GlamourOZ

by Dutch Fashion Doll World

2016 is almost over. And today one of my favorite Fashion Doll blogs TommyDoll brought us some very exciting news about a new line of 1:4 scale fashion dolls by the doll artists Jozef Szekeres.

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Tommy interviewed the Australian doll artist and I am honored to share this interview with some amazing first sneak pictures of this new doll line.

I think 2017 is going to be a very exciting doll year.

Tommydoll (TD): I love how you draw inspiration from Indigenous Australian themes and marry that with your own family – it’s reminiscent of Robert Tonner, but also very unique. How did Australia inspire you in characters, sculpts, and those wonderful 60s-inspired (yet very up-to-date) fashions from Stephen Moor – more specifically, how did you piece it all together into the exotic, glamorous and dangerous world of the Bizelle Sisters?

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Jozef Szekeres (JS): Thank you Tommy, I appreciate you taking this time to interview me, and introduce my new line of GlamourOz Dolls to the Fashion Doll Collectors around the world.

“Launching a new line of Australian Fashion Dolls born from Oz could only be complete with its inclusion of the very first Indigenous Australian Fashion Doll character…“

Now to your first question (I hope they’re not all this complex, well then again… bring it on!), I’d like to begin by paying my respects to all the Indigenous Australians, the traditional custodians of my homeland. Launching a new line of Australian Fashion Dolls born from Oz could only be complete with its inclusion of the very first Indigenous Australian Fashion Doll character (that I know of).

My father, an accomplished artist in his life with his day job as a house painter, was an avid art collector, and on occasion would do his trade literally for the trade of art. As a child, I remember one hallway of my parents’ home had the most amazing Indigenous Australian artwork hanging on both sides that my father acquired in this way, and it’s still there today. So he instilled early in me a great respect for all art, whether tribal, western, and even sculptural. I had the opportunity in my early adult years to visit the Thankakali Broken Hill Indigenous Community, and do a comicbook workshop for and with the children and adults there. The elders were excited to show their own art, and describe that beyond the visual aesthetics, all the art elements had great symbolic meaning, and showed how it can be read sequentially… A visual arts language, their own ancient “comicbook” language.

I’ve seen Indigenous Australian dolls before, but only as baby, child, or adult souvenir dolls from my youth. I even have an Australian Barbie Club convention souvenir doll using an African-American Shani doll as an Indigenous Australian stand in. But to my memory, I’ve not yet seen a sculpt created specifically to be an Indigenous Australian Fashion Doll, as we understand Fashion Dolls to be. So when creating the head-sculpts in preparation for my new doll line, with intention I created one to be an Indigenous Australian, looking to the Australian supermodel scene as my inspiration to respectfully capture their distinct features and beauty.

Being Australian, I wanted all of my characters from my first release of my new line to be of and from Australia. From inspirations of Elle “The Body” Macpherson, to the gorgeousness of proportions and beauty of Olivia Newton John’s Sandy (from “Grease”) and that of our beloved songbird Kylie Minogue (a favourite of my father’s). However growing up in Australia, media focused primarily on Western-looking personalities. Thankfully that is changing and Asian-Australians are rightfully represented in media today too, and therefore my line would not be complete without its own Asian Australian Catwalk Model.

Three of my character head-sculpts have their names taken from my family members. My sister is Elizabet Kotalin, and our mother is Lucille. Bindi is a traditional name from the Sydney Darug Tribe, meaning “beautiful butterfly” or “beautiful girl“, depending on which tribe’s dialect is used. Also, Bindi Irwin has recently brought that name to international prominence, and as a nation, we’re all very proud of our “Dancing With The Stars” winning girl

Stephen Moor’s artwork entered my life when my sister married his son. I was in my mid teens, and I guess he saw I had some artistic aptitude and leanings, and he took me under his artistic wing. I knew of his fashion sketches rather early, but only later realised that though he was a nationally successful Who’s Who of Australian artists, he had never published or seen his fashion works from the 60s – 70s realised. When he gave me his folder of fashion sketches, he urged me to look into entering fashion, saying he hoped his fashions could help me or inspire me, and that I could use them if I wanted or needed to. At the time, I had already established my own artistic career path as a young Disney 2D animator, so though deeply touched, his fashions sketches were only shared within the family. However, I knew on an instinctive level that this 80 strong fashion sketch collection needed to be kept whole and complete, and was significant to Australian fashion history.

