Journey to unknown territory: Dolls of Decadence debuts in Miami- A fashion designer’s story

Dolls of Decadence makes its International debut at Miami Metropolitan Fashion Week. So I did it!

As the time flies by, I’d gotten more and more dubious about writing this post regarding my rendezvous in the big bad US of A. Almost 2 and a half months after the event, it just seemed like stale news- not worth sharing…..
Er- really??! I can’t believe, I really considered not documenting the specifics of one of the greatest and most challenging things, I had embarked on with my one woman brand, Dolls of Decadence.
Then I found this bad boy!

Its a video interview, that was shot for 305 TV The Good Life with Lisa Morales; back stage prior to the opening runway show of Miami Metropolitan International Fashion week (MMIFW) with DDUK. So on the 23rd April 2013, I flew out to Miami to showcase my long awaited  S/S13 collection “Finally Exhaled” at MMIFW. The bain of my life, at that time- that collection was!  Right up until the finale runway walk, were I could actually really and genuinely exhale, smiling and clapping- as loud as possible, whilst walking behind the final model!
 I had tweaked and re-did practically everything regarding to that collection, for it say visually say, what I needed it to say; from the pieces in the collection, to the fabrics used in the collection to the styling of the look book and the shooting of the look book! All had been changed, during the course of the preparation for MMIFW. Which, of course meant I spent a lot of time, in the run up to my flight fretting about everything and not sleeping! All still whilst juggling  everything else relating to the brand- customer orders, as well as being a mother to my boy!
I flew, via Newark Liberty International Airport- New Jersey- an exhausting long 8 hr flight! Which for the best part, I drifted in and out of sleep- catching up on all those recommended 8 hrs of sleep, I had been missing for the last month!
Now, I’m not sure, if it was the whole single black female travelling alone, that was provoking a lot of attention, or maybe it was the fact I had packed as much Brazilian and Indian remy hair, my head could manage into my fresh-to-def pony tail, along with my dark shades, that was making me look rather suspicious . I’m guessing a combination of all 3, but I had the airport staff from Birmingham, UK where I boarded to Newark, US where I had to transfer from, all up in my grill.
I had my hair thoroughly searched, much to the dismay of the airport security; there were no drugs in there, but I’m sure as hell the person, conducting my hair search, got a good ol’ poke from all the hair pins, I’d used to secure my wefts. Ha ha!

I also, had my suitcase searched- this I know, as they was a lovely little printed note from the airport, telling me so, which I saw when I got to my hotel.

And yet they still felt the need to pull me to one side, to interrogate me further, even after all the standard boarder security. I was proper nervous, even though I knew I had nothing to hide. Eventually I was cleared to go through and hang around, waiting for my connecting flight.

I’m guessing the airport staff, don’t consider that its not just celebrities and drug mules, who wear sunglasses indoors. Tired, red-eyed fashion designers like myself also wear them too.!

I landed in Miami at 21.00 US time- which by the way has the lamest airport, you could imagine- and proceeded via cab to my shack style hotel! To be far, it wasn’t the worst hotel, but it definitely, weren’t no all singing, all dancing shizzle, that you would expect as a tourist. I had purposefully chosen this hotel, as it was the nearest, cheapest, cleanest hotel, I could find near the venue for the 4 day fashion event. It was clean, basic and FREEZING! The air condition was on full blast, when I arrived- coming from cold and wet England, means I have no love for air con.

Basic amenities #lameHotel

Before, I could even venture into my cold hotel room, I did have the problematic debit card, which decided it didn’t want to work on me, when it came to paying my hotel! The drama! I had to pay with the cash I had, and as I did I prayed that I would be able to get the cash on the card from an ATM a-sap, otherwise, I wouldn’t be going anywhere for the next 4 days and I’d be starving whilst doing so!

