My extremely talented friend Maria and her Habillis Dolls Creations

Being a fashion doll collector means, among other things, meeting people all over the world that share the same interest/hobby/obsession. That can lead into a beautiful friendship, which is my relationship with the wonderful Maria (from Habilis Dolls), my dear Greek friend. There are not many Greek fashion doll collectors but I am happy that I met her and we share such a wonderful friendship. Apart from being a wonderful human being, she is also a talented maker of clothes and accessories for fashion dolls! I have been meaning to dedicate a post to her extraordinary work for quite a while (you have to see her craftsmanship up close to understand the high level of quality in her work). I managed to convince her to give me an interview, which you can read below.

Fashion Doll Chronicles: Let's start with a few words about you
Maria Habilis Dolls: My name is Maria, I am 48 years old, a teacher of Ancient Greek and Latin, teaching in High school for 25 years now. I live in Syros, a beautiful island of the Cyclades in the Aegean Archipelago, am married and have a 15 year old son and a 13 year old daughter.

FDC: Tell us how you discovered fashion dolls?
MHD: That was by accident, on-line, where else? Specifically, I was looking for clothes for my Barbies (that was way before I started making myself clothes for dolls). When I saw the first Fashion Royalty I was speechless. She was Eugenia Overachiever and immediately after Eugenia Going Public. Then I knew that I had to step up a level (collecting). That was the beginning. Later on I discovered Sybarites (I own two), Tonner dolls etc. It was a road with no return. Now my collection has more than 60 Fashion Royalty dolls.

Outfit based on my own design and made by Maria

FDC: How did you decide to start making clothes for your dolls?
MHD: Along with Fashion Royalty dolls, I also discovered the very talented creators that were already part of the fashion world for dolls. I was impressed with their work and, because I can sew, I slowly started to make clothes for dolls on my own. Six years later I can say I have experience and an easy to do it. But I dedicated lots of time and was very patient and insistent. I am more proud about my insistence than about the results of my creativity (LOL)!

FDC: When did you start selling doll clothes and accessories made by you?
MHD: From the moment I started collecting dolls obsessively, I thought it would be nice to cover my spending to enrich my collection in one way or another and not incur that on the family budget. From the moment I started uploading the first photos of my creations on flickr (, it was really encouraging that many friends asked me if I sold my creations and where they could find them.

FDC: Were there any obstacles in this endeavor?
MHD: My main desire and concern when taking those first steps were if the people who were the first to trust me and bought my creations would be completely satisfied. Generally I did not have any problems, on the contrary it is something that gives me inspiration, joy, creativity and allows me to add to my collection which is my passion.

FDC: How and where do you sell your clothes and accessories for fashion dolls?
MHD: I started selling them on eBay and that was important because in this way you become well known and many people that ignored your activity in this sector can see you. Two years later I created my own site and now I do most of my selling from there, since by now I have loyal customers that love my work. With many of them I also have a really warm communication, we're almost friends. I mention this as it is something that gives me great joy and I an glad that through this interview I can publicly thank them.

FDC: Where does your inspiration come from?
MHD: I am mainly inspired by my favourite creators and through the various blogs I follow. The materials themselves are also a great source of inspiration. I have a large fabric collection that I have been adding to for a while. As I observe them I imaging the outfit that can be made of them at the same time.

FDC: How long does it take you to complete an outfit so that it is ready to be sold?
MHD: That depends on the design and the fabric. If for example the fabric demands a complete lining, it can be very time-consuming. Other times the outfit is simple but has intricate accessories. Generally five to six houts is the norm, but never without interruptions as I do not have that much free time available. I also make many designs and try-outs, it often takes time for me to say "this is it". Don't forget that I do not want to miss out on the fun, as I also like to play at the same time. Trying out hair dos, I also need to see the outfit worn by a blond, a red-head and a brunette as well. So time flies by really quickly. I never stopped playing with dolls feeling satiated by it.