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I’ve always visualised that I’d do my own line of dolls, even when at school and told one of the teachers, who sarcastically said “As if” and “Dream on“… and I took that backhanded advice, and did dream on. I at first thought I had fulfilled that dream wish when I did my first Elizabet Bizelle line in 2003. But my passion for dolls has only grown stronger over time, and somehow, everything in my artistic experience seemed to funnel down and compress into this singularity that has become my new GlamourOz Dolls line. It’s my own personal Big Bang! 

TD: It’s interesting that many of the world’s countries have their own spin on ‘era fashion’ – such as the 1960s – what is Australia’s take on the colors, clothes and textures then?

JS: Australian fashion was built on (or maybe from) the backs of Merino Sheep. Wool, and earthy colours are quintessentially Australian. Though the Mod fashions were emulated in Australia, the Aussie take focused on geometric yet deceptively simple classic shapes. That’s why I think Stephen Moor’s fashions are so iconically 60s Australian, yet also look ever so modern today.

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TD: Describe the relationship between the sisters – do we have Elsa and Anna, or do we have Cinderella and Drizella?

JS: Ahh, Disney either way! You can’t go wrong with either choice. However, with edition titles like “Double-Cross Cover-Up”, “Secret Garden-Path”, and “Ribbon Reveal”, you know there’s “something” going down!

TD: How do we see the characters in Moor’s clothing designs…I get the fashions are for all the dolls, but who is more likely to wear what…and why?

JS: Elizabet is my lead girl, so I see her comfortably in anything. She wears Double-Cross Cover-Up, because it’s cheeky, sexy and fun, the 60s mini skirt of the line. I created the jacket design to go with the mini dress, originally as a value add, but now they are inseparable to me. She’s a blonde that has “more fun” in the mainline of this garment set. In the limited variant, she’s a fiery redhead, not to be toyed with lest you get burned.

Secret Garden-Path Elizabet – softly glamorous in a statement 60s young-green evening spiral path gown. Her copper red hairstyle revisits her signature hair design originally worn in her 2003 release, “Dangerous Discovery“!

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Ribbon Reveal Kotalin – high class all the way. Sexy high in its reveal-through panel detailing, married to a classy silhouette. For some reason I get Marilyn Monroe in “Niagara” when I see her in this garment, especially from behind… for that full minute walk. Blonde for the mainline, and long and Ginger with a 60s bump for the limited variant edition. For this garment, the bridal white sketch has been transformed into a beautiful warm salmon pink.

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Glittering Gala Kotalin – silvery in a gun metal sequence gown, once again emphasises her high glamour. Her brownette hair design inspired by Stephen Moors fashion sketches, with length added at the back for fun hair play (I’m thinking of you, Darko!).

Bjeran Bindi (Cool Begins) – from the Nyoongar Indigenous Australian calendar,
describes the beginning of Winter. With beautiful lines, shapes and textures that embody the bush edged Australian outback, this jacket keeps her warm in the desert cool beginning nights of winter.

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Yawkyawk Billabong Bindi (Mermaid Pool) – Yawkyawk is a word from the Aboriginal Kunwinjku/Kunwok language, meaning ‘young woman’ and ‘young woman spirit being’. Sometimes compared to the European notion of mermaids, Yawkyawks are usually depicted with the tails of fish. They have long hair, associated with trailing blooms of algae, typically found in Arnhem Land streams and rock pools.

Lucille wears Yum Cha Cha-Cha – which embodies her classy sophisticated lady, and “Anything Goes” toe tapping nature, ready to star in a musical opening number… Think Willie Scott, from Temple of Doom.

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TD: Why not begin them in 12”, instead…it’s a much larger market. Was this a personal passion for the scale – or a need to fill a huge gap in the 16” plastic/vinyl fashion doll world (compared to the rise of Gene and Tyler – who thought we would ever be asking this question?)?

JS: My passion has been with the 16″ dolls since Mel Odom introduced his glorious Gene Marshall doll in 1995. My thanks always goes out to Mel, for without his brave vision, there’d be no 16″ dolls in the wake of Gene’s creation for us to enjoy.

I do collect 12″ dolls, and love them, and maybe one day I’ll explore that scale as well. Though it’s a much larger market to explore and appeal to, I also think it’s saturated with product, by companies and producers with deep financial pockets to back them, and therefore a harder market to enter as a solo doll artist/producer.

