I wrote a blog a little while back on my journey to living a Rockabilly lifestyle. What I neglected to mention was my influences and how I got there… (Refer back to The Road to Rockabilly)
My first taste of Rockabilly was my attendance to a themed ten year anniversary that encouraged us to dress up – Never one to turn down a dress up, I donned my skinny turned up reds with a pair of heels and a cut off plaid shirt. I pulled it off, I loved it! Shortly thereafter I had become interested in the lifestyle and started asking questions, googling and finding Facebook pages to follow… This merged with me choosing to do a 50’s dress up for my Dad’s 50th which I mentioned in my Road to Rockabilly blog, after which I decided it was no longer just about ‘dressing up’.
Who better to have turned to than The Tattooed Lady
. In the short time I have known her, I have admired her style and her opinion and when the time came to find someone through which to purchase some Rockabilly / Pin-up accessories she was the only person to ask. She immediately referred me to Miss Happ
, our local Rockabilly clothing and accessories provider, the rest is history… I have ordered and received some beautiful goodies from Miss Happ in the past year and find Mandy and her team truly amazing people to do business with. Not only have I bought accessories from them but I have learnt so much about the Rockabilly culture on my journey… I don’t think Mandy has a day when she is not on point, dressed to the nine’s in her own threads and make up perfectly in tune. Though a fairly new face to the culture, Mandy offered me an opportunity I could not resist! The chance for me and my readers to get to know Mandy and her business, Miss Happ a little bit better…
I penned a few questions to Mandy to find out a little bit more about her, the culture, her brand and of course her baby – Miss Happ.
Who is Mandy Milne?
Somebody with a passion for what she gets to do everyday, a voice of doom at times, a cat lover, a shoe collector, a cardigan wearer, an Apple Mac fan. A passionate, impatient pink haired, green eyed, tattooed betty. A Rockabilly girl, a nail polish addict, a perfectionist who procrastinates, a teacup in a storm. A sushi addict, a vodka drinker. A dreamer, a romantic, a creative. Born in the wrong era. I Should have listened to my history teacher and studied history and not Geography. A fairly descent cook, but an awful baker (I have NO patience for all that measuring!)
What exactly is Miss Happ?
Miss Happ is a Rockabilly and Pin-up clothing & accessory brand designed and manufactured locally in Cape Town, South Africa. The Miss Happ girl loves to cuff her jeans with heels, belt her fitted tops, and especially loves wearing her flirty sundresses or embroidered pencil skirts for a night out. Many a Miss Happ girl is tattooed – thus embracing that rebellious Rockabilly/Betty page element.
The Miss Happ range of clothing is specifically designed to celebrate pin up girl curves and caters to a woman’s independent spirit with timeless, vintage inspired styles with a modern Rockabilly twist at competitive prices.
The Miss Happ range has now branched out into a Rockabilly & Vintage inspired accessory range which compliments the Miss Happ clothing range. The range offered includes hair accessories, necklaces, broaches, hair clips, hair flowers, scarves, gloves, bags, belts, hats and cat’s eye sunglasses. Miss Happ now also has a small range of retro inspired cushions in selection of unique, fun prints to suit the home of any modern Rockabilly girl.
– I own these cushions, they are amazing!
Before Miss Happ was born, what did you spend your time on?
I worked full time in the commercial fashion industry on both the manufacturing side, and on the retail side, but always as a designer. Over the years I have designed for many of the big chain stores from Woolworths to Edgards, Jet, Ackermans, Mr Price, with my final job being as a Senior Designer for the Foschini Group designing ladieswear for Sportscene, Due South & Total Sports for their in-house brands. It was during this time that I attended the Magic Show in Vegas and first encountered some of the more alternative lifestyle brands including many of the Pinup clothing brands.
What made you start the Miss Happ brand (And associated brands)?
At the end of 2007 I had left the commercial fashion industry and in 2008 I started lecturing part-time at a local fashion design college in Stellenbosch. While there I also decided to get my first tattoo and from there my interest was peaked. I have always been passionate about the forties, fifties & sixties but by researching old school tattoos my interest in the Rockabilly & Pinup culture grew. Finally I could put a name to the look and culture that I had always loved! This was back in 2008 – it was early days for the scene here in SA and only a few girls were beginning to experiment in the look.
