In February of this year, I was contacted by the Galeries Lafayette in Paris, which is credited as being the oldest department store in the world. Apparently, Valerie Hudelot, the directrice of visual image and merchandising, had seen my dolls in the jewelry cases at Barneys New York over the previous holiday. Originally I thought they were interested in retailing my dolls. I was in for a surprise when it became clear a few conference calls later that they were interested in something, much, much bigger.
Standing in one of the windows where the Kouklitas will be dancing this Christmas, behind the red curtain is the Boulevard Haussman.
Jillian on the roof of the Galeries Lafayette, taking in Paris.
First were the sketches. There were 110 individual characters that had to be designed for these windows. The theme is Rock N' Noel, a Rock and Roll festival starring the K-Stars, a five girl rock group that has taken over the music charts. They would be riding tour buses, getting their hair and makeup done, working it on fashion shoots, and of course, rocking it out in concert, in style. And, they wouldn't be wearing any clothes by the designers of Paris, Milan, London, or New York, they would be wearing clothes designed by me.
Once the sketches were approved, the dolls went into production over the course of the last three months, three months in Studio Lovechilde, where all I did was eat, breathe, and sweat dolls alongside Jillian, and my faithful cohorts, Coco, QiuQiu, and whoever else jumped on board for the ride to sew a few crystals or spray paint a couple of shoes. In addition to the 110 dolls initially proposed by the Paris store, we also undertook an additional 50 dolls for their Casablanca and Strasbourg stores, 20 dolls for the opening of a new Barneys New York store based in Fukuoka Japan, (where I am writing from now--more on that to follow soon!), and another 110 commercial dolls to be produced at a more affordable price point, being sold for retail on the store shelves during the season.
Everything was going smoothly, ready to be shipped, photographed and sent to Paris. All we needed was three more days to finalize the last few details and shoot the dolls-- and then, New York was slapped in the face by Hurricane Irene. We had to stop production, and pack up the studio---hastily boxing up months of blood, sweat, tears, and doll parts, and shlepping them to my apartment.
The wasteland- chinatown bags filled with dolls, drawers of trims and notions, Barneys Japan dresses, and a bed rarely slept in.
But we had a backup plan. Because of the lost days we would ship what we had to Paris, carry the rest, and finish the work there.
Hours after landing, we went with the display and exhibit team to the Phillip Stark designed Kong, one of the only restaurants in Paris with a proper view of the Seine, the Louis Vuitton headquarters, and the haunted and empty Samaritaine. And then, as soon as lunch was done, we were whisked off three floors below the ground level of the corporate offices of Galeries Lafayette, where Jillian and I set up shop and finished what we started.
The five commercial dolls, the first ever limited edition dressed Kouklitas dolls. They will retail for 150€.
After those last days of working, and photographing, we were rewarded with a visit to the studio of Jean-Claude Dehix, the maestro puppeteer who will make the Kouklitas dance, whose son will make the Kouklitas dance in the Casablanca windows, and whose father and grandfather made hundreds of puppets come alive in the windows of Galeries Lafayette and Printemps for the last century , and many other stores, parks, and events worldwide.
Rock and Noel. I'll see you in Paris!
For more behind the scenes photos of my dolly daze of a summer, click here.