FDC: Favourite fashion designer:
MHD: Alexander McQueen was always a favourite and I love what Burton is doing with the house, continuing his work. If I must set someone apart it would be Karl Lagerfeld whose clothes I almost always like. Lately I like what Salvatore Ferragamo does too.

FDC: For which dolls do you prefer sewing?
MHD: Mainly I love sewing for FR because I love the way they pose. The new bodies especially are a delight to dress. I also have done stuff for 16" dolls like Sybarites and recently I fell in love with  Tulabelle και Poppy Parker Fashion Teen 16’’ girls.

FDC: Which is your favourite doll and why?
MHD: My most beloved doll is and will always be Going Public Eugenia cause she was the first one I bought, love at first sight. I got her in the summer of 2008, a gift to myself for my birthday.

FDC: Tell us you favourite and also your most "despised" fabric/material to work with.
MHD: There is no particular favourite or despised material. I generally favour soft and elastic fabrics as they are easier to sew and fit better on the body. I avoid too delicate fabrics that can slip and make it hard to sew.

FDC: Which has been the greatest reward of this work?
MHD: From this activity I have been rewarded in many different ways. First of all with the money I made I was able to add more beautiful dolls to my collection. It is also a creative endeavor through which I express my self as well as get feelings of relief and restoration.. It is also very important for me being in touch with people, getting to know each other and also a great joy and recognition for me seeing photos of other collectors or friends' dolls wearing my clothes.

FDC: Most difficult thing in making doll clothes?
MHD: I think it is making the outfit come out properly in this small scale. I have noticed the difference between having the outfit in your mind and really making it. For example a pleated or draped outfit is not the same when made in this scale. You have to be picky about fabric or use tricks to give a real feel to the outfit.

FDC: What details do you always incorporate in your clothes and accessories?
MHD: In outfits I am really interested having the seams really well made and the finishing being careful and professional. I do not want people to think, when they have them in hand up close, that it was not worth the price they paid. I also want the collector that buys my clothes to have available all the comfort and ease to dress the doll without too much trouble or get annoyed doing so. I am also careful to use quality fabric so that it will not stain the doll's body. For accessories, what is important to me is that they look as realistic as possible and not doll-like. I am not sure I can always get away with it.

FDC: Favourite outfit until now and why?
MHD: I love almost all the designs I have made so far and usually I keep a copy for me. One I will always cherish is a dress inspired by Alexander McQueen.

FDC: Any advice you'd like to share with the rest of the doll-world fashion designers?
MHD: Be patient, make this with love and never miss out on the fun and the mood for play. This can also protect us from bad antagonism and jealousy that unfortunately also exist. I will never forget, when I first started sewing for dolls, the kindness and encouraging words of Kathi(aka FrauE) in some e-mails we exchanged, where she advised me exactly this, never miss out on the fun in this whole thing. Thank you so much Kathi, you are always an inspiration and example for me.

FDC: What else would you like to tell us about you and your work with dolls?
MHD: I am proud for all the things I have done for dolls and being a respected member of the doll community. It has given me immense joy, creativity and I can say it has changed my life, in the sense that being a clothes-maker for dolls is one of the things that defines me almost as much as my profession. Also very important are the acquaintances I have made, the very remarkable and interesting people I have been into contact with, the friends I made like you. Stratos my friend. If it wasn't for our dolls we probably would never have met and we would not have had the chance to spend such lovely moments in Syros! I suggest to all people to try and find something to love and amuse them as we all do with our dolls. Stratos thank you from the bottom of my heart for having me in your wonderful and remarkable blog, it is a great honor. Hugs and love to all of you. 

All photos, outfit and accessories designs courtesy of Habilis Dolls, used by permission.

Elusive Icons: Black Fashion Dolls 1968 – 2013

The Elusive Icons exhibition was a chronological visual illustration and comparison of Black fashion dolls over the past 46 years to the present. The collection of over 60 dolls showed the chronological progression of representation, from one doll to the multiple dolls with different skin tones and facial features presently available. In this exhibit an attempt to trace the development of a multi-dimensional representation and evolution of Blackness was made. The dolls exhibited were from doll collectors across Canada.