Moving forward beyond this first year’s mainline release focussing on Stephen Moor’s designs, and then releasing a new GODs line with these sculpts, using my own fashion designs for the next year, I’d like to explore a new sculpt variant of the female GODs body, releasing that with its own range of new character head-sculpts. Beyond that, I’d like to start the new sculpt of my own male doll companion to my female GODs, as she’s as tall or taller then most of the 17″ male dolls already in the Fashion Doll market. My goal has always been to have a companion set of female and male fully articulated body sculpts that fit into the 16″ scale Fashion Doll world, that work together stylistically and aesthetically.

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TD: The clothing is amazingly detailed…how are the prototypes varying from production samples – what can the collector expect?

JS: The history of the garment factory I’m working with is… impressive, as is their internal quality control. I will also be overseeing aspects of this production, and do my own quality control. The collector can expect to see garments created at the very best of market quality.

Now having established this fantastic working relationship with this garment factory, and seeing how beautifully they are realising Stephen Moor’s designs… I can see that they’ll be more then able to realise my own designs that will be the focus of the next future mainline release.

Wearing other makers’ 16″ doll clothing

TD: Your price points are much higher than the perceived standard of Tonner and Integrity hard plastic (and given how widely discounted they are, even more so) – but more on range in price, quality and appearance of Superdoll. How does price factor into your collection?

JS: As a start up, all the expenses are my own: the time I devoted to the Super Sculpy original 22″ sculpt and its eventual factory scanning, the 3D work to resize to 16″ scale, the physical 3D prototyping, the mold making, the face stencil mold making, the hair fibre purchases in various c.g, the flights to and from China, the accommodation and personal travel insurance. The cost to produce the entire run… Everything, the production costs included are way higher then I thought they would be. And add to that, its eventual shipping. All these things add up, and I don’t have corporate financial backing. I think for a start up solo creator of a line of vinyl/hard plastic new Fashion Dolls, and the quality delivered, USD$300 for a complete boxed 16″ doll is a pretty good deal, especially when I currently see this similar price point for 12″ dolls by independent Fashion Doll producers. So if collectors like what they see, and want to see more, then please do show your support in buying the product/s I’ve made. 

TD: Staining from dyes onto vinyl is a reality – how are you addressing the issue?

JS: With plastic wraps where needed, protecting the vinyl.

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TD: You’re including a certificate of authenticity…really? It’s an added cost…why not just let the markings on the doll suffice? Is there more to the certificate that a critic like me is missing?

JS: I personally have never cared for certificates to identify a dolls’ authenticity, nor taken much notice of the actual numbering of the dolls I’ve collected, because I’ve never intended to resell them once they’ve become mine. Some certificates I keep because they’re nicely designed, most get trashed with the box as space is limited these days. But I do know that some collectors do like them, and it is good to have on it information for clarity about the total number produced in the limited edition run.

The rollout of the first dolls will have many variants, satisfying collectors’ desires for exclusivity and diversity in tastes. We may even see a retailer exclusive, however, the first dolls will be available directly from GlamourOz, which I am certain will help the sculptor/maker with his rising cost risks associated with a hard plastic/vinyl doll; however, it will mean higher than normal shipping costs to the US – so don’t be surprised by this.

Given how retailers really aren’t fans of doll makers’ need to re-coup costs and increase market share, I’d rather see Szekeres continue to sell directly, thereby paying off his self-investment early and allowing him to expand the collection faster. Ultimately, it would be great to see him fond a sole US and/or European-based distributor (rather than a retailer who will just discount the product to stay competitive).

I am proud Szekeres agreed to let Tommydoll be the first news on this (and with rollout by friends at Fashion Doll Chronicles and Dutch Fashion Doll World Blogs – arguably, two of the best bloggers out there – two I invited, because I am just not that big to solely break this exciting news). It will be interesting to see if how he will strategize his introduction to the media and potential retailers willing to sell his product at full price, and not succumb to lazy discounting to move product – which means – oh, boohoo – ADVERTISING. It’s ok, Dears…you only have one magazine today to drop those ads in that will reach the right audience, but it will mean you will have to WORK for those profit dollars – vultures.

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TD: Tell us more about your sales rollout – will it be pre-orders…dolls ready to ship…combo of both?

