All dolled up

> This dress­maker is tilt­ing the scales in the haute cou­ture scene

The Sun (Malaysia) - - FASHION - BY RACHEL LAW

WHO’S to say that boys and dolls don’t gel? Ryan Liang grew up de­vel­op­ing an affin­ity for dolls, and even learnt to sew clothes for them from his tai­lor mother. His in­ter­est lived beyond his child­hood and be­came a pet project in his work life, as the Pa­hang na­tive would or­ches­trate then pho­to­graph fash­ion ed­i­to­ri­als – mod­elled by dolls, of course – on his off days as a graphic de­signer.

Never in a mil­lion years, how­ever, would Liang have thought that he could dress dolls for a liv­ing. When he first started sell­ing his de­signs, it was re­ally to make money in or­der to ex­pand his col­lec­tion of fig­urines, but Shan­tommo (www.shan­tommo. com) quickly be­came a fully fledged business in a lit­tle over a year when Liang couldn’t cope with the or­ders.

Un­like col­lec­tors of toys such as Lego and Gun­dam, col­lec­tors of dolls are vir­tu­ally un­heard of here. For­tu­nately for Liang, Shan­tommo is not only sur­viv­ing, but thriv­ing on sales made mostly from the US and the re­main­ing 20% from the UK. The minia­ture cou­ture gar­ments he de­signs are priced from US$48 (RM200).

“Doll col­lect­ing among grown-ups is quite com­mon in the US. Half of my clien­tele is re­tired and they’re just hav­ing fun with this,” en­light­ened the 28-year-old.

Liang shared that his cus­tomers usu­ally

CAN you imag­ine be­ing forced to leave be­hind ev­ery­thing you know with only a mo­ment’s no­tice? Can you imag­ine your com­mu­nity and fam­ily be­ing torn apart, your life and your fu­ture un­cer­tain? It’s an every­day re­al­ity for over 60 mil­lion peo­ple around the world, their lives dis­placed by war, per­se­cu­tion and nat­u­ral dis­as­ter. Caught in the cross­fires of po­lit­i­cal re­turn for his work­man­ship and over­all styling of the dolls, the lat­ter he de­scribes as min­i­mal­ist and time­less. “It’s fash­ion I like to see on a woman; I have a thing for an­drog­yny and gen­der-neu­tral­ity. And while it’s min­i­mal­ist I try to make the out­fits time­less so clients can mix and match with gar­ments by other de­sign­ers. “Hav­ing said that, I don’t fo­cus on trends,” said Liang, who cited Bal­main’s Olivier Rouste­ing, Delpozo’s Josep Font and the late Alexan­der McQueen as his in­spi­ra­tions. As with de­sign­ing for hu­man mod­els, dress­ing dolls comes with its own set of de­mands. There is no need for end­less rolls of fab­rics, but Liang noted that the type and va­ri­ety of tex­tile take prece­dent when or­na­ment­ing th­ese mini man­nequins. “The thick­ness and weight of the fab­ric de­ter­mine how it flows when worn on the doll, con­sid­er­ing it’s such a small piece of fab­ric. The waist may ap­pear too buldg­ing if the fab­ric is too thick, so the out­come may not turn out to be what­ever that you’ve vi­su­alised,” ex­plained the ad­ver­tis­ing and graphic de­sign grad­u­ate. He added that pat­terned fab­rics are tricky to play with when it comes to 12- and 16-inch dolls, so the right ma­te­rial has to have a print minute enough to match the scale of his mod­els. None­the­less, Liang is up for the chal­lenge and di­vulged that he’d be in­cor­po­rat­ing prints and a more vi­brant pal­ette into Shan­tommo’s de­signs in 2017, to shake up the neu­trals he’s stuck to for the past year.

Even though Shan­tommo has proven it­self to be a self-sus­tain­ing business – Liang comes up with up to three de­signs ev­ery fort­night (that’s 60 in a year!), and crafts be­tween 40 and 80 or­ders a month with the help of his mother and a team of tai­lors – the soft-spo­ken lad ad­mit­ted that most peo­ple, even friends, do not share pos­i­tive sen­ti­ments about his ca­reer.

“It doesn’t oc­cur to them that dress­ing dolls can pay the bills. The com­mu­nity around us doesn’t prac­tise this hobby, or spend money on dolls. I’d say they look down on me, but it doesn’t bother me be­cause I know what I’m do­ing, and I know my clients.

“There are peo­ple who un­der­stand and ap­pre­ci­ate the art of dress­mak­ing for dolls. They are very gen­er­ous with their en­cour­age­ment. And I’m proud that I’m able to do what I love and sus­tain the business thus far,” Liang ex­pressed. life, even when it comes to what you choose to buy and wear, can have a pro­found ef­fect on oth­ers. The world is con­nected and our ac­tions carry greater weight than we might think. Ar­ti­cles of cloth­ing don’t have to be­come waste. In­stead they can live an­other life and tell an­other story. If who we are and what we be­lieve is truly what we wear ev­ery day, what will you choose to wear?

Shan­tommo’s 2016 Aris­to­cratic Haute Cou­ture col­lec­tion.

Uniqlo do­nates clothes to refugees.

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