According to the exhibit's website, the collection created an opportunity to start a dialogue that empowers Black women. These discussions ranged from representations that many have never known or have ever seen before. Questions of race and identity are inherent in the collection of these Elusive Icons The exhibition was held in two other locations: School, Women’s Health in Women’s Hands- – a health centre catering to Black Women and Women of Colour, and the Brockton Collective gallery space, all during last February. The exhibit was very well received and was seen by over 500 people during its two-week installation. It is Frantz Brent Harris' hope that he will be able to install this exhibit in other cities.

The artistic vision is two-fold; a small part of Black History is exhibited - the progression of the representation of idealized female Black beauty by mainstream doll manufacturers. The dolls were displayed on a long zigzagged shaped platform, created to look like a miniature runway and were arranged chronologically by dates produced. Each doll stands upright, labeled with the name and release date of the doll. There was also a printed guide available to all, with additional history and significance of each doll. 

Additionally, Franz Brent Harris presented his own hand made dolls as his representations of feminine Black beauty. His sculpted dolls are a response to the current manufactured “icons” available which usually have an unrealistic and unhealthy body type. Black women possess a wider range of different beautiful body types, from slim and nubile to thick and voluptuous. However, most of the naturally occurring Black women bodies are not reflected in most fashion dolls. The dolls that he created possess an athletic body-type and project a healthy body image; this contrasts against the "anorexic" dolls produced by most manufacturers The dolls he has sculpted were placed on individual pedestals and dressed in haute couture designed by himself and project power and awareness.

Harris tells us about the reason for the exhibition: "Elusive Icons is about awareness. It is my hope that the audience viewing the exhibition will become more aware of their own beauty and relevance. A doll is an influential object; fashion dolls are the society’s representations idealized physical perfection. A Black fashion doll therefore becomes a very powerful form of validation, especially for black women and girls. This fact was evident from the comments I received from my two previous doll exhibits, most recently “The BLK Barbie project” mounted at B.A.N. D., Many of the Black women who viewed the shows had never seen a Black fashion doll, many were deeply affected by them. There is still the controversial issue surrounding the negative body image that most fashion dolls project on society. They are presented as unnatural ultra –skinny and large breasted body type".

"In response to this critique, to the absence of what I considered a normal healthy body type representation of a Black Woman, I created a doll that depicted just that. The dolls I have sculpted and created are my attempt to present a more realistic and healthy morphologies. It is my intention to represent the varied and beautiful body shapes of Black women. My vision is to represent and in some way validate the varied morphologies of Black women’s bodies. I am currently in the process of creating two additional bodies a slim healthy body and a very full-figured voluptuous body Presently, many representations of Blackness come from individuals who are not Black. I think it is of some significance that I am a Black artist presenting my interpretation of my own Blackness with these dolls which are loving portraits of my sisters and in part, myself. Black people have come very far, we make our presence and contribution to the Western world known. We are proud, our economic and political power has increased through the years. Observing how the representations of Black beauty, reflected in a fashion doll have also changed over the past 46 years is fascinating and illustrates our progress in a very simple manner. Recognizing our presence, the mainstream market has progressed from having only one Black fashion doll in 1967 produced by Mattel (Mattel is the maker of Barbie) to nine distinct Black facial sculpts by 2013, for that company alone, in addition to other companies, numerous other Black dolls presently are available".

Photo of first AA Francie from 1967 (courtesy of Fashion Doll Guide)

"The first Black fashion doll was merely a “white doll” colored brown, now doll makers are producing Black dolls that mirror our facial features and are targeting the Black consumer. The Black fashion doll is still a scarce commodity in Canada; a fact easily illustrated by my recent trip to Toy’R”Us and Wal-Mart where no Black fashion dolls were even on their shelves.’ Before sculpting my own doll I was collector of black fashion dolls for 3 years. During this time I sourced, purchased and gave as gifts over 75 black fashion dolls to school aged girls via friends and colleagues. Instinctively I sensed that a child having dolls, none of which had any resemblance to how she looked must be harmful in some way. I received a great amount of satisfaction doing this because the doll I gave as a gift was usually the first black doll they had ever received and became the child’s favorite doll. Always the parents of these children spoke their frustration of never being able to find black dolls. I think my belief in the importance of seeing and having black dolls is summed up in a quote below:
"Without dolls that accurately represent their own image, children end up looking up to white dolls, and seeing the white image as being powerful and what beauty is," says Phillip Jordan, author of a study on racial preferences among black children. "For children to have an image of self that is black and embraces your language and ethnic features is a very positive development." -The Guardian, Friday 5 October 2012
 One of the greatest Black leaders, Marcus Garvey understood this; in the 1920s the Jamaican pan-Africanist backed his African pride and self-empowerment movement with a factory line producing a black-skinned doll with African features."

I was not familiar with Frantz Brent- Harris' work at fashion doll. A commonn friend on Facebook posted the event and soon enough I was looking at some amazing dolls, all works of Mr. Harris, that are part of the exhibition. He is also a graphic designer, illustrator and sculptor. His line of 16" dolls is called Sonadolls and was created when a friend, upon seeing his doll collection, commented about the visible joints. Mr. Harris then proceeded in creating seamless jointed dolls.

Frantz Brent-Harris is Jamaican born Canadian Artist and Sculptor; his current focus is realistic figurative sculpture, fantasy surrealistic creatures and exquisite exotic art dolls. He has been practicing for over 20 years and his work has been exhibited in many galleries across in Ontario, these include Robert Langen Gallery (Wilfrid Laurier University), the BAND Gallery and the Canadian Sculpture Centre Gallery. Frantz Brent-Harris expresses complex and serious social and emotional subjects through his sculpture and simultaneous manages to seduce his viewer by creating a visually beautiful object of art. 

I was not familiar with Frantz Brent- Harris' work at fashion doll. A commonn friend on Facebook posted the event and soon enough I was looking at some amazing dolls, all works of Brent-Harris, that are part of the exhibition. He is also a graphic designer, illustrator and sculptor. His line of 16" dolls is called Sonadolls and was created when a friend, upon seeing his doll collection, commented about the visible joints. Brent-Harris then proceeded in creating seamless jointed dolls.

Since the dolls are all handcrafted by Brent-Harris, they come out in very limited editions. He designs and makes everything, from the doll and her wig, to the fashion and the accessories. The dolls have a very complex internal rod, spring and wire skeleton that took him 4 years to develop and perfect. The end result is a new invention, carefully designed to be break resistant and be a very flexible poseable doll.

His creative work with dolls began as a result of his need to find a resolution for his conflicted relationship with women, motherhood and femininity. Relating to and creating dolls allowed Brent-Harris to objectively observe women and provided him the insight he needed to embrace femininity as essential, beautiful and positive; thus, transforming his internal misogyny to appreciation and respect. This was a healing process for him and enabled him to fully own his own femininity. For this project Brent-Harris sculpted a 16” inch dolls to reflect a healthy athletic and respectful representation of black women’s bodies and outfitted them in fashions that represent his interpretation of the power and vulnerabilities of Black women.

Brent-Harris is currently in the process of creating two addition body types to more completely represent the different shapes present among black women It is his hope that viewing this exhibit will open the discussion on body image, sexuality, gender identity and vulnerability through a post-colonial identity.