JS: It’ll probably be a combo of both, as their pre-sales will go straight to the factory to help offset some of the production costs. Last time around, I took no pre-orders, just notes of interest. And I’ve learned collectors can be fickle (as we all can be), and easily distracted unless they’ve made a financial commitment. There are commitments on both sides that need to be in place, respected and valued, for what they bring to each other. 

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TD: What is your plan to offset the high cost of shipping to places outside Australia?

JS: As a collector of mostly American Fashion Dolls, added shipping per doll is usually about USD$50 to $70 for each doll I purchase. So I understand that shipping will factor in price for some collectors. I will be looking into having a choice of delivery suppliers that may offer different delivery options and price points.

TD: Are you currently talking to any retailers with whom you may come to an exclusive distribution arrangement outside Australia?

JS: I’ve had discussions with a few retailers, but nothing conclusive about exclusive distribution arrangements. With the economy climate as it is, most retailers have said they’d want to see a demonstrated demand, before committing to a new doll line, which is a catch 22, and then only with orders in the low to mid 2 digit numbers. So my start up focus will be to sell direct from my online store. 

TD: Tell us your concept of the ‘Basic Doll’…will there be one…or only dressed dolls and clothing?

JS: For the mainline of 8 dolls and 2 limited variants, all of them will be released as dressed dolls. I imagine a basic doll would be in either a swimsuit, lingerie or simple outfit, however there will be no basics or separate clothing this time around, that’ll have to wait to follow in the future. The gravy that comes after securing survival. Thankfully, the GlamourOz dolls wear most of the competitor garments with ease and comfort, even elevating them to a catwalk presentation. Catalogue models are beautiful, but do we remember their names? Supermodels are known by name! I like to see my girls as Catwalk Supermodels.

I could see as an extension of the mainline if there’s popular demand, releasing garment sets inspired by the fashion designs of Stephen Moor, or even future dressed dolls too… some of which will appear on the box art to celebrate his 60s fashions. They are all such amazing fashion designs, I’d love to honour his incredible work and see each of them realised eventually.

AS WOULD WE…

TD: What has been your biggest business challenge in developing a marketing plan with social media being the hungriest attention whores out there?

JS: Thankfully, I was accepted into the Australian government funded MTC NEIS program nearing the end of 2015, where I did a fully funded business course over a 6 week period, where I got the grounding information I’d need to launch and sustain my startup business and marketing strategies. The greatest asset of the NEIS program’s commitment to the startup businesses is to have a business mentor available for them for 12 months. It has been good to have someone with business knowledge to bounce off and share some of the hardships with, who can also offer real guidance.

I think the biggest marketing challenge thus far has been deciding when is the best time to release information, as I know new news gets stale quickly on the net these days, especially when the reader isn’t privy to the reasons why there may be delays or time slips. But now I feel is the right time, and with your extensive industry history and experience, and with the respect and wisdom that comes with that, you and your blog is the right person and place… Including your blog flow on partners.

TD: Are you going to have a ‘club’ (please say, ‘no’)?

JS: I’m a member of a couple company toy clubs, and I do love the ease of assuring certain releases, without having to chase them down. This helps greatly being an international member. And it’s also a place where brand loyal collectors can congregate and share their mutual love. So, knowing how company collector clubs have helped me,… I’m not opposed to it, but I’m not yet ready to set up one of my own just now.

TD: Hopes/Plans/Expectations for your first doll event?

JS: There’s a strong, but small Fashion Doll collector base in Australia, with me being one of these collectors. Most of the Fashion Dolls we collect seem to come from America, and we often feel our island country’s isolation, or distance from the main doll events. I hope to launch my dolls first to the Australian Fashion doll collector base, and grow it from there to an international audience. I’d love to see a yearly GODs Fashion Doll convention based in Australia to be added to the international must m-attend events.

In 2017, I’d like to attend the main Fashion Doll conventions in America, Europe, and other international locations, to introduce my new doll line, and meet the collectors.

TD: Collectors like to meet and greet the creator…think Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Will you Howard Hughes it…or go on a world-wide Rainbow Tour? I think we’d be happy to Crowd Fund your tour.

JS: I’d love to meet and greet with collectors all over the world. So I’ll definitely make myself available to do so. Certainly it would be an honour to be the recipient of a funded convention or tour visit.

