The Estate of Miss Crabb

By November 4, 2019News

On Wednesday 4 September, Webb’s will offer the final Estate of Miss Crabb, as the iconic fashion house closes its doors for the last time. Going under the hammer will be archive garment pieces representing the very best of this rebellious, cultish and wildly celebrated fashion house in New Zealand. The archive pieces will be paired with 24 art works from her carefully curated and very contemporary collection. In the spirit of rebellion, Webb’s plan to run this auction in a less traditional fashion, hosting a Soirée to celebrate the Miss Crabb legacy including Go Nuclear DJ’s and spot prizes from Hollywood Avondale, followed by a standing auction where colourful bidding will be encouraged.

Kristine Crabb opened the doors of her Ponsonby Road boutique and studio, eponymously named Miss Crabb, in 2004. Recognised as one of the most innovative fashion labels in Aotearoa, Miss Crabb became known for its refusal to conform to conventional beauty standards, and continuously challenged the hegemonic structures within the fashion industry. Miss Crabb itself transcends the term ‘fashion label’, rather it is a state of mind in which the wearer feels subversive, mythological and empowered. Kristine’s ultimate vision is to create something that gives people a sense of agency, freedom and pride in not only their bodies but their whole beings.

Featured in the highly anticipated Webb’s auction are legacy pieces from the garment archive of Miss Crabb, spanning the 15 years of the hugely successful business. From floaty silk gossamer, to colourful patterned pieces, the sale of this Estate will ensure the Miss Crabb brand lives on as the hammer falls on these one of a kind garments considered not only fabric and thread, but carefully constructed and considered creative projects. Webb’s will auction a total of 38 garments including the silk wrap style dresses the brand is well known for and a style worn by some of New Zealand’s most recognisable women including Jacinda Ardern, Anika Moa, Bic Runga and Lorde as well as other signatures from the Miss Crabb collection.

Kristine’s willingness to experiment and her unique vision were apparent to anyone who experienced those early creations that combined a sense of youthful rebellion with a kind of ancient paganism. It was clear from this provocative debut that she was setting out to do something very different with clothing; something that blurred boundaries between categories such as high and low culture, good and bad taste, fashion and art.

Kristine’s interest in blurring boundaries led organically to establishing a gallery in the corner window of the Miss Crabb store, called dep_art_ment, which began in 2005, only a year after Miss Crabb first opened its doors, showing the integral and fluid thread between Kristine’s own creative project and contemporary art. The window gallery featured works by contemporaries such as Fiona Connor, Kate Newby, Seung Yul Oh, Simon Denny and Tessa Laird. The Webb’s auction will feature works from both Kristine’s personal collection as well as works the graced the walls of this iconic store. In its various forms, the gallery in the corner of the Miss Crabb storefront always sought to feature and support new artists, giving them the freedom to experiment outside the confines of a conventional white-walled gallery space, and served as a beautiful platform to both inform and inspire the local community, a gesture Webb’s wishes to continue in the auction of this estate.

Another feature of the auction is lot 30, the famously replicated Miss Crabb shop doors by Fiona Connor, which then went on to become regularly installed within the store over the years, finding new places to rest against, constantly shifting like the store itself. With an estimate of $6,000 – $10,000, Webb’s anticipate wide interest in such an important work of art and piece of Auckland history.

Over the last 15 years, Kristine has undertaken an attentive archiving project in which she has carefully collected and curated pieces from her entire oeuvre. The archive is a tactile timeline that tells the story of Kristine finding and refining her style. Looking at the collection as a whole, there are dramatic contrasts that represent Kristine’s experimental process with styles, colours, fabrics and production techniques. And yet it is clear that the constant themes of simplicity and complexity, minimalism and romance, fragility and strength, rebellion and restraint run throughout the entire body of work.

The examples featured in this auction are the last pieces that have been edited down from a 500-strong collection of what Kristine considers the most interesting garments created throughout the Miss Crabb project. The collection started out as a personal archive for Kristine; however, just as Miss Crabb evolved according to intuition over the years, the intention for the archive too has shifted, so that it is now lovingly dispersed amongst the many devotees of the Miss Crabb project.