Maika Crampton is the artist and the designer behind ‘Freya von Bulow Papercouture‘. Her gowns are grand and elaborate, and have all been created from paper.

FRONT ROW, an annual fashion event staged in and around Hastings, promotes sustainable and recycled garments. The event has been running since 2008, with the help of Maika Crampton participating as a designer, event planner and creative director. The year’s event will be held at the De La Warr Pavilion, in Bexhill on 21st November. A pre-warm up event is being hosted 23rd October at SEED in George Street, Hastings. Sigue Sigue Sputnik will be performing, the 80s band that formed after the fallout of punk. Martin Degville, from the band SSS, has an original look with big, bold hair and a unique style. He now lives in Hastings and will be participating in the event this year. He’ll be singing and sharing his fashion collection at FRONT ROW. You don’t want to miss it.



Maika has lived in Hastings since 2000. She says, “[Hastings] has come a long way now but has slowly developed. It will never be Brighton and doesn’t have the London connections. But there are so many creative people here and everyone works for the greater good, everyone is equal. Everyone just gives, everyone connects and they want to, they are open with advice and help.” Born in Hamburg, Germany, Maika is completely at home on the South Coast of England, she just wishes the weather could be warmer. We know the feeling.

Where are your favourite hangouts?

The Crown” she tells us. “I’m not a beer drinker but often my business meetings are in pubs. I love St Leonards with so much happening, there are artists and musicians. It’s grimy but I like that. Old town is great but can’t really live there. There are much bigger spaces in St Leonards, high ceilings and studio space.”

Freya’s studio space is, indeed, spacious. The old warehouse has not been filled and has an open floor plan still with the original brickwork. She tells us it was once used as stables for horses as we climb the old wooden stairs. It is vintage. “It’s a grimy artist place” Freya adds.

Her paper pompoms hang from the ceiling and other art pieces are piled in the corners. Surprisingly, it is emptier than we expected, taking into account that Freya has created many dresses over the last few years. “No, when I’m done I don’t want it hanging around. I want to do another project. I had 14 outfits and took the whole lot to the beach and torched it. I’ve taken loads to the tip, it doesn’t get better sitting around.” This is her work, in essence: her dresses are temporary and are not meant to last.

Maika has a degree in illustration from Brighton University. She didn’t feel at home studying a specific course as she wasn’t specifically a fashion, graphics or fine artist. “Illustration can be sculpture, embroidery, photography and even writing on handkerchiefs. You can explore it all” she says.

She then came across paper in art and she loved it. “You twist it and it is actually really strong” she tells us. “On one project, with Marie Antoinette, the dress is ripped off and shredded. But when twisted it will not tear or rip” Freya explains, it needs to be “ripped down the sheet.”

The art of paper, Freya says, is “cheap and quick”; the best medium to work with and she describes her work to be, “ethereal, decadent, a mixture of temporary paper couture. These are grand dresses that go for the full works.” She says she loves it so much and “to do it 24/7 and not get bored must mean something.”

Where does the paper come from?

It was a ‘serendipity’ meeting, Maika describes it as when meeting someone on the flight back home from Germany. This someone was working for a company that produced specially treated paper and she told him about her art and designs on Papercouture. Since then they have sent her rolls of paper and cut off pieces. “They make paper wrapping for hamburgers and even Louis Vuitton, I think, to go inside the bags.” She adds that she’s lucky with the paper as she couldn’t afford to buy it – and if she didn’t have the paper she doesn’t know if she’d still be doing it.


Where does the inspiration come from?

“I love movies…I was brought up watching big Hollywood productions with big dresses.”
All time favourite? “Cover Girl, because of the endless staircases. Hollywood in the 40s with ball gowns and evening wear that get the accessories to go with it, and to recreate it but with paper.”

Maika was brought up on fairy tales: “there would be a dress that looked like stars or the sun or the moon. I want to create that.” She tells us of previous projects, ‘I like the dark side. At Brighton Fashion Week I had a project on human development after an apocalypse. Ashen hair and becoming warriors, carrying everything they need on them, weapons and then new technology, a new elite.”

“I don’t draw my designs, I have them in my head; I use mood boards and start making. People ask me to draw some designs, but I make sculptures, I don’t design, I make it up as I go along really. Coming close to the end of a project I need to start being specific but I find it hard, I like working alone, a more open mindset is quite productive, you have a vision what you want at the end.”


Tell us about Front Row

The event will held on 21st and 22nd November, and is the 7th year all together for Front Row. It is “a fashion and art production. It is about harnessing the wealth of creativity and bringing together people in the area. Creating the event is like a piece of art, let it explode.”

There will be designers, catwalk shows, a performance artist in the foyer, fashion stalls to peruse on breaks, music and a contemporary dance school to get youngsters in. All of this on Saturday night, they’ve thought of everything.

There is a Charity Shop Challenge that is open to the public, so anyone can enter, having a budget of £20 where you will be asked for receipts, “the things created are quite extraordinary” she adds. Creating recyclable clothes all in the name of art is a fabulous idea, and Freya tells us, “think outside the box and create wearable art.”

The event is growing every year. previous shows have used the themes of ‘Opera’ and ‘Glamour’ with this year’s theme ‘Out of this World’. 12 designers including Freya von Bulow Papercouture will be showcasing their art, creating collections made from recycled garments, “what is already and making new.”

On the Sunday there will be a fashion fair and a live band.  “It’s a full on weekend…’I would love to have the shows in Hastings but the De La Warr has such a great space and backstage space”  Freya has the pier in sight for next year’s event, “the weather may be a problem as it will be an open space, a marquee would be needed for such a big event”

Front Row tickets are on sale now. For further info & prices visit: Front Row Fashion Show.

What else is in the pipeline for Freya von Bulow Papercouture?

“I have a piece in Eastbourne on its way. Also, for Brighton fashion week there is a recycled project called the ‘Beauty from Waste’ competition. I’ve entered and will find out very soon.” Frey mentions she would love to create installations or a display similar to her recent project for Glastonbury festival, a cloud installation with strobe lighting, “it looked so cool” she says.

Christmas is just around the corner and Maika says it would be great to create art pieces for shop windows. “(Stores) should get creatives in to create something funky and cool!” We’ll keep our eyes peeled…