Maria Holme-Slater

Originally from Hamburg in Germany, Maika studied then worked for a record company before moving to London in 1995, where she began making children’s clothes in linen for her own daughter and the retail market. Deciding that she needed more green space, she came to live in Hastings in 2000 where she continued sewing, styling and doing graphics. She completed an illustration degree at the old Sussex Coast College site in St Leonards in 2010, gaining experience in paper and book art. She is now well known as a fashion entrepreneur, graphic designer, show producer and a designer of paper couture.

In 2007 a friend started the Ethical Fashion Show at the White Rock in Hastings and Maika was one of the designers. Due to its popularity, in 2008 Maika and another designer came up with the idea for Front Row, a fashion show staged at St Mary in the Castle in Hastings, which promoted sustainable, recycled designs and was a place for local designers to show their work. The shows became an annual event, increasing in size with more people becoming involved, such as local make-up artists and models. Charity shops were raided for curated catwalks. The simple message was that you don’t have to follow what the large corporations say, you don’t need to be a fashion consumer: be more aware of where the clothes are coming from, go and look at the charity shops, find a style that you can create just for you and be ethical. Maika mentions that if you look at the catwalks the same clothes come up time and time again and the same can be said for second hand clothes in charity shops. The shows are now in their eighth year and are becoming well known within the industry.

Her collections are made out of a specially treated tissue paper from Germany. They are very effective, theatrical and there is a certain feel of enchantment about them. Her studio in Hastings is an old warehouse originally used as stables. Her work greets you as soon as you walk in, with paper scattered on the floor, mannequins draped in white tissue, bodices with intricate designs resting on tables and rails of second hand clothes adorning
the walls.

I want to know about her process. She tells me that her ideas and themes are often influenced by the old movies and productions like those of American film director Cecil B. DeMille. She says that you need to dream and fantasise. She replicates these themes using tissue paper to create fringed, plaited, scrunched and crocheted pieces. She asks if I would like to touch them and I am impressed with the intricacy – the painstakingly cut out shapes, the folding and layering. The effect reminds me of feathers for a Swan Lake production. There are chiffon-like dresses made from long sheets of tissue gathered and stapled to an under piece, which will become wonderful skirts that float in their own space and time. Bits of tissue paper lying on the floor might be collaged together to create a head-piece or a neck-piece.

Maika admits that she is obsessed with paper – she could work with it all day, every day. In 2014 she made a fourteen-piece garment collection, but when it was over she had to dispose of it: she can’t have anything around once it has had its moment. No longer pristine, things need to be recycled before the next creation.

She says that she wouldn’t call herself a fashion designer, more a collage artist, and this extends to bringing together design, music and fashion to create an event. Maika’s next Front Row fashion show is on Saturday 26th November at the De La Warr Pavillion, Bexhill. The theme and title is ‘Wearable Art’. There will be seventeen shortlisted design entrants, London designer Afro Retro, a curated catwalk from St. Michael’s Hospice, local costume designers, recycled clothing, bands, Japanese expressive dance, and, of course, a collection by Maika.

Tickets for Front Row can be purchased by contacting the De La Warr Pavillion on 01424 229 111

Front Row Productions Ltd.: www.thisisfrontrow.com

Maika Crampton : www.freyavonbulowpapercouture