• It was announced a while ago but wanted to say how happy I am to have been asked to select Dress of the Year 2013 at Fashion Museum in Bath. My choice was this @christopherkanestudio SS13 beauty.
  • Love this concertina beach scene print on @marios_official tote available at @therefineryhk now! #PMQIS
  • Congrats to my cousin @elizabethlauldn and her new shop @therefineryhk in the new PMQ building @PMQHKDesign #PMQIS much love for @BernstockSpeirs bunny ears!
  • Love that I always see the best pieces by Brit designers abroad @nicoll_studio @liger_hk
  • Swash land at @liger_hk Patterson St store #SwashLondon

A comment on the Port Eliot post asked "Why dont we have festivals with fashion designers, and floral headwear and knitting gangs in the US?!"  To add to the chagrin of this commentor, I omitted another important component that would fit nicely in this summary and that was a doll tea party.  A fashion designer's tea party no less.  The formidable fashion critic and British Fashion Council ambassador for emerging talent Sarah Mower had the idea to ask designers to send in their childhood dolls after interviewing so many who recalled making clothes for their dolls.  The dolls were arranged by famed set designer Michael Howells inside the Port Eliot house, for festival-goers to see.  Alex Fury of target="_blank">Love Magazine and Sarah Mower also hosted a tea party where they talked about post-war theatre de la mode and the historical connection between dolls and fashion.  The core of it is that most gay designers I know eschewed Action Men for their sisters' Barbie/Sindy dolls and started cutting up scraps of fabric to fashion a wardrobe for their dolls.  That's a general sweep of a statement.  Still there's something in dolls-based childsplay that is easy for writers to map out a connection between present day fashion designers, stylists and journalists within the industry and their childhood past.  

By my own doll history, sadly I wouldn't have much to show for it.  So poor were we that I never had a single Barbie, Sindy or barely any soft toys for that matter (my friend bought me a Barbie when I was 14 to somehow make up for that loss).  We'd play a lot of imaginary games instead pretending we were various characters and constructed our sets out of cardboard boxes, cushions and bedsheets.  Or later, I got a bit more skilled with paper and scissors to make paper dolls where you can clip on clothes with tabs.  Or I'd make figurines out of blu-tak, which I see as a connection to my love of powder blue today. 

Alber Elbaz of Lanvin could perhaps relate to my lack of resources.  As a child, his parents also couldn't afford any toys but they had one chessboard.  Elbaz took the whole set and made dresses for the pieces out of cigarette papers, sticking hair on them with chewing gum.  He created his own little harem of female chess pieces until one day, he was playing with them in his room with a candle and it caught fire.  Elbaz relived his childhood for this exhibition to recreate the chess set with his team at Lanvin.  It's a classic rags to riches story that in fashion seems scarce nowadays when getting into fashion in the first place requires a lot of family financial support.  

Other notable contributions include Sarah Burton's paper marquettes constructed for the practical purposes of mapping out how the pattern should be placed in miniature so that when it is upsized, there is no fabric wastage.  Christopher Kane has instilled a tradition of making up his favourite outfit from every collection into an outfit for a Barbie doll.  Every single collection right from the neon bandage S/S 07 to current resort 2013 has a Barbie.  Christopher's sister Tammy Kane also donated her Cabbage Patch doll called Toni Bonnie Bella, which sits proudly in the middle of the table having a convo with Sarah Mower's doll called Baby, wearing an outfit made by Mower's grandmother.  I loved the bizarre similarity between Simone Rocha's two dolls, one dressed in a Victorian lacy outfit and one in a current Simone Rocha A/W 12-3 ensemble.  Lulu Kennedy and I would have a lot to talk about as she also used to play very orchestrated imaginary games for her two rabbits Paul and Amanda – her "gang of little people".  She'd host parties for them very early on, not disimilar from what Kennedy does now, organising the Fashion East show every season.  Viktor & Rolf's more recognisable 'I Love You' doll takes centre stage from the 'Bedtime Story' collection of 2005.  These are the kind of dolls that are eerie in appearance with their white bisque faces and human hair.

This exhibition neatly ties in with the rediscovering of childhood pleasures that this festival fosters.  Not only do you see many, MANY children getting creative and being allowed to roam around in a place free of 21st century modern trappings but your own imagination goes into overdrive by simply being in a place where you're exposed to ideas (through the talks and events) and an almost dream-like environment (the boathouse, the fairy lights in the woods, the views of the viaducts, the surreal murals inside the house…I could go on).  To see the connection between these dolls and what their owners have achieved at present, is something of an inspiration, even to doll-less folk such as myself.  