At the time, of getting ready for the launch night of MMIFW, which took place in the evening, I had not yet eaten properly and still hadn’t got any cash. The ATM at the nearest bank, I had found, despite showing a MasterCard sign, was telling me my card was not valid! I was in panic mode, but ever determined, I knew, I had to make it to the launch night and event day 2, where DDUK were set to show- at least to do my showcase-with the dwindling funds I had left available.
What made matters worst, was at the last minute, the whole event was moved from the oh-so-grand venue, that is was initially due to be held, at Soho studios, due to recent shootings in the area.
Now MMIFW was to be held in the Miami beach area- miles away from where, I was staying, which in turn meant I was now, going to have to fund long ass cab rides to and from the new venue. So much for my great plan with the crappy hotel to be near the event venue. Eurgh!
Me in that yellow ‘AZALEA’ dress. Image by Karel Grimberg
Some how, with my heart pounding in my ears from the nervousness I felt; going it alone, the anxiety from my new found money worry and my empty stomach, I put on my look-at-me yellow AZALEA dress which I made specifically in yellow so that I stood out and really proclaimed, without speaking ‘The dolls have landed…’
However, at that moment, now actually in Miami, the yellow dress, idea didn’t seem like such a good one, until I put it on. I momentarily forgot all other feelings and just felt super excited about the journey ahead….until, I got into the cab, of course and watched it clocking up the dollars for the mission of a journey to my destination. $40.00 later, I got there!
The yellow dress, turned out to be a God send, just as much as those free cocktails. With the dress, easily catching peoples attention, followed shortly by my English accent, I was soon working the crowd like a pro. I wanted to come across as the cool reserved English girl, but my enthusiastic chatting, slightly overwhelmed I-need-to-pinch-myself persona totally dispelled that one!
I felt like I was someone dead important, working the carpet and posing to death, for all the cameras, doing a on film interview and being introduced by the organisers to all, as the designer “all the way from the UK”.
I stop for a quick chat with Miami TV at the premiere of MMIFW. Image by Karel Grimberg
It was such an awesome night. I met, so many cool people including an amazing photographer, Asa Garvin III, who I spent the whole of the latter part of the night talking to, up until till I left. I forged a great friendship with him and he made my stay in Miami, even more memorable than it was. For that, I have to say a massive thank you!

I got cash!! I actually cried, when my card worked. I had managed to find a convenience store with an ATM machine that accepted my card. First thing I did was go to the nearest take away place and was very grateful for the American sized portions!

The plan was to attend event day 1, to watch the opening nights designers. I wasn’t due to showcase, until the following day, but I was too jet lagged and full. So, I spelt….and slept- pretty much the whole day!
D- DAY or DOLLS DAY. It took an age to find the venue, which was in the Hilton Metropol hotel- sounds super posh doesn’t it. Yes-It was a super posh hotel too, so image my disappointment to find the event for today’s show was the retaurant area! Admittedly, I didn’t like the venue. Actually, I got a few disappointments on this day.
FLUTTER Jumpsuit commanding attention. Image by Asa Garvin III
 I found a good percentage of my models had been changed, so everything I had planned and had been emailing back and forth to the organisers had been pointless. I understood, why the changes had occurred, as Maxine (co-founder of MMIFW), took time to explain.
Still, I could help being utterly disappointed about it.I had allocated a design to each model, I had previously selected, to now find I had to change it all around. I had made sure, that none of the models I had selected at casting stage were under 5’8”. I’m sure, you all know how I feel about mini models- as gorgeous as you all are.
Runways are for the tall, waif like girls. Its the only time, being a female ‘giant’ with larger than average feet, is super cool. Let them have their moment!
For future events, I definitely feel the organisers of MMIFW- which is currently only in its second year, and still growing- should consider having a universal hair and make up look for the models, with the possibility of a quick lipstick change for each designer.

That way, less models are required, meaning the runway height code of conduct can be kept in play and resident designers can’t poach your models or models complain, they don’t want to walk for you, as they don’t want their hair teased!!

Image by Ass Garvin III- Dolls of Decadence runway finale

Other problems, I faced included the hair and make up looks for the DDUK runway show, which had to changed at the last minute! Eurgh! The challenges I face, as a fashion desiger!
But, a fashion is not a fashion show without all the backstage madness and despite it all….the show must go on.

And on it did- I opened the 2nd day of MMIFW with Dolls of Decadence S/S 13 collection “Finally Exhaled” to amaze-balls reviews! I’m still trying to chase up on some of the connections, I made whilst over there and most definitely want to go back and continue on the dialogue that has been started for DDUK. There is absolutely a market for DDUK over there and realistically, I need to go back to Miami, as many times as possible to capitalise on it. Not that, I’m mind in any way, shape or form!
Me and all my models, backstage at MMIFW


I actually got to live up to my SS13 collection for Dolls of Decadence and ‘Finally exhaled’- I took myself on down to the Miami beach area.  I had gone through the trip so far, in auto pilot- bearly taking in any of what was really going around- just trying get the job done.

