SMALL WORLD:
Osvaldo Vazquez, Fashion Design, is a design star in the doll realm

These are not Barbies. They’re 12-inch jointed models called Fashion Royalty, created as the ultimate clotheshorses by designer Jason Wu when he was a teenager. They cost about $100 unadorned and are prized by a subculture of passionate collectors. Their fabulous gowns were created by Osvaldo Vazquez, Fashion Design, who has specialized in diminutive couture since the ’90s.
To celebrate this pint-size corner of the fashion industry, Hue arranged a collaboration between Vazquez and visual artist Loreal Prystaj, Photography ’13, who enveloped the ultra-glam dolls in lush, dreamlike environments drawn from her brilliant, twisted mind.

Vazquez takes his inspiration from the theatricality of Bob Mackie and the boundless imagination of Alexander McQueen. He uses high-end fabrics, making sure sequins, feathers, and any other embellishments are tiny enough to look proportional on a doll. Original_0-cmyk

“I would never create something that looks like a doll dress,” Vazquez insists. “For any of my designs, a person could wear that design.”

He’s also a plastic surgeon, as it were, molding each doll to match the outfit. He boils the head until it softens enough to sew in synthetic hair extensions. He wipes off the painted lips and eyes with a solvent and creates them anew with brushes and colored pencils. He also fabricates his own hats and handbags and deconstructs human-size jewelry to make on-trend earrings.

Cropped_cover_3Although most of his gowns are original designs, in 2002 he recreated every one of Bob Mackie’s costumes for Cher’s first farewell tour as doll clothes. Not only did the glamorous replicas ignite bidding wars on eBay, but the singer’s team gave him a front-row seat at her concert and invited him backstage to meet her and see her costumes in person.
“She was very excited,” he recalls, “and I was more excited than she was.”

He also sells his made-over dolls, complete with one-of-a-kind gowns (OOAK, in industry parlance) and accessories, for $300 to $400 apiece at a four-day annual convention produced by Integrity Toys, the maker of Fashion Royalty and other high-end doll lines. Hundreds of collectors gather each year to catch the latest looks, study doll enhancement and styling, and, of course, buy limited-edition lines and OOAK gowns like those created by Vazquez. In the market for a pair of microscopic pumps, screw-in gloved hands, or a book the Cropped_cover_2size of a postage stamp? Some vendors at the show specialize in accessories, makeup, or dioramas.

Many collectors are fiercely loyal to one type of doll: 12-inch, 16-inch, ball-jointed resin, antique, porcelain, and of course, Barbie—and the adherents of one type often won’t associate with those who collect another. Some collectors buy hundreds of dolls and never remove the packaging; others “debox” them and actually
play with them.

The conventions build Vazquez’s client base, but by now, his work is mostly snatched up by loyalists before it debuts on his website. His top customer, a doctor in Ohio, buys 15 to 20 every year. In fact, she bought all the looks created for this feature.

Vazquez has designed dresses on a human scale, too, but he prefers the miniature world.

“It’s easy to work with dolls,” he declares. “They don’t complain.”

Discover more of Vazquez’s work at ovazdesigns.com.

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Through a Lens Darkly

Headshot use thisLOREAL PRYSTAJ’S PHOTOGRAPHY, like her personality, is exuberant, playful, surprising, and often devilishly dark. Her work has been exhibited in California, Vermont, and New York, and is in the permanent collection of the Erie Art Museum in Pennsylvania. In February, her first solo show took place at Gallery Sensei on New York’s Lower East Side, and Adrian Grenier, star of HBO’s Entourage, bought one of her pieces.
Considering that Prystaj understands the personality of dolls so well,it may come as a surprise that she didn’t play with them as a child. That changed at FIT. Trying to keep busy while laid up with a broken leg in 2012, she entereda contest sponsored by Mattel to photograph Barbies. She won first prize, and it opened up a new vein of possibility in her work.
She imagined Vazquez’s dolls as “almighty queens of the jungle,” and surrounded them with doll parts, dead flowers, moss, copper toys, clock gears, vintage photo albums, and whatever else she dug out of her “prop shop,” as she calls her bedroom. “I’m a hoarder in the making,” she admits. A daylight spotlight illuminated her subjects, and lots of hidden lights added warmth in dark corners. She used very little Photoshop.
As she worked, the dolls took on a life of their own. “They definitely have some attitude, dare I say! They usually like to cooperate, but some of them have their own schedule going on.”