“It’s unique, earthy, gritty and juicy; luxurious but also very sensual.”
Auckland-based artist and designer Kristine Mary Crabb is a creative figure in New Zealand. Launching her cult womenswear label, Miss Crabb, in 2004, Kristine’s delicate weaving of the worlds of art and fashion earned her a place as one of the country’s most respected designers. Dressed as Lorde, Prime Minister Jacinda Arden and generations of “accomplished, interesting women”, Kristine’s work is celebrated for its artistry, romanticism and experimental nature.
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Following the closure of Miss Crabb in 2019, Kristine has embarked on a new era in her design career. Described as an “interdisciplinary and multi-sensory studio”, Gloria is a fashion project focused on subversive bespoke pieces. The brand’s collection consists of delicate silk capes, lace dresses, cashmere coats and a bespoke perfume (of course). Below, Kristine talks about family, creative freedom and her next chapter.
Tell us about you. What is your creative background?
I’ve always been creative and a little different, I guess. I’ve created my world as an outlet, which I’ve been incredibly lucky to have. I’ve just always persistently made things, always created things, and always sold things. I went to fashion school in a small, isolated, beautiful town in New Zealand, raised it and then moved to Tāmaki Makaurau and just started making and selling at the turn of the millennium.
How did tagging begin? Tell us about the process and challenges.
I finished my business and creative project, Miss Crabb, in 2018. It took a while to finish it. I then moved home and studied before taking a short break from business and making clothes. I focused on various creative pursuits and was a solo mother to my three children – my last creative project. There were some big changes that had to be adjusted to.
I still wanted to create my own art and had the idea of making clothes from my home, with my kids around. For years, I have dreamed of making ready-made pieces and custom projects for clients, artists and performers. I wanted to do it in my own time, following the natural currents of my ideas and needs.
I love the technical aspects of making clothes. I make all the models and solve the problems by making works and improvements. My designs are pure geometric shapes which give my pieces a unique drape and fit. I use all the fabric in the garment to minimize cuts. All our parts [are made] using minimalist techniques; usually finished with French seams, fine lining, topstitching and fabric binding for quality and durability.
It goes without saying that all of our pieces are made locally by talented artisans and craftsmen. As you can imagine, it is very challenging… all of it! But it’s also rewarding and offers lots of learning opportunities, which is a blessing. You need a clear vision, a humble self-confidence and if you are lucky, a lot of support around you.
What were you trying to achieve with the project at the time? How has this evolved and what are you trying to communicate now through the brand?
When I had Miss Crabb, it was about bodily autonomy and creative freedom. It focused mostly on women’s bodies… looking back, it was very much motivated by feminism. I had my children in my life in the early stages of starting the business and the store, which certainly had a big impact on my work.
I wanted maximum flow and beauty for me, my friends, our customers and our followers. I wanted to ‘erase’ the political conventions of time, beauty, size, age, femininity and socio-economic factors. I also wanted to transcend accepted ways of dressing. Our pieces are made for a glamorous party, beach or picnic. They are designed for lounging around the house or doing housework. Each piece is seriously versatile and high value.
How would you describe Gloria to someone who has never seen her before?
It is unique, earthy, somewhat rough and juicy; luxurious but also very sensual. I want people to make up their own minds when they see my work. My work has always been a state of mind. It continues to transcend conventions and appeal to different types of people.
I want to inspire play and freedom, to encourage customers to wear and style their own clothes. It has a complexity and boldness [to Gloria] but also minimalism and simplicity, which lends itself to these ideas of multiplication. Now with my new project, Gloria, I want to make even more minimalistic, multipurpose pieces for your wardrobe and more stuff for guys too!
Where did the name come from?
My grandmother Gloria had a special influence on me growing up. Since I was the last grandchild, we spent a lot of time together. She lived right over the shed when I was little. She was quite unique and special even within the family; she was a singer up in the hills where she lived, performing at weddings and parties. It had the most magical garden of flowers and ferns, peacocks and a large sculpture of Reef Pania, a Maori mermaid-goddess figure.
The first creative project we released was Gloria Parfum, inspired by [my grandmother’s] otherworldly garden. It was made by my dear friend, perfumer Tiffany Witehira of Curionoir. There are notes of winter flowers from Gloria’s halcyon garden, earthy spices and an erotic musk to support the nuanced bouquet. It is the most sophisticated fragrance. It somehow channels the past and the future, which are two major themes in my work.
Gloria was an aviator and motorcyclist before she married my grandfather. She was the second woman to fly across the Tasman Sea, 12 months after Jean Batten. She would ride her Indian motorbike from Swanson to West Auckland to visit my grandfather in the small rural town of Matamata. She had a more progressive political outlook than her agricultural contemporaries, so she must have been quite stubborn, perhaps stubborn.
She had a love and curiosity for people, knowledge and life. [She] taught me many things, she always had time. She used to tell me in the 80s: “I can’t stand the way fashion models look at you like you’re dirty!”. She was serious… very funny 35 years later.
What are you most proud of in your work at your label?
I love that it brings people together, allows people to love their bodies more, and empowers and transforms them. It’s sexy and fun. It has allowed me to grow as a person and an artist, and it gives my kids something interesting to collaborate with and aspire to.
Despite the personal sacrifices I’ve made in my career (mostly just working full time! That’s what it seems to take), I’ve always loved the clothes we’ve made.
What do you wish you knew when you started?
I wish I knew how to be more confident with my ideas, my style and just in general. [I wish I knew to] be less aware, to enjoy [making clothing] a bit more. Creating is empowering, but it can also be kind of exhausting… it’s a bit The Emperor’s New Clothes energy sometimes.
Who do you think is most exciting in the local creative industry right now?
Maeve Woodhouse and Hera Saabi. She is a complete creative genius, her work is very special. [She’s] a jeweler based in Tāmaki, her pieces are so beautiful and clever. Her jewelry is handcrafted with precious metals and stones, influenced by evocative and human themes such as connection and heritage. Her visual campaigns are so stunning, it’s no wonder she has the determined following she does. Her pieces infuse a feeling that anything is possible… it’s like looking up into the cosmos; jewels, consciousness and potential.
What needs to change about the local creative industry?
More customers! Support what you love.
Dreaming of local collaborators?
Tiffany Witehira and Richard Orjis. They have been dear friends of mine since the beginning of my career when I came to Auckland in 2001. They have their respective art practices which are respected and admired by many in Aotearoa and further abroad.
Who’s in your wardrobe right now?
Three new Gloria suits and one Gloria suit, [also] bra and panty prototypes. La Fille D’o, DSTM and some Gloria silk capes and accessories. Hera Saabi for my jewelry, Curionoir for my fragrance. For shoes, I wear Dora Teymur, Manolo, Westwood, Margiela, Nike and Reebok… [I’m] a bit obsessed.
How can we buy one of your pieces?
Yes! You can buy from our delightful website or our new Auckland showroom at Château Gloria. AND [you can also shop] through channels; Instagram, Facebook and our sweet bloggers. Please register for special information and access to new things and events.
Browse the Gloria collection here.