I’m not one of these people, who takes a million pictures of themselves, as little momentum’s of all their doing, But- gee come on! I totally forgot what my camera looked like, until this day.
Of course, part of the problem was the fact, I was alone on the trip made and taking a million selfie pics, would have just made me look like a major desperado!
Going it alone, also made me less gutsy- coupled with the not so brave older me- meant moments like passing the 5’0” lobster tanned man in his yellow micro swim trunks, casually strolling down the street with great alacrity, whilst wheeling a push bike where not captured on any type of camera, neither was the girl, who randomly started twerking in the middle of the street to the, hip hop blasting out of some oversized 10 mile per hr car. (Sigh) Oh and how could I forget the 6’7” trans guy dressed in semi drag attire in midday Miami heat; blond wig, dodgy make-up, evening cocktail dress all in abundance. And can, the two girls, sucking each others faces off on the street corner get a mention too.
Yep- didn’t capture a drop of it! What happens in Miami stays in Miami, I guess.
I did however, visit the lack lustre ‘DASH’ boutique- owned by the world famous Kardashian sisters. I was extremely disappointed to find a lack of piz-zazz, a whack set up, an extreme lack of stock and a bunch of more whack Kardashian shizzle, that nobody probably cared about- you know, the Kardashian book, fragrance, poster; type thing.
Me outside the world famous DASH store- Miami
So, if you didn’t already about the contrived staging that encompasses the Kardashian series, well- going to their store definitely confirmed it; with the staff on hand, bearing absolutely no resemblance to the glamorous staff they used in ‘Kourtney & Khloe take Miami’ series.
….And, no I didn’t leave them with a DDUK look book. Look books are expensive to produce, so I wasn’t about to waste it on this empty boutique with bored-as-hell looking staff and empty shelves.
I did however, drop off my look books in a variety of other boutiques along the strip and as night fell, I got to the venue of the last MMIFW showcase in time, for the event to start.
Image by Asa Garvin III
The final day of MMIFW- beach wear day! Man- did it pull in a crowd! Not sure, if the fact that Christie Rice from the reality show, ‘The real housewives of Miami’ was launching her swimwear line on that day, had anything to do with it or whether, it was the last night fever, but there was a definite buzz in the air.
It was a great venue with a live DJ, a huge screen made up of a whole load of TVs and as, I sat watching the shows, I couldn’t help but be envious of the fact that:
  1. I wasn’t showing on this day also. Especially, as swimwear is a large part of the Dolls of Decadence brand- swim wear that had really captured the attention of the Miami audience for its ‘unique’-ness. (Their words, not mine)
  1. This was far a better venue for a runway show, than the location I had showcased at.
DAY 3 @ MMIFW. Image by Asa Garvin III
But hey! What can I say?! Whingeing aside- Beachwear day, brought up the rears- literally- a whole load of them for MMIFW neatly.
It was so great to be a part of it and as I said my fair wells to Maxine Viktor and Phil Stienstra- the founders of MMIFW- I felt immensely proud of what I had done and grateful to them for the opportunity to do it.

To top the night off, I got the ride back to my hotel in a cool sports car, with a loud engine, as I got a ride from the photographer Asa Garvin, who I had met earlier in the week. Who was nice enough to drive the long way round, so I could get a min tour of Miami, how amazing awesome is he!

Iconic Miami Tower at night

Mad love and shout out to all Maxine, Philip, Herbet and the whole team; models, hair, make-up and the photographers at MMIFW, thanks for letting me be a part of it. A big thanks to Asa Garvin- God sure, made you an angel in disguise, the week I was there. Thanks for the images too! And keep up the great work

Karel Grimberg- Huge shout out to you too- for all the images
MMIFW Founders, Philip Sienstra and Maxine Viktor

Its only now, that I look back and recognise the enormity of what I undertook and the whole pressure I had put myself under. Its massively stressful, trying to be more than just mediocure at your craft, and the more you improve, the more stressful, it becomes. The expectations of others and the continued desire to up your game weighs heavily on the future steps, you take….
On the whole Miami experience, I am immensely happy with the results. I went they to make an official introduction of Dolls of Decadence to America. I couldn’t have asked for a better response to that introduction. I did learn a lot of the experience, some of which there is no need to share, but definite lessons worth sharing:

  • I learn never to try this- alone again!
  • I learnt, that when in Miami, you must stick to staying the tourist area or you could end staying in a lame hotel in the far side of Coral Gables, where only Cubans/Hispanics live and bearly anyone speaks English. Yep- you wouldn’t believe I was in Miami, based on my hotel location.
  • I also learnt that for, what ever there is that is priceless, for everything else there definitely ISN’T MasterCard! So most certainly, ensure you take fricking cash!
Well- all the niggles and disappointments aside, I can look at the bigger picture and say “Whoa!- I did that!” Just me.
To think that, I, as one person- my knock on the doors overseas was heard, even if it may have been a light knock is a good place to continue.
Miami- I’ll see you soon……