by Tia Janowski
On September 18th, By Cookie H presented their newest collection “Living Dolls” at London Fashion Week in Shoreditch. Hosted by Fashion Scout, the showcase featured hauntingly beautiful garments in an array of dusty pink, blue and white that would make anyone nostalgic for their childhood dolls.
By Cookie H, established in New Zealand in 2008, is defined by its focus on handmade techniques and signature colours; black, grey, and white. According to the press release, written by Portia Shaw, this follows Cookie H’s beliefs that handmade customization and creation bring life to every part of the fabric. This is a defining element in “Living Dolls”, giving the items a charm that would otherwise be hard to produce. Inspired by her seven-year-old daughter, this collection was created to celebrate childhood wonder, innocence and imagination by exploring the fascinating stories children create from mundane ideas. In the press release, Cookie H says that; “I believe fashion is a canvas for personal stories, a means of expressing individual identity. The traces of time, the stories behind each piece, and the artistry of craftsmanship make our designs come alive,”.
In this collection, Cookie H repurposed old vintage fabrics and items, remaking them into new garments that pay homage to their past inspiration. This vintage style gives the dresses a classic feminine look reminiscent of doll clothing, while also updating them to suit modern fashion. This is evident in the prevalent use of lace and ruching combined with exposed circle skirts, uneven edges and typically ‘non-feminine’ colours. Each fabric was carefully chosen to ensure the pieces were not only comfortable but also unique, with a focus on natural fibres like cotton, wool, and linen.
The showcase separated the collection by colour, beginning with pink and ending with black before revealing the final look, which circled the collection back around to the initial softness. As the colours strayed from typical ‘feminine’ shades such as pink and white to darker tones of black and grey, the designs got more dramatic and dimensional. This unique use of darker colours deviates from the typical association with dolls and brings in the brand's signature design elements. The garments in each colour theme were harmoniously coordinated, with unique styling and dress shapes for each section of the show. The champagne designs featured flared dresses and hoop skirts with lace, while the pink dresses lacked shoes and included tulle elements. As the collection progressed and the colours became darker, the garments incorporated styles and themes from previous, distinct colour sets.
The final look of the showcase was a bridal-doll-inspired dress. This design combined many features seen throughout the collection but repurposed them in a new and formal way. This is seen in the exposed hoop skirt, tulle fabric and flowers across the chest. With the dress being pure white, as opposed to other garments that were more faded and off-coloured, it allowed it to really stand out in the collection and show this doll as what it is, a child’s favourite. The flowers on the dress were all in colours seen throughout the collection, allowing it to be cohesive with the rest of the designs despite its starkness. Styled with a veil and a doll in hand acting as a bouquet, this look was a really unique take on bridal wear whilst still maintaining the original inspiration.
The showcase's focus on styling tied everything together. The models' doll-like makeup, with underlined lips and white under their eyes, inspired their overall look. To complement their appearance, each model held a doll that matched their style, adding a personal touch and showcasing the individuality of each design. Paired with electronic music, it was easy to imagine these models as real dolls and this highlighted the collection's goals of embracing individuality.
As a whole, this collection was cohesive whilst not being repetitive despite having such a specific inspiration. Dolls are often portrayed as either extremely feminine or creepy in the media. By using both classic and darker tones, this collection combined both of these elements in a beautiful way that made the garments wearable and fashionable. The designs brought the space to life, with each model telling a story and making the inspiration shine through. By Cookie H saw potential in childhood imagination and brought it to life to create “Living Dolls”.