Most fashion doll collectors are familiar with her name: Pat Henry is the publisher of Fashion Doll Quarterly, an adult collector publication filled with great articles and exquisite photography about fashion dolls. She is also the author of In Focus: Digital Photography for the Doll Collector. She began collecting fashion dolls in 1990, but truly started at age three, when given her first BarbieTM doll. Fashion dolls have influenced her education and vocation as she embarked on a successful career as an editor and stylist, working for Saks Fifth Avenue, Elle and Vogue magazines, along with well-known retailers like Bloomingdales, Bullocks, Neiman Marcus and Macy's. She teaches part-time as an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Photography Department at the Fashion Institute of Technology. So who better to write a book about one of the greatest doll creators in the world than her?
On the cover: One-of-a-kind 21-inch porcelain model (1991) from the Tonner archives. Photo, by Pat Henry.
The book is of course about Robert Tonner and his fashion doll empire: Tonner: Two Decades Of Fashion And Design. The commemorative book features twenty years of fashion, design, sculpting and a peek at the inside of the Tonner Doll Company. This limited edition book celebrates Robert Tonner's history as fashion designer, sculptor, and CEO of one of the most successful collectible doll companies today, with never-before seen photography, sketches and prototypes.Pat Henry gets unlimited access to the design rooms and offices of Tonner Doll Company, as well as the events and conventions that bring Tonner fans together year after year.
Feeling the constraints of living in a small town in Indiana, Robert Tonner came to New York to fulfil his dream of life in the big city and a career in fashion. After working with big names like Bill Blass and running his own label for Tudor Square and Breckenridge, Tonner came to the conclusion that true freedom in fashion could be found in a smaller scale. Now celebrating twenty years in business with the Tonner Doll Company, this book looks back at the highlights and milestones of his career, business, and successful ascension to one of the most influential doll designers of all time.
In Pat's own words: "Robert and everyone at Tonner Doll Company were incredibly generous and made the whole experience great fun. After a while, I felt like a part of the company, and everyone became quite used to me, carrying dolls around, riffling through boxes of shoes and files full of old contact sheets. As a long-time Tonner collector, it's quite a thrill to be allowed to roam through the halls of the company and watch while people are creating new lines and handling the day-to-day business of the company. I have been visiting the offices since the début of Tyler Wentworth (two office buildings ago for Tonner). I got lost my first visit, but I got to take a shot of a Tyler sample before she shipped. After that, I was hooked, and have continued to add to my collection every year, expanding into Antoinette, character figures like "The Doctor", and "Firefly's" Mal and friends, super heroes and Wilde Imagination's Ellowyne Wilde and Evangeline Ghastly".
And what does Pat have to say about the man himself? "Robert is somewhat shy, but once you get to know him, he is quite brilliant and very funny. I don't think that people realize that it takes such a tremendous amount of skill and talent to not only create a successful doll, but grow a company that produces quality product year after year. It's wonderful to see a talented artist create a OOAK for eBay a few times a year, but imagine basically having to do it a dozen times every day. It takes an enormous amount of skill, imagination and insight that few people are lucky to have. Personally, I believe that his success comes from his training in the fashion industry, and that is something he and I share, so that is where I wanted to start the book.
So how did she decide to write this book? "It's not often that a company celebrates two decades of success in the toy business, doll-or otherwise. Robert took a hobby that he used to escape from the stress of the fashion industry and turned this passion into thriving dynamic business that is known the world over. Their continued growth and expansion into character figures and licensed merchandise is a casebook study of what to do right in today's competitive market. It's eye opening to see the big picture of how production costs, overseas time lags and communication issues all contribute to the final product. The fact that the dolls all seem to appear so magically and easily is a testament to Tonner and everyone who works at the company."
The book includes chapters on all of Tonner's beloved dolls, including The American Models, Betsy McCall, Tyler Wentworth, the Theater of Fashion dolls, Antoinette, Ellowyne Wilde, Evangeline Ghastly and more. You can order the book from the FDQ website.
Photos and information kindly provided by FDQ magazine whom I thank very much.