1989: The creation of Mdvanii
After the immense success story with the Barbie doll BillyBoy* decides to move on, feeling the urge to express in total freedom his own creative ideas. He invents his own "fashion doll", this time a brand new concept: not a commercially-made toy for children but a sophisticated and artistic creation for adults only. While the exclusive fashion doll existed before in history, they mostly were for children to play with. Even the original "Theatre de la mode" in 1945, whilst created by artists (head by reknowned French sculptor Rebull, wire body concept by the famous Saint Martin and Cocteau) they were abandoned without thought at the end of the show since it was basically a sophisticated advertising for the haute couture industry in France after the war. At the time it was not something to be kept as artwork which it only much later would be considered.
This Mdvanii concept was an interactive artwork from the very beginning, with a very specific conceptual marketing (like dolls of the 1960s, using all the same references, which was an appealing artistic idea for BillyBoy* considering his previous work). Mdvanii was geared only to adults, from serious art collectors to serious doll collectors (who differ greatly in their approach to the subject) and all people with a curiousity for this unusual and new idea. It was and still is very highly controversial to use a "doll" as a work of contemporary art.
In 1989, the new revolutionary fashion doll is presented for the first time. She is named Mdvanii and her concept is extremely new and daring. She is not commercially-made and is created in an genuine artistic way, and as a camp manifesto artwork. Conceived for adult collectors she is "anatomically correct", made in resin, entirely hand-made and hand-painted. She is made in very limited editions (the biggest one, for F.A.O Schwarz was of 200 examples and three outfits, 600 in total) and she is distributed in a very exclusive way. Her wardrobe is luxurious, made in the tradition of French high fashion. She has real hair (although sometimes yak for the white hair and synthetic hair for special hairdos) and her wigs are graced with the signature of world-famous hairdresser Alexandre de Paris, whose logo has been created by Jean Cocteau. The illustration on her box is by mythical fashion illustrator René Gruau, her catalogue sketches are by American portraitist and former Barbie illustrator Clyde Smith. But Mdvanii is not only a collectible doll, she has a whole discourse: the texts presenting her and her fashions read like a camp manifesto, the true expression of an artistic creation, which give her a real and unique personality. These texts, written by BillyBoy* (and inspired by Diana Vreeland for whom he was her protégé) would influence doll makers and manufacturers from there on in!
Thanks to the initiative of Carol Lister, Mdvanii is "launched" at LIBERTY, London on February 14, 1989 after several years of artistic development with many different technicians and artisans, and endless developing of her wardrobe, visuals, physiognomy and "personality", which was entirely developed and designed by BillyBoy*. Her body is an original sculpting based on the style of dolls all over the world during the 1950s, 60s and 70s known as "the fashion doll", with an adult body, but BillyBoy* took it much further by not only the look, but the concept. He deliberately made her stylized almost like a cubist painting and appealingly unrealistic but proportioned in human scale, and based on the look of a number of people in his life, notably his adopted mother Dee, and his eccentric aunt, muse to artists in the 20s and 30s.
Although each decision and idea came from him, he continuously asked for the opinion of Lala with his exacting eye and refined culture, so BillyBoy* feels the final result is not exclusively his, but the symbiosis of him and Lala. As for all places where Mdvanii is available, LIBERTY of London proposed exclusive creations, many incorporating the famous Liberty fabrics. In the same way, Mdvanii has been launched and represented in Japan exclusively by Sumiko Watanabe, with unique pieces and exclusive limited series with a special label. Almost immediately Mdvanii became iconic that it even created a few copists in the ensuing years who, due to the rarity of Mdvanii for them to collect, they felt justified in plagarizing her. However, nothing will ever carry the enigmatic appeal and cachet of this revolutionary concept and unique art work. A real Mdvanii is a REAL Mdvanii and nothing can replace the allure of an original Mdvanii of this early period. This early period now has a following of admirers who are literally obsessed with these highly individualized early works.
Mdvanii in America
Mdvanii is launched in New York at the prestigious store F.A.O Schwarz.
Between 1990 and 1993, several different new characters will be added to Mdvanii's world, creating the start of a whole entourage for her: Dheei (1990) Rhogit-Rhogit et Zhdrick (1991), Soraya (1992), Edie et Tzulli (1992) The first male dolls which appeared in 1992 were also sexually defined and had a condom and a text promoting Safe Sex in their box.
Mdvanii will be welcomed by a full-page article in THE NEW YORK TIMES titled “Beautiful But No Bimbo: A Doll For The 1990s”. Soon after she will be launched at F.A.O Schwarz in NYC and in others places thoughout the USA. Other press coverage include articles in THE SUNDAY TIMES, VOGUE, HARPER’S BAZAAR, ELLE, ACTUEL, GLAMOUR, MARIE CLAIRE, L’OFFICIEL, VOGUE, CONTEMPORARY DOLL MAGAZINE, and even PLAYBOY and LUI etc..
BillyBoy* is also regularily sollicitated to write for the international press on subjects related to contemporary art, high fashion history, fashion dolls and also doll’s houses and decoration. Mdvanii is photographed by artists Christine Spengler, Pierre Rutschi, Antoine Giacomoni as well as by mythical Studio Harcourt.
In the early 1990s also, Surreal Bijoux is transfered from the Rue de la Paix to Rue du Cherche-Midi in Paris. An ancient butcher shop from the 1910s, with its original exterior decoration (Belle-époque enameled paintings and meat hooks) is turned inside into an all "Shocking Pink" box, with authentic Paul Poiret furniture lacquered pink, dedicated to Mdvanii and BillyBoy* jewels. Two other rooms include the office of Surreal Productions (with its newly invented fax machine!) and the large atelier were the dolls are actually mounted, painted and dressed.
From April to May 1990, 100 pieces of BillyBoy* own high fashion collection are shown at Cours Mont Royal in Montreal, Canada. They include masterpieces by Paul Poiret, Elsa Schiaparelli, Coco Chanel, Jeane Lanvin, Madeleine Vionnet, Jean Patou, Christian Dior, Cristobal Balenciaga, and many, many more. BillyBoy* writes his manifesto "Why I Collect Butterflies And Not Stamps" and makes an analogy between the fragility and the ephemeral nature of high fashion garments with the one of the butterflies. The title of the exhibition is “Le Grand Tra La La”. Mdvanii is featured in the show and makes her first appearance in Quebec at GianFranco Ferré's boutique.
The "Le Grand Tra La La" is shown at Bloomingsdale's, New York in the "Vive La France" exhibition.
During these exhibitions, Mdvanii is availaible at Gianfranco Ferre's Boutique in Montreal and on special order to Surreal Productions in Paris at Bloomingdale's.
In 1991 (until 1993), BillyBoy* is starring guest on the most popular weekly French TV show starring Christine Bravo, called “Merci et encore Bravo”. He is featured in humouristic sketches and mock-parodies about how to be "glamorous" in which he appears in unusual settings, Surrealistic, Baroque and Pop Art at the same time, in hilarious costumes and eccentric situations. Called “Art de Vivre” de BillyBoy*" they were written by Lala and often filmed in their parisian apartment, the famous apartment of impressionist painter Vuillard.
1992: BillyBoy* published with Maeght Editeur, “Bleuette, la petite fille modèle de la Collection BillyBoy*”. Considered today by many a collector as the “Gûtenberg Bible of Bleuette", this 990-page book is the ultimate anthology on the first popular fashion doll which has been a reflection of French high fashion and society from 1905 to 1960. On this occasion, BillyBoy* created his own Petite Fille Modèle doll in homage to Bleuette. Also entirely hand-made in his atelier, this collector’s doll has been made in very limited series (about 200 examples in total). La Petite fille modèle is the only creation of BillyBoy* which was created for children, as well as adults.
1993: BillyBoy* directs with Lala a video clip for the Japanese band “SuzySusie”. It becomes a Top of the Pops favourite for 17 weeks!
The photographic exhibition “Le Jardin Secret de Mdvanii by BillyBoy* sponsored by the FNAC galleries and stores travels in different cities of France for three years. Just before the end of the tour, the trunks containing the entire collection are stolen! A poetic and humourous text was written by Edmund White, the visionary author who invented the term “gay author”.
BillyBoy* models on the runway for Yohji Yamamoto.
The magazine L’OFFICIEL runs a 14-page feature story on BillyBoy* titled “L’incroyable BillyBoy*”. On this occasion, Mdvanii is presented as the “Ambassador of French High Fashion” and is dressed by Thierry Mugler, Torrente, Louis Féraud, Révillon Haute Fourrure (where she'd be presented during the runway fashion shows along with the human-sized furs), and others as well as by BillyBoy*. The magazine has their own exclusive Mdvaniis for special clients and was available through the magazine dressed as she was on the cover of this iconic french fashion review. For VOGUE Hommes, there are creations by Claude Montana, Nina Ricci, Balenciaga, and many,many others.
See L'OFFICIEL (pages 292 to 301) http://patrimoine.jalougallery.com/lofficiel-de-la-mode-numero_774-1992-detail-13-793.html
In 1993, BillyBoy* and Lala decide to leave Paris and move to the Normandy coast to a house by the sea in Trouville (next to Deauville) in September. From this date, BillyBoy* decides to withdraw himself from the public attention and refuses all interview and press coverage. This decision will be kept until 2005.
In 1993, BillyBoy* becomes officially an expert and member of the Union Française des Experts, specialized in high fashion and textile history, contemporary art and fashion dolls (and toys in general). This highly prestigious organization encouraged him where he assisted auctions for Millon, Tajan and others, worked with the experts Camard and family, wrote catalogues and helped set record prices for things at auction via his expertise. Being an expert in France has the status of someone with the legal responibility in which the experts word enters into any legal dispute and requires the studies and internship for five years to be authorized.
From 1994 and 1997, BillyBoy* and Lala develop the artistic evolution of Mdvanii, which will be made in porcelaine, as all the members of the tribe. New "teenage" boy and girl dolls are included in the Mdvanii family. Tzulli, Muio-Bix, Ishwar, Jobbi, Yucef, Ouimi (1996-97).
During this highly creative period, several other fashion dolls are created: Mademoiselle Rivière and Bénedict, wooden dolls inspired by the eccentric fashions of the Merveilleuses and Incroyables which were the fashionistas of the French revolution: entirely hand-carved and hand made by fishermen in Honfleur, a neighbouring seatown, they are dressed in antique fabrics from the times. Lala hand-finished the roughly carved dolls and painted them, like he has been doing now since many years for all of their artworks and Mdvanii and family pieces. Prior to his painting every Mdvanii, he had a staff of employees, specially trained artisans in the workshop, who reproduced exactly his prototypes. Every season had it's own make-up styles and colours entirely designed and named by BillyBoy*. Another doll creation is the boudoir-style doll ZIBBI, “the Modern-Age” doll” inspired by the Weiner Werkstätte and dressed with authentic Art Deco fabrics.
Mdvanii’s nature as a revolutionary fashion doll for adults has evolved and is now defined as “a sculpture with a lifestyle”. Mdvanii artworks are regularly exposed in Japan.
A selection of BillyBoy*’s own wardrobe composed of Vivienne Westwood, John Galliano and Jean Paul Gaultier is included in the exhibition "Art and Fashion 1960-1990" in Brussels, Belgium - Le Musée des Beaux-Arts. For the opening BillyBoy* creates stupor while wearing the original runway example of the famous Yves Saint Laurent “Mondrian” dress from his own collection.
In June 1997, BillyBoy* et Lala decide to leave France and move from Trouville to Lausanne, in Switzerland.