into everything from textiles, to tattoos, art and fashion. This weekend I actually  attended the opening of the Wildfire exhibit at Yours Truly, and fell in love with an engraved wooden skull, one of two, which were the first ones to be marked with red ‘sold’ stickers. My own house has been sharing space with skulls for some time already, and the increasing popularity of the skull motif has done nothing to abate my obsession.

A couple of weeks ago my very own Mexican death skull participated in a Dia de los Muertos shoot for Dossier, and I have the privilege of publishing a sneak preview of it today. Photographed by Antonia Steyn, the shoot was styled and art directed by my dear friend Crystal Birch (with the help of stylist Chloe Andrea), and serves as a visual compendium of local queen of print play Maya Prass‘ work over the last decade. One of Maya’s first interns back in the day, Crystal raided Maya’s Woodstock studio for the purposes of the shoot, and I really think that Maya’s surreal ruffles, neon-on-neon prints and textured boleros give the Dia de los Muertos theme a dose of lusty femininity.

Crystal accessorised each look with insane Ida Elsje jewellery and head pieces (I’m a huge fan – do yourselves a favour and go check out her Church Street studio!), which were recently shown at both the Africa and New York Fashion Weeks. Frida Kahlo-esque braids and matte neon eyes by One League make-up artist Nandi Fourie play up the bewitching symmetry of 16 year old model Katryn Kruger‘s delicate features.

Keep an eye out for the full shoot in Dossier soon – let me just say that Crystal created an epic tiered ball gown of a dress from a mass of Maya Prass ruffled skirts and it is a sight to behold.

Q&A with Crystal Birch

My second attempt at interviewing stylist and milliner Crystal Birch almost resulted in yet another night out on the town, when she called me as I was about to bundle into my car with my laptop and camera. “We’re just quickly going to this launch thingy in Green Point and then I promise we’ll go back to my place and do the interview oh and I’ll cook you dinner and please bring all the gold necklaces you own for a shoot that I have tomorrow. Okay? Okay. See you in fifteen minutes.”

This exchange pretty much sums Crystal up – a flighty, fabulous, million-miles-a-minute, whirr of a girl. If she hadn’t such a talent for creating the extraordinary out of nothing with her hands alone, she’d make an excellent actress or story-teller. She literally fizzes over with anecdotes, snippets of history, people, bright twists of fabric and irrepressible feistiness.

Represented by Cape Town agency One League, Crystal is currently working on an array of cool projects. Since she returned from London a few months ago she has styled shoots for clients like Errol Arendz, Mango Airlines and Ray Ban and is currently in the process of making a hat for the March issue of ELLE Deco. Next up is a trip to Mozambique fashion week, working as a wardrobe manager and stylist for designers from Venezuela, Egypt, Britain and the Pan-African showcase. Thereafter, she plans to focus on ideas for both Design Indaba and the J&B Met 2011, and after that? She wants to move to New York and intern under famous South African-born milliner, Albertus Swanepoel. Having been completely and naturally absorbed into the kaleidoscopic festival that is Crystal’s world myself, I have no doubt that she’ll do it, and teach Albertus a thing or two while she’s at it.

How did you get into millinery?

I’ve always loved hats – they are the exclamation mark of any outfit. If you want to get ahead, get a hat! It all started when I went to Ireland and bought cheap motel paisley lampshades that somehow turned into hats. People bought them right off our heads on the street.

Best fashion advice from your parents?

Use eye cream. My mother lives by it and she hasn’t got a single wrinkle around her eyes. And never wear white jeans with dark shoes. That’s her worst. Comfort over fashion, always. ‘Dit was net stupid, jy het seker kak gevoel did hele aand – mense sou sien!’ * Totally!

* Translation: Thats was just stupid, you surely felt shit the entire night – and people would’ve been able to see it!

Style icons?

Li Edelkoort – the fucking best. Susie Bubble – I met her at London Fashion Week and she was so Bri’ish I couldn’t believe it. And so articulate, with such a girl-next-door sense of humour. Cute, silly and approachable. She’s spot on with things, too. New York stylist, Patti Wilson. In the 90’s it was Gwen Stefani! Oh, and the Harajuku girls of Japan!

Describe your personal style.

A moerby resep*! My clothes are found at weird places, on strange occasions, given to me because people don’t know what to do with them. No particular influence or reference. Found, given, discovered, eclectic, loved forever, inherited through the generations, all mish-mashed together. It’s a surprise!

* Translation: A mish mash recipe, all different things thrown together.

Favorite designers locally and internationally?

Stiaan Louw. And Maya Prass. Her printmaking and work ethic are just so incredible. I really respect her. Vivienne Westwood, of course, it has to be. Stephen Jones and Albertus Swanepoel – milliners I love! I’m gonna work for him in New York. Morne will work for IMG, you will work for Vogue, and we will all do lunch together, all the time!

Most cherished item?

My ten-past-ten vintage belt from Spain, given to me by Morne for my birthday. It’s the time that I was born and it’s the first thing I pack whenever I go anywhere. If anybody borrows it I am so pedantic. And the first block hat I ever made, a black bowler that I still have.

I feel best wearing…

Lately, high-waisted skinnies for elongating my body. An amazing bra, and a good perfume!

I’d sell my soul for…

A studio space in Brooklyn to create things in over and over again.

Never caught wearing?

I don’t like slip-on mules – I’d never wear them. I think they’re kitsch. A very short cocktail dress in a bright colour, or anything to do with a diamante! An up-do with tendrils, or a mini princess tiara! Never, ever, ever.

Most stylish city?

To me, it’s London. I lived there for years, and the close-knit friends I had from all over the world, were just so stylish. The most stylish of them though, were the girls from Korea and Japan. Mad, mad , mad! And the Italians.

When I was high school I wore?

A bad school uniform and anything that would shock my square friends!

My favourite secret spot is…

A Thai restaurant in Shoreditch that we used to go to when we were so tired and we just missed each other – just to catch up. I also love The Kitchen in Woodstock. San Julio Tacos & Tequila in Lower Rose St, Cape Town for the best non-greasy, authentic Mexican and salsa verde, served by the entire family.

Most underrated trend or style?

Confidence. You can wear a black bag – if that girl is confident, she will look great. So many people lack the confidence to pull something off.

My favourite band / artist when it comes to all things fashion…

LCD Soundsystem for Yves Saint Laurent menswear collection – epic. And the Colette Compilation from Saint Honore Drive in Paris – best fashion music collection, the store is phenomenal. Shit hot. And the Bloody Beetroots.

Favourite cocktail?

Bloody Mary and the classics. Or a Jamaican Mule!

The next big thing is…

Teleportation!

Some shoots that Crystal has styled: