A world acclaim
Strangely, when the BillyBoy* “Nouveau Théatre de la Mode” Exhibition was ready to tour France in a train and then later America, featuring all the exciting creations of the world’s most famous couturiers and designers, these prototypes were not shown. BillyBoy* at the time still had the idea to convince Mattel to produce some of these creations and wanted to keep them aside.
These prototypes equal in style some of the best creations by couturiers and designers made for BillyBoy* at the time and featured in his book, “Barbie, Her Life and Times” (Crown Publishers, New York, 1988). Many designers and couturiers creations, which were delivered after the printing of the book have not even been seen or published yet, as of 2013. The BillyBoy* prototypes for Barbie are more generally sophisticated and obviously aimed at a more adult audience, and it is also evident that it would be a different story to actually execute some of them in mass-production. They nonetheless were premonitory in the way that Barbie did become more fashion-oriented, more adult-oriented, more collector-oriented, with much better made clothing and accessories when BillyBoy*’s message was eventually perceived as a real money-making thing. The rest of the story is known.
As a true visionary and inspired designer, BillyBoy* influenced not only the doll business industry, but also the doll community and collectible market. Not only through his remarkable work on Barbie and the phenomenal promotion generated by the touring exhibition of the BillyBoy* “Nouveau Théatre de la Mode” in France and America, the success of his Barbie book but also a few years later, the incredible innovations brought by Mdvanii, his own doll, which he created basically out of desire to express his ideas fully. It is very interesting to study these prototypes as an anticipation of his work to come on Mdvanii, regardless on how different Mdvanii and Barbie were in conception and aims. Barbie doll, as well as other fashion doll collectors of today have a great debt to BillyBoy* and his incredible initiative, perseverance and vision. Strangely also, these were the very, very first "make over" dolls the world was to have, a BillyBoy*-influenced phenomenon that would be an important part of the late 1990s doll collector's community.
On another level one cannot also forget that Andy Warhol himself made Barbie’s portrait on the suggestion of BillyBoy*. In fact, Andy had zero interest in Barbie but softened to her due to his friendship for BillyBoy*. BillyBoy* was not very interested in having his own portrait done by Warhol, he’d rather have one of Barbie since at the time he jokingly paraphrased Flaubert’s remark ....”Barbie, c’est moi! ” (instead of “Madame Bovary, c’est moi”). Besides that, more seriously BillyBoy* considered Barbie as an American icon and since Andy had portrayed all the other American icons of glamour, such as Marilyn Monroe and Liz Taylor, it made sense to include Barbie. He made the portrait exclusively as a gift to him and offered him the first one, which he made in “BillyBoy* Blue”. Andy Warhol christened it, "Portrait of BillyBoy*", taking literally what BillyBoy* had said to him. Many friends of BillyBoy* - artists, designers, musicians and writers- paraded through his studio - “ohhing and ahhing” - all finding it very amusing. Warhol mentions in his Diaries that "Barbie has a problem". Thanks to BillyBoy*, he was commissioned by Mattel to make a Barbie portrait, which he also mentions in his Diaries and he explains thow much he dislikes her open mouth smile.
For Barbie's 50th anniversary, The Editions Assouline in Paris have published a luxury book glorifying Barbie as a glamour icon, in which Warhol's famous quote "I love plastic" is blatantly used out of context as if it was said about Barbie. They surprisingly use a pink version of his Barbie painting, which does not exist; why, we cannot understand (there are to be three versions of this Barbie/BillyBoy* portrait, one in blue, one in red owned by Mattel and an hypothetic one in yellow, but there is no trace of it anywhere). Unfortunately, this book doesn't mention BillyBoy*'s name even once, while each one and every picture of make-over Barbie styled by designers and artists is entirely BillyBoy*'s heritage.
Indeed, in spite of the fact that many books on fashion dolls or Barbie published the last twenty years acknowledge BillyBoy*’s influence, one can deplore that some official Mattel Barbie biographies until today omit to mention his name and pass under silence his whole work for Barbie. This narrative went as far as to imply that Oscar de La Renta was the first designer name linked to Barbie with the boxed Barbie doll ensembles bearing his name, while they in fact came nearly a year after the BillyBoy* “Nouveau Theatre de la Mode” Barbie, and BillyBoy* was indeed the first designer name linked to Barbie and written on the box. One can only acknowledge such an injustice, that nothing can justify and which I personally find shocking. Politics are one thing, truth and facts are another.
These charming and unique Barbie prototypes were locked in trunks for
more than fifteen years and were never opened until recently when BillyBoy*
decided to see them again and loan some of them to the Fondation
Tanagra's permenant collection, of which he is one on the founders.
These historic pieces will with no doubt find their place in the history
that discerning collectors will be knowledgable about now.
It was with a great pleasure that we saw them for the first time, all
so fresh after all these years and it is also a great satisfaction to
know that they will start a new life on this website and hopefully bring
pleasure to other people all over the world. In the meantime, BillyBoy*
had created Mdvanii and all his other dolls, and manage to express
himself freely, or at least, learn by himself, the difficult steps to
create a fashion doll and a true work of art. A task in which I completely involved myself with passion and confidence, in spite of all the difficulties and hard work.
But that is another story.
© Lala J.P Lestrade, 2000/2012.