Around this time I decided to enter the YDE Young Designer Competition. I came in the top 8 out of all the entries in SA, and although I didn’t go any further, by putting my ideas onto paper, into storyboards and garments Miss Happ was born and grew. I wanted clothing that I would wear – I was so tired of designing clothing that I personally wouldn’t have in my wardrobe. I was dying to design a range that inspired me to be comfortable in my own skin.
In January 2009 Miss Happ was launched at the Cape Town annual International Tattoo convention. A year later I started our men’s brand Boot Hill and even did a few printed T-shirts for kids under the same label. The guys were feeling left out and kept telling me they wanted something too!
Since we started our brands, we have gone on to exhibit at every Cape Town Tattoo convention since it’s inception in 2009 as well as, Cool Inc Tattoo Expo (Joburg) SA Hotrods Street festival, SA fashion week 2009 (Joburg), Horror Fest, Ink and Iron Cape Town, Toffie, Inner City Muscle show, Detroit Vintage Car show Cape Town. Dusty Rebels & the bombshells Festival, and the Harley Davidson rockabilly Day to name but a few.
What do you believe makes Miss Happ so successful?
I would say that our No 1 is that Miss Happ is locally designed and produced brand. We have stood the test of time. When I started the brand it was during the recession – so many people said I was mad and would never last! I have hung in there and grown the brand and it’s product offering since then. I am passionate about not only my brands but the lifestyle and try and give it my all in every aspect of the business & my personal life. I work hard at being true to the culture, while trying to also stay grounded. We have had our ups and downs of course – as any small business would have, but 6 years later we are still here!
What is the ‘must have’ in every Rockabilly girls wardrobe?
Red lipstick, red nail polish, hairspray, and a bandana. With regards to clothing I would say, fishnet stockings, a net underskirt, one pretty Miss Happ swing dress, a pencil skirt in black, a check shirt, a Miss Happ embroidered Cardigan, and if you want that Greaser Gal look you can finish off any look with a black biker jacket!
Who is your biggest fan / supporter and why?
My husband and business partner, Murray. Having a good support system that encourages you every step of the way is so important – especially during the tough times. I can definitely say that he is one of the most passionate and positive people I know. I would not have had the courage to take that next step in so many of the business decisions I have had to make if it wasn’t for Murray pushing me HARD from behind!
Who is your favourite pin up girl and why?
Oooh that’s tough! There are so many ladies that I love and follow, but I would have to say that with regards to the modern pinup Bernie Dexter & Michaline Pitt were two of my very first influences, and still are. I was lucky enough to have met Miss Cherry Doll Face, Kandy K, Dorris Mayday and the adorably petite Lisa Love recently at VLV and they were all so sweet and humble. Real gals! You always look at these lovely ladies is being so far away, and like celebrities, but when you meet them they are all just regular ladies like you and me!
You recently spent some time in Las Vegas, tell us about the Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly weekend?
We actually went for our honeymoon – the timing was perfect. VLV has always been on my wish list and finally I got to go. I have always loved the States and the Rockabilly culture is so alive there, so it was an absolute must for me to do at least once in my life!
The VLV Rockabilly week end runs for four days and is always held over the Easter week end in Las Vegas – This year was it’s 17th year. We had the high roller tickets which were so worth paying the extra for. You then have access to all sorts of extra events and also a pre-shop with the vendors on the Thursday night (most of them are also at the car show on Sat too but you are with all the crowds, so pre-shopping is so much more pleasant) as well as events in the Ballrooms. The great thing is that your ticket includes everything, so literally you are only paying for your drinks/food and any products you may buy.
We got to go to the Fashion Show – a must for anybody who loves vintage inspired clothing – this is something for the guys and girls, as well as the Burlesque showcase which really was an absolute treat! It was so awesome to see such amazing talent entertaining a very appreciative & interactive audience – The crowds went mad! The burlesque show was a 90 minute show that featured world-renowned burlesque stars, many of them are past winners of the Miss Exotic world, and are of the highest international standard. We loved it all!