All photos and information courtesy of Franz Brent-Harris

ITBE Wave 2: a W Club exclusive by Integrity Toys

After the success of the three ITBE dolls released early this year (but presented to W Club members in late 2013), the experiment of releasing older sculpts in different bodies and skintones goes on. Integrity Toys informed the W Club members that four new dolls are to be available exclusively to them through a lottery for the right to buy. These will not be available to non club members in contrast to the previous release. Each doll is a 300 pieces edition. Let's see them all:

Item # 15023
Second Skin
Basic Edition Dressed Doll
IT Direct Exclusive
Limited Edition of 300 Dolls
Suggested Retail Price: $75.00 USD
Estimated Ship Date: in-stock March 2014

Doll Tech Specs:
Body Type: Old FR Body with Larger Bust
Head Sculpt: Vanessa 1.0
Quick Switch Feature: No
Skin Tone: A-Tone
Hair Color: Deep Brunette
Eyelashes: Yes, Hand-Applied
Package Dimensions: 13.5" X 4" X 2.25"

"Second Skin" comes dressed in a faux snake skin sheath belted dress, red shoes and a doll stand. Fully articulated doll with rooted hair and hand applied eyelashes. For adult collectors ages 14 and up.This is again a surefire hit with the collectors: an AA original sculpt Vanessa. I bet she will be the most coveted of the bunch, like Isha was in the first wave. The dress has the same cut as Adele's from before but in a different fabric. I want her very much!

Item # 15025
Morning Dove
Basic Edition Dressed Doll
IT Direct Exclusive
Limited Edition of 300 Dolls
Suggested Retail Price: $75.00 USD
Estimated Ship Date: in-stock March 2014

Doll Tech Specs:
Body Type: Old FR Body with Larger Bust Head
Sculpt: Kyori 1.0
Quick Switch Feature: No
Skin Tone: FR Black
Hair Color: Raven
Eyelashes: Yes, Hand-Applied
Package Dimensions: 13.5" X 4" X 2.25"

This AA Kyori comes dressed in a jacquard belted cocktail dress, with matching shoes and a doll stand. Fully articulated doll with rooted hair and hand applied eyelashes. For adult collectors ages 14 and up.She lis the original Kyori sculpt so I am falling for this one hard. Plus she's never had this skin-tone before (only Latina releases untl now). The dress is of course the Isha one in a different fabric. I like the fact that the shoes all these dolls wear are not the same as the previous release. And they look great too.

Item # 15026
Red Strike
Basic Edition Dressed Doll
IT Direct Exclusive
Limited Edition of 300 Dolls
Suggested Retail Price: $75.00 USD
Estimated Ship Date: in-stock March 2014

Doll Tech Specs:
Body Type: FR Monogram
Head Sculpt: Janay
Quick Switch Feature: No
Skin Tone: Miami
Hair Color: Shimmering Blond
Eyelashes: Yes, Hand-Applied
Package Dimensions: 13.5" X 4" X 2.25"

Janay is the very first Integrity sculpt, long before Fashion Royalty dolls were even a concept. So there is some sentimental value added to this particular release. She is dressed in a sassy red and black version of the pleated cocktail dress that Natalia was wearing the previous time in B&W. It includes belt, shoes and a doll stand. Fully articulated doll with rooted hair and hand applied eyelashes. For adult collectors ages 14 and up. If one of the two previous dolls were not part of this wave, I might have tried my luck with this one even though I already have the dress too. The shoes look like they might be like wave 1 Adele's in red.

Item # 15027
Night Strike
Basic Edition Dressed Doll
IT Direct Exclusive
Limited Edition of 300 Dolls
Suggested Retail Price: $75.00 USD
Estimated Ship Date: in-stock March 2014

Doll Tech Specs:
Body Type: FR Monogram
Head Sculpt: FR Monogram
Quick Switch Feature: No
Skin Tone: FR White
Hair Color: Silver
Eyelashes: Yes
Package Dimensions: 13.5" X 4" X 2.25"

Night Strike comes dressed in the pleated cocktail dress we have seen before (third strike out?) in new colours, that comes with belt, shoes and a doll stand. Fully articulated doll with rooted hair and hand applied eyelashes. For adult collectors ages 14 and up.A pure Monogram doll, I am passing on this one too as I already have a platinum haired Monogram. Looks great though.

