A very dear friend, Chryssa, asked me to do an exclusive photo shoot and write an accompanying post for the brilliant website she owns with Natalia, fashionism.gr (in Greek). I picked Opium Ayumi as a model (I was dying to photograph her) and here are the results, along with the translated text.
"I collect dolls." Just the phrase gives one the picture of a spinster with glass cases filled with endless porcelain dolls in an old house covered in cob webs, that has not seen the sun since the time of Mommy Dearest. And the terror filled looks when they hear this phrase reminds me of Shelly Duvall being chased by Jack Nicholson in the Shining (not the Greek series made by Foscolos, relax). The truth is that in the closed and sometimes snob world of fashion doll collectors, one can meet people who will easily stand up to Bette Davis and would send Joan Crawford in the corner crying silently with just one look. But most of us are normal (as anyone can be, ok?) people who just so happens that our favorite hobby, occupation, obsession, curse (call it as you like it) is a collection of lovely ladies with stylish clothes.
Usually modern, sometimes of a bygone era, the clothes worn by fashion dolls (unlike most other dolls) are small works of art. Sometimes copies of (exact or simply inspired by) real clothes from major fashion designers, make up the wardrobe of dolls that have model proportions. Even poor Barbie, trying but struggling to be recognized as a fashion doll, had Mattel put out a special body (Model Muse) to be able to sell in this area. I personally started my collection in quite the opposite way. Although I always had an obsession with dolls and since childhood I tried to clothe every doll in my path with my creations from remnants rags and remnants (with an indignant mother chasing me as best she could), it had never occurred to me that there were dolls out there that are chic and elegant, with a style that rivals the best models from the catwalks.
That was until in 2000, when I got a doll of Olivia Newton-John as Sandy in Grease, complete with all the outfits she wears in the film. This started me searching and slowly I discovered several companies who made dolls in the image and likeness of famous actors and singers. Some of them however had other dolls, which faithfully followed the dictates of fashion's whims every season. And so it began: my collection started to grow until it reached a point where I'm afraid to really count them.
It is clearly an expensive hobby. These dolls are anything but sold at the prices that playline Barbies have. Some rare or unique ones can have values reaching astronomical heights. But they are beautiful and charming and every year many come out that you always want to get, but usually you can not - and this is part of the charm of the game. And I have met many interesting people from different countries (and people in Greece, counted on the fingers of one hand) and so a new world opened up before me.
There are so many people working creatively with them, photographing them, making their own clothes (some with a very artistic view and value) or by painting them so as to completely change their personality, often making little masterpieces that you think can really breathe. And I think this is the biggest benefit that one has to discover the fascinating world of fashion dolls.
I hope you enjoyed reading that. Now let's see the actual doll. Opium Ayumi is part of this year's spring release of Fashion Royalty Squared, like Nouveau Regime Tatyana that I presented to you here. She is wearing a long black dress in what looks like jersey, that has a lining skirt underneath (detail below). It comes with a red jacket, a bag, shoes and jewellery set.
The jacket is a bit stiff, the fabric too thick to let the doll be positioned properly. If it had been done in a thinner fabric it would also fit better over the dress, which would add to the style of the doll, which reminds me of Adrian's outfits for Hollywood stars of the 30s and 40s. More about this later on. The dress is a beauty, the intricate cuts on the neckline make it unique and stylish. I wish the ribbon tying at the back was scaled a bit to fit the size but then it would have been a drag for my huge fingers.
Her accessories are to die for. A black and red clutch bag (looking like a Fendi baguette) that matches her outfit perfectly, as well as a gorgeous pair of shoes in black patent "leather" and "lucite" transparent heels. The shoes are some of the best ever made for an Integrity Toys doll.
Her jewellery set is amazing. A pair of drop earrings with red and black stones, and two incredible rings with differently shaped and sized black stones.
Opium Ayumi is an incredibly beautiful doll, impossible to photograph in an unflattering pose. Her style for me is an amalgamation of so many different eras and things: Adrian's Hollywood outfits of the 30s and 40s, old glamour Hollywood stars like Joan Crawford and Norma Shearer, the first Chinese-American film star Anna May Wong but also the Chinese stars of today like Gong Li, Maggie Cheung and Michelle Yeoh, Yves Saint-Laurent late 70s-early 80s couture, Schiaparelli's designs and of course Jason Wu's Fall/Winter 2012-2013 collection (even to the make up, which of course channels the legendary Tina Chow). Below is a mood board with all these influences and more.