On the Saturday we attended the Car show, held in an outside car park with the equivalent of at least 2 full rugby fields filled with vintage cars (the organizers quote 800 cars!) all pre 1963. But the cherry on the top for me was shopping with the vendors within the car show area. Not just one or two but ROWS of vendors selling everything from Hair Pomade to custom designed parasols, clothing, accessories, artwork, patches, stickers and just about anything else related to the custom culture scene! Throughout the day (and week end) there are tons of awesome bands that play. We got to see quite a few this year with the highlight for us being Imelda May (below).
The car show was so big we had take a break half way through the day to have lunch back in our hotel room. The other thing nobody realizes is that VLV is held during summer – and with the Vegas desert heat temperatures really soar, so having your own parasol that you (and your poor guy) can share is a big MUST!
What are your hopes for the Rockabilly culture in South Africa?
I only hope to see it grow! Since starting my brand I have definitely noticed that people’s understanding of the culture has shifted. My hope is that people learn about it in the right ways and express themselves in a way and style that is true to the culture without loosing it’s essence. I also feel it’s important to stand together and support each other, be it at events or by simply buying products that are proudly, and uniquely South African.
In your own words, what do you believe the Rockabilly culture to be?
Rockabilly has it true roots in the rock n’ roll culture of the 50’s, but today girls and guys around the world have taken it to a new level. The look is edgy with strong tattoo influences and is very visible within the custom culture community. Many a Rockabilly girl is tattooed or has bright coloured hair which only highlights their need to be an individual – it’s a way to stand out from the crowd and is very reminiscent of the rebellious attitudes of icons from the era such as Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley and the notorious Bettie Page among others.
In South Africa we are seeing the scene slowly gaining popularity and awareness, and for many it’s a natural progression from other small, niche subcultures such as Goth or punk.
For me the rockabilly culture is not only about being influenced by times gone by, but really about taking those influences and eras and mixing it up into a more modern, updated look all while keeping those classic roots. It’s about drawing inspirations from many different sources be it classic cars, music, old school tattoos, to the stars of the silver screen, retro hairstyles or the fashion!
Is there an event you are looking forward to attending and why?
I am hoping to attend Speed Week this year in my personal capacity. We are currently building two ’58 Chev Apache trucks and just bought a ’68 Pontiac Firebird, so if things work out we might be able to take one of them with us which will be very exciting!
With regards to my business, we have our Miss Happ Spring/Summer Range launch happening beginning Sept as well as quite a few events that we are vending at with both Miss Happ & Boot Hill such a Cool Inc (Joburg) the VTwin Camdeboo Rally end Sept (Graaf Reinet, Western Cape), and the Dusty Rebels & The bombshells Rockabilly festival in Nov (Cape Town)….and then it’s big plans for 2014…watch this space!
What do we see happening next for Miss Happ?
I am currently designing and planning our Spring/Summer 2014/15 range. There are so many pretty colours and prints that I am working with it’s so exciting! Think ice-cream pastels, crazy comic book prints, tropical pinup girls, and so much rockabilly goodness! Our ladies will also be pleased to know that our classic wiggle dresses are also making a come back in our range as well as some old favourites such as our swing dresses and high waist pencil skirts.
We are currently scouting for locations for our launch which for the first time will include a fashion show. We are very excited! Anybody with awesome ideas of locations give us a shout!
So if you did not know before – NOW you know! Miss Happ are based in Cape Town and deliver their goodies worldwide. You can order online from the Etsy Store or mail the sales team to place an order – Head on over to the Facebook page to get more information and keep up to date with the new looks coming in for Spring as Mandy mentioned as well as the gorgeous, one of a kind handbags in stock (That’s right, ONE of a kind – I own one and I absolutely love mine). You can also get over to The Tattooed Lady’s Facebook page to enter an awesome competition to win a Miss Happ hamper! Remember that if you are in Jozi/Pretoria area you can get a select range of Miss Happ clothing & accessories from Retrospective Fashion recreated.