**All photos and information contained herein is copyrighted Integrity Toys, Inc. and Intercap Merchant Partners, LLC 2014 and may not be reprinted or disseminated without express written permission.**

Celebrating Barbie's 55th birthday: Hervé Léger Barbie

March 9th is the official Barbie birthday. This year it is her 55th anniversary. So what better way to take part into the celebrations than photographing one of the best Barbie dolls Mattel has released: the Hervé Léger Barbie. I had written all about the doll and the release in this post, so here I am just going to post a selection of photos I took of her and comment on the actual doll.

The quality of the doll dresses is incredible. Of course having them made by a fashion house instead of Mattel played a major part and it shows. Top notch craftsmanship, flawless outfits, amazing standards of quality of fabric and stitching. The brand said they used their original yarns and machines to make theme and I do believe them after having seen them with my own eyes.


The "leather" corset that is worn over the dress has a nice functioning mini zip at the back so that one can take it off without problem. It is an almost faithful reproduction of the ones the brand showed in their fashion show.

The boots are made of plastic but they have nice detail and are made very well. They slide of the feet without too much effort but one has to be careful to not tear them apart.

The clutch that comes with this outfit is a hard-edged, "metal and leather" design, edgy and modern. It is not functioning and has no way to be fastened to the doll's hands. The stiff Model Muse body without joints does not help either. 

Here is the dress without the corset. The doll is wearing the second pair of boots that comes in the gift-set, ribbed ankle boots.

Both dresses have the brand's label sewn in on the inside. Great detail and very realistic too.

The second dress is a black and white short one, with wide shoulder to chest bands that stop right under the breasts. It is as well made as the other one and looks amazing too.

The one big flaw of this gift set is of course the doll's body. Without joints, it quickly becomes really boring as it has a very limited ability for posing. It may show off the dress nicely in the box but there are many people, like me, who like to pose and display their dolls outside of the box. I am probably going to rebody this one.

The doll's face is perfection. She looks gorgeous and reminds me a lot of the supermodel Angela Lindvall. Her hair is intricately braided and has highlights woven in. It messes up easily but it also can be tamed without any problems. She definitely deserves a better, articulated body.

The bag for this outfit is a large, "crocodile leather" concoction, a bit cumbersome to hold, definitely not suited for un-articulated dolls. Wonder how a real human would carry such a bag. Below you can see all the accessories of the gift-set.

For me, this is the direction that the collectors-only Barbie dolls should take. Modern, edgy fashions and doll design, without the cutesy and frothy stuff that is associated with the brand. But I am sure I am a minority in voicing this. Happy 55th birthday Barbie!

Think Pink - Sunny Harnet ready for the red carpet

One of the most memorable musical numbers in the Funny Face film is "Think Pink". If you remember, a year ago, Integrity Toys release a series of seven dolls inspired from the film and its costumes, as part of their Paramount license. So it was only natural that one outfit at least from the Think Pink sequence would be selected. Well, actually there are two, a pink suit and an evening gown. Here, as a tribute to the Oscar cermony that takes place tonight, we focus on the latter, in a recen photo shoot I did.

The doll is evoking the model Sunny Harnett who appears in the film along more famous models Suzy Parker and Dovima (who has a speaking role). Sunny appears with many outfits in the sequence but most notably the outfit shown here. This look is composed of a pink satin two-piece gown with a transformable pink faux fur peplum that turns into a cape, as shown in the film. Pink opera length gloves (the usual oven mitt variety), bright pink satin shoes and a jewellery set (clear bauble necklace and rhinestone stud earrings) complete the outfit. 

The 12" fully articulated vinyl doll has rooted hair and hand-applied eyelashes and sports the FR: Monogram body (with Victoire Roux legs) and the Imogen head sculpt.She does reming me of Sunny Harnett a lot and the gown is a faithful representation of the one shown in the film. She looks ready to pick up an Oscar! The last close-up of her shows her necklace backwards, it was a mistake but I liked the photo so here it goes.