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Viktor & Rolf 'I Love You' Doll – "Fifty-five dolls were shown in a six-metre high dolls' house, which itself referred to three seventeeth-century Amsterdam dolls' houses in the Rijksmuseum.  They were commissioned by extremely wealthy Dutch burgher's wives – not as playthings, but as exact replicas of their own homes and rich possessions.

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Alber Elbaz' doll's chess-set based on the set he made when he was five: "I have made this set with my assistants in the studio at Lanvin.  It brought back all my memories of being five years old again.  It made me think: maybe the best creativity comes out of lacking resources.  If you only have potatoes and olive oil, you ahve to be a damn good cook to make a great meal out of it."

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Sarah Burton's paper maquettes for Alexander McQueen: "Growing up, I remember Sindys, Barbies – all kinds of dolls.  It wasn't the dolls I was interested in – it was the clothes.  We used to play dress-up everyday.  Once I made a feather skirt and a metallic top, I remember. Plus ca change!

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Christopher Kane's complete doll size show of all his collections to date: "My Barbies have become a tradition in the office.  Every time I design a collection, there are scraps of the fabric left over, so the girls in the studio started making a Barbie outfit each season.  It was never an intention to do a Barbie project or anything – it was just the girs making them for me."

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Lady Amanda Harlech and daughter Tallulah Harlech's dolls: "My dolls inhabited a parallel world just out of the corner of my eye.  I spent hours with them – I would build them houses out of my brothers' wooden bricks, they had shoe boxes stuffed with clothes.  Jasper Conran who lived two doors down from our house had a bevy of princsesses and we would act out dramas together or make jewellery out of broken tail lights and headlights."  Amanda Harlech
 "I was a Barbie-crazed freak as a child.  I often stole the outfits off my brother's action Man and made tomboy Barbie or Pop Star Barbei with a bikini top and baggy Action Man trousers.  The hair never lasted long." Tallulah Harlech

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Tammy Kane's cabbage patch doll: "I remember she had a wee Aran sweater and that our granny was abolustely horrified when she saw me pretending to breastfeed her one day."

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Sarah Mower's doll 'Baby': "Baby is wearing a paisley-print dress and a pair of knitted knickers, which were made for me, amongst many other things, by my grandmother, maisie Defriez, who was a huge lover of fashion.  She made all her own clothes – which I now realise she had adapted herself from looking at Cristobal Balenciaga, like coats with swing backs and three-quarter sleeves."

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Erdem's two Barbies wearing an original dress he made when he was five and a dress from his A/W 12 collection: "I got hold of this cheap-y blue polyester, and fashioned a circle skirt from it and put it over her head.  And then my mother helped me sew a strapless bustier with a low back.  It's very spring-summer."

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Lulu Kennedy's two rabbits Paul and Amanda: "I started organising 'events' from an early age.  I took them deadly seriously and had to have absolute control of art directing all the elements or I'd get very fed up.  I'd dress up all my toys up in their very best outfits and place them in a very specific order, a bit like a seating plan at a catwalk show.  I'd hand-make invitations and snacks, and charge guests 2p to get in."

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Simone Rocha's two childhood dolls: "My doll had a full Victorian lacy outfit with matching shoes, dress and hat.  I used to send her flying down the stair banister which resulted in cracked porcelain faces and bones.  She's wearing her original lace outfit, with her broken leg accessorised with a band-aid from a previous banister injury."

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Giles Deacon's dolls: "I get my work placement students to help make them – I've found it's a good test of how skilled they are.  You can tell who's going to have it, and who not, from how well they can work at doll-size."

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Jason Wu's dolls for Integrity Toys: "At the age of sixteen, while at boarding school in Connecticut I decided to call the president of Integrity Toys.  Offering them my sketches, asotnishingly they offered me a job designing dresses for their fashion dolls.  A year later i was named creative direct, then partner.  Both positions I still hold today and extremely proud of."

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Virgina Bates (of Virginia vintage in London) and her rag doll: "Dorothy is a rag doll with a hand-painted face, I thinks he dates from the late 1920s.  But she is a very naughty girl and she loves ot party.  DOrothy strictly dirnks Margaritas, no tea please!  She is very patriotic too so I dressed her up for the Jubilee."

Comments (27)

  1. mariposa says:

    I love this post!!!
    amazing clthes and desing!!
    Great…
    xoxo from germany
    http://mariposa-world.blogspot.com

  2. Elisa Eymery says:

    Such a great idea! I particularly love the light blue dress Erdem made when he was 5, I totally want one!
    Elisa
    Wandering Minds fashion
    http://www.ourwanderingminds.com

  3. jean cave says:

    My friend Mazza and I made a dozen or so Quirky Christmas Dolls purely for the fun of making them. We are pretty old. Some other friends don’t get it at all, thinking we are quite demented. Her grandson (3) loves playing with the remaining ones not sold at at a Newlyn Cornwall gallery.
    I didn’t have dolls as a child but I cut pictures out of my mums Vogue and did fashion parades in the imaginary workshops of Madame Jeanne. It’s equivalent to boys making guns out of sticks!
    So you won’t be surprised to hear how much I LOVED this article.

