At this point in her career Crystal Birch needs more sleep, a hug and a strong margarita. This makes complete sense – the manufacturing of dreams into reality is hard work. Since a 2004 school outing to Parisian Milliners, one of South Africa’s most prominent hat factories, Crystal knew that was exactly where she belonged.
Fast forward 14 years later and Crystal is now the director of Parisian Milliners.We caught up with the maverick milliner.
How she got there:
Surely I am not the only one who finds the trajectory of someone with such a clear vision awe-inspiring? With hard work and tenacity, Crystal has risen to the top. Her mastery of women’s hats is no surprise considering the time she has dedicated to her craft. She tells us that when the time came to choose her design specialisation, she was initially torn between hats and shoes. Hats won because according to Crystal, ‘the head is such a highlight and people see it first, it’s the real light bulb of the body.’
Years of training and apprenticeships under renowned milliners like Noel Stewart and Piers Atkinson maximised Crystal’s proficiency.
How she made her mark:
The millinery community of South Africa is small and male-dominated. Crystal directs Parisian Milliners with with her 85 year old business partner, Mr Harry Faktor. It was when Crystal was confronted with taking the reigns of Parisian Milliners and adjusting into the factory that she faced “a few older men that have had their own way of doing things for the past few years.”
This has led to Crystal finding her voice and using it in an empowering way to equip many local hands with the skill of millinery, not only for production, but also in the recreational or educational realm.
The showroom at the factory has been turned into a store, which houses samples and new collections that may not be found on the online store.
In the future, Crystal says she hopes to find more time to sleep and more left-brained people to delegate. As for the Crystal Birch brand, the aim is to become more niche by creating more one-of-a-kinds.
For now though, Crystal Birch’s latest collection, ARREBATO is a sudden burst of enthusiasm that was inspired by a trip to Spain, which is the perfect world for her boleros to live in. The gorgeous look-book showcases the bolero and the different materials used make it perfect for summer or winter.