A fashion designer steps out of the limelight to put his talent into designing dolls to help single parents, writes Nadia Badarudin
LOOKING at the traditional handmade clothes fitted on the dolls of Adrian’s Collectibles, one will be definitely amazed by the dedicated effort, passion and love poured into the project.
From traditional wear of the country’s major races to Muslimah modest wear, each work reflects the designing talent and fashion flair of an expert.
A miniature Puteri Perak traditional attire, for instance, is set to perfection with intricate and meticulously crafted details in place.
The outfit is made from real songket, complete with the relevant accessories like kain sampin and pending (ornamental belt buckle).
Even the doll’s hair is not spared from the expert’s creative touch — the golden locks are given the right hairdo complemented with hair accessories like cucuk sanggul, mimicking the real classic look.
The beautiful art is the work of Adrian Ong, a name which needs no introduction in the fashion and entertainment industries.
The fashion designer and wedding planner used to be in the limelight, building a reputation in designing bridal wear and custom outfits for celebrities and dignitaries in the 1990s.
He designed bridal clothes for celebrity couples such as Datuk AC Mizal and Datin Emylia Rosnaida, as well as Vanida Imran and Rashidi Ishak.
Datuk Seri Siti Nurhaliza Tarudin was also among his clientele during her initial years in the industry.
“I see Adrian Collectibles as a career shift for me. I wanted to venture into a subject closer to my heart, which is giving back to society by using my skills and experience in fashion,” says Ong.
The idea to make traditional clothes for dolls came to mind when he started managing Jumble Station, a community outreach initiative of Parents Without Partners.
Founded in 2007, Parents Without Partners is a non-profit organisation that raises funds to provide assistance to single parents in need, particularly in the Klang Valley.
“Jumble Station collects and re-sells second hand household items donated by the public. Dolls and clothes are among the items that we receive the most. We were clueless at first on what to do with the dolls as they were mostly not in good condition and with little resale value.
“One day, my foster child, Farah Nisha (who volunteers at Jumble Station), suggested that I use my designing skills and dress up the dolls before selling them.
“That’s how the idea came about. And to make it extra special, I make traditional clothes as real as the life-sized pieces to turn the dolls into prized possessions,” he says.
Adrian’s Collectibles have been exclusively retailed online by Parents Without Partners since May.
The price ranges from RM150 per doll to RM450 per pair. The proceeds are used by the organisation to fund activities for its beneficiaries.
So far, Ong has produced 300 designs — mainly one-off and painstakingly handmade — with the traditional range receiving overwhelming response from local and international customers.
He also accepts custom orders for weddings, birthdays or corporate gifts.
Among the interesting collections are traditional Malay wear such as Cik Siti Wan Kembang, baju Kedah and Puteri Perak.
Traditional Malay wedding outfits made from vintage songket bunga tabur and brocade (which were popular in the 1960s) are also present, with the dolls “all dolled up” in detail with appropriate styling and accessories.
The designer also pays tribute to his own ancestry with dolls wearing Baba and Nyonya bridal wear.
The ornate white bridal gown designed by English designer Sarah Burton and worn by the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton at her wedding to Prince William in 2011 has been reproduced by Ong too.
Apart from his quality workmanship, the creations are special in a sense that they are cut from real fabrics and according to the original designs. To keep the authenticity of the designs, he spends months doing research and visiting museums.
“They may just be dolls’ clothes but it’s not a walk in the park,” says the designer.
“I try to keep the authentic elements intact. The kebaya Nyonya, for instance, comes with its signature embroidery.
“To make something as detailed as the kebaya Nyonya, it took me between two to three weeks. And it took me three months of research through books and frequent museum visits prior to tailoring,” he says.
The designing process to make each piece is the same as making clothes for real people.
“The only difference is that my work is smaller now. But, the small size is actually a big challenge because of the details and the limited materials.
“Most of the time, I have to make do with whatever resources I have rather than buying new fabrics,” he says.
The fabrics are recycled from secondhand clothes or fabric remnants donated by local fashion labels.
“Some of the doll stands are also donated by the public. The only items that I have to buy are the dolls’ shoes and some accessories. However, I don’t compromise on the authenticity at all to the extent that I make sure the shoes, make-up or hairdos match the era when the design was in trend,” he adds.
Although Ong is staying away from the fashion limelight, he feels his new, little venture is his call to contribute his skills and talent in a different way.
“To some, they are just dolls’ clothes. But knowing that there are people who can appreciate my miniature work, and knowing that the proceeds will be channelled to help improve or empower the needy is meaningful to me. At least, I have played my part,” says Ong who dreams of organising an exhibition of his creations.
“Whatever we do, the bottom line is simple: We must have passion and patience.
“And if what we do out of passion and talent can benefit society, I say, ‘why not?’”
PARENTS WITHOUT PARTNERS
PARENTS Without Partners is a not-forprofit organisation devoted to improving the welfare of economically disadvantaged single parents and legal guardians, especially among the urban poor in the Klang Valley.
Its social coordinator, B. Jaya, says the organisation’s Jumble Station serves as a onestop centre to reach out to economically disadvantaged singleparent families.
“We provide various forms of support such as financial aid and counselling as well as job placement and skills training for those in need.
“We also run a volunteer-powered reading centre for young children from the surrounding community of the Angsana Flat housing area in Subang Mewah, where we operate,” she says.
She adds that Adrian’s Collectibles is a new product line retailed by the organisation via its webstore.
The webstore serves as a platform for single-parent families from its outreach programme to sell their handmade products like cookies and crafts.
“We’re currently providing basic sewing classes for single mothers and Ong is the teacher.
“The launch of the collectible dolls jives well with our current effort. And hopefully, it will spark their interest to develop their skills and be more inspired to come up with their own designs and products,” she says.
Block F, F1-01-05,
Angsana Flat Subang Mewah, USJ1 47620 Selangor.
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