  4. ttea says:

    The doll idea seems like a great one. I know that when I was five I made my first ever doll dress out of some felt and a little white bow. I still have it, and, although I am not much of a sentimentalist, it’s one of the things I still have. I also used to have a very large porcelain doll collection. I still have some of the ones with the best outfits. I agree with the reader that sparked this post, why aren’t there things like this in North America, we’re so boring and non-eccentric.\
    http://fashionananthropologicalpointofview.blogspot.ca/

  5. Nathan Niche says:

    omg omg omg!!!
    i love these little high fashion show dolls!!! the chris kane and mcqueen ones are super adorable! if only barbie had more fashion sense to wear chris kane for barbies i’d probably buy one and play with it.
    i can already imagine doing the plato’s atlantis hair to my mcqueen barbie (but those briads are gonna be tricky to do…)
    xx nathan.niche
    can’t decide on whether or not to get the new PROENZA SCHOULER PS11 bag, comments and help please:
    http://style-niche.blogspot.hk/2012/07/green-with-envy.html

  6. Serdane says:

    What a just can say right now is : OMFG !
    http://www.younglington.wordpress.com

  7. Virginie says:

    What a great post, amazing dolls & pictures.. high fashion!
    Virginie/ Style Reload

  8. Andrea says:

    Giles Deacon’s dolls are my favorite, especially the one who got sharp eyebrows.
    So expressive!
    Cheers,
    drea
    http://www.etsy.com/shop/CiRCAVelVET?ref=search_shop_redirect

  9. wowwww
    no matter how old a woman is this whole doll world is beyond fabulous!!!
    I want to be a dool and leave in that world.
    http://www.thefashionadroit.com

  10. Jatinda says:

    Wow Susie, what an inspiring post, those dolls looks so real and inspirational. I still have my dolls, 6 in total, and it is also really important to me what they wear etc. But not as much now, but your post has pulled the memories forward.
    Some of your comments would truly be appreciated on my blog, even though I know my blog is not as good as yours
    http://www.personalautographs.blogspot.co.uk
    Jatinda

  11. A fantastic post thank you. Would love to be able to curate something similar with hats and headwear at Hat Works, Stockport.

  12. Jessica says:

    These are so cute/weird/amazing!
    That Erdem circle skirt reminds me… I need to make one. Circle skirts are the easiest to make and look A+
    http://thelovelorn.net

  13. OMG—I love how everything is sooo bitesize and mini!!! Like one of my fav’ movies of all time, “honey, I shrunk the kids!!” hahaahah! These are soooo esquisite and special! WOAHHHHH!!! We are total doll lovers and this is a really kick ass thing to see!
    kisses
    xoThe Beckerman Girls
    http://www.BeckermanBitePlate.com

  14. Amazing post! The costumes/ outfits were always my favourite :)
    http://www.fashionablepeople.co.uk

  15. Margaret says:

    I wish I still had my Barbies…..

  16. Julianna B says:

    WOW! Amazing!! I`m speechless!

  17. alex says:

    kind of creepy but also weirdly cute.]
    astitchintherightdirection.com

  18. Danling says:

    The pink hair crazy lady of Giles’s student is my favourite! If I was asked to make a doll I think that will be kind of my style too. Never really into dolls especially Barbies. Cousin used to make lots of clothes for hers, every season. Amazing to see theses miniature dresses so well put up on them though! Thanks for sharing!
    This is not really relevant but have you seen Mariel Clayton and Sarah Haney’s photos of “the other side” of Barbie’s life? It’s a different angle seeing Barbie…
    Danling@The Flying Room
    http://www.theflyingroom.com/blogs/news

  19. Cassandra says:

    THe outfits for the doors are amazing but dolls kinda creep me out! :/
    backtofive.blogspot.combacktofive.blogspot.combacktofive’s twitter
    xoxo backtofive

  20. Endri H says:

    Amazing PosT!!! :)

  21. Elsi says:

    Really cool. I like the one with chess board. It would be great if you could dress them as queen and king :-)

  22. As a fashion designer, I always look to Barbi for inspiration!

  23. I loved making clothes as a kid for my barbies, i used anything including my moms old clothes. So this makes me smile.

  24. Sulphurgenic says:

    Fashion is about standing out with your own look… get your own original bow tie to pull your look together now!!

  25. Sulphurgenic says:

    Spread the word that will soon be on everyone’s lips … sulphurgenic.com!

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