TD: Seriously, though…you must be scared – doll collectors are so fickle – you’re placing a great deal of risk in their confidence. I hope you also market to the Action Figure folks because of the ‘Spy’ storyline.

JS: I’m a Fashion Doll collector, so I know I can be fickle at times, too – a pretty new thing can certainly get my attention over an equally pretty older item, causing me to miss out on the older item and then have to seek it out as a more expensive grail item. But I’m also very brand loyal and supportive of those brands I love and collect. My hope is that my dolls and brand will attract its own loyal collectors, that will want what I do now and in the future.

Most action figure products are licensed pop culture, rather then original fare – like He-Man, She-Ra, Jem and Transformers – the toys are released concurrently with their own pop culture vehicle (in these cases, animated TV series) to anchor their products to. Most action figure collectors will buy an action figure, even a bad one, with a character they already recognise or have a pop culture connection with, over a well made action figure of a character they don’t yet know. What’s different about fashion dolls, that I love, is they can survive entirely on their own merits without an established pop culture reference. And the Fashion Doll collector thrives on discovering something new… A new story, new fashion, new face, new body, new characters. I’m sure there is some crossover, but they seem to come from different ends of the spectrum. 

My two 2006 releases, “Woman in Red” Elizabet Bizelle, and “Birthday Bash” Kotalin Bizelle, were inspired by The Matrix film. Describing it thus to a fashion doll collector, they got the concept straight up… “Inspired by fashions”, and if they liked it, they bought it. But when these same dolls were placed in action figure stores, the action figure collectors there would ask “Who are they?” I’d say they’re fashion dolls inspired by The Matrix, and the collector’s response would be, “Nicely made, but if it’s not Trinity or a character or exact fashion I recognise from the film… then I’m not interested”. Lessons learnt.

TD: Plans for accessory sets…where will you go with this? Will there be guns?

JS: No plans as yet for accessory sets of this nature. But who knows what the future will bring.

TD: What is your direct message to the people who would just look at the doll and say, ‘It’s not my thing.’ Knowing it’s because it’s plastic, a fashion doll, 16”, or otherwise competes with one of their faves like Ellowyne, Gene, Superdoll, et al?

JS: I’ve never been a fan of big headed dolls, so I’ve never collected Ellowyne, but I have and still collect Tonner Fashion Dolls that I love that speak to my aesthetic. Gene is a Fashion Doll icon, in all her incarnations, and she holds a special place in my heart and collection. The Superdoll Sybarites are incomparably the Fashion Doll Divas, and always will be in the Fashion Doll world at large and within my own collection. The Fashion Royalty 16″ (FR16) dolls by Integrity Toys are my favourite body sculpt currently on the market. Some of my favourite and loved dolls that I own aren’t 16″ fashion dolls, but their aesthetic and fashion sense and quality of sculpt resonates with me, like the beautiful dolls by New Zealand doll creator Jan MacLean. And there are other dolls that I love and have yet purchased, but intend to in the future, like “First Love” male Fashion Dolls by Joey Versaw. I won’t stop collecting the dolls out there by other brands and creators I love and support just because I’ve created my own doll, and I don’t expect other collectors to do that either if they start collecting mine. There is room in the Fashion Doll world to love many brands. What I’m offering is a new doll and brand to love amongst your other established Fashion Doll loves.

As to the nay-sayers, and the haters of plastic, 16″, or Fashion Dolls… I’ve had friends tell me I’m wasting my time and talent, and that my dolls look no different from the pack. I’ve had these same friends tell me that my doll’s body is offensive to them, and that they’re just not even interested to know more…. A simple “good luck” from these friends would have sufficed. But I understand each persons’ personal path informs them of what is of value to them, and these friends are not my target audience, and will never see what I see or am trying to achieve. If I can take this from friends, I’m well prepared to take similar from strangers.

I’d rather invest my energy into impressing the supporting friends and collectors who love my dolls. As RuPaul has said, “I’m too busy loving the people who love me“.

I’ve created what I’ve wanted and needed in the Fashion Doll world that I felt was not there for me already as a collector. My hope is that others will resonate with that same want and need, whether it’s been there for a while, or newly discovered when they see my GlamourOz dolls for the first time.

If you’d like to know more, or be added to my mailing list, please contact me via my website: www.glamourozdolls.com