Two years ago, when I commenced the prototype design of these dolls, I had a limited budget due to the sudden loss of all my contracts as a wedding photographer in Toronto during the pandemic. Our revenue took a hit of over 100K, and as a new mother, I was already struggling to try to figure things out at home. Additionally, our family suffered significant losses in the stock market crash. With my wedding clients constantly rescheduling and even cancelling, I was unsure when I could resume work. It was quite stressful for us as a family.
When I started to explore the idea of creating Asian diverse dolls, I had very little experience in sewing and very little experience in design. I also had zero experience in fashion, zero email subscribers and zero followers on social media. I had no idea that this idea would even take off with people. So when I started looking into making these dolls, I tried to do it on a limited shoestring budget. My initial goal with the dolls was to be able to choose from 5 different skin tones for each ethnicity. However, with minimum order quantities for production, it was impossible at the time with my budget. I realized then how costly it would be to make these dolls on my own so I tried to make the dolls as cheaply as I could. Too cheaply, in fact.
Although I reduced the number of skin tones and drop the idea of skin tone choice for each ethnicity for now (with the hope to still do this in the future!), it was still quite costly to invest in on my own. But when interest in our dolls grew I decided I could no longer accept the original quality of the dolls. My goal has always been to spread joy and love through these dolls and so I decided that we needed to provide people with more.
Based on the advice of a reliable expert in the toy sector, I opted to change our production vendors. I was initially hesitant to do so since I felt like I had already invested so much time in the design process already. I was assured by the fact that most of my design work was already done, we just had to find better quality materials and better construction. And although it was a significant shift, we strongly believed it was necessary. So with launch day drawing closer, we worked overtime to build new relationships and start the entire process all over.
But it was so worth it! We spent a long time finding the right materials as skin tone colours in ready-made fabrics were extremely hard to come by. We searched high and low for a long time. The worst-case scenario is that we would custom dye the fabrics but there were high minimum quantities we had to meet and it would set our process back. We almost went ahead with this, but we ended up finding close colour matches in higher-quality materials. We chose a cotton blend with some spandex to give the dolls a soft feel. The quality of the stitching is now higher to ensure better durability for kids’ playtime over the years.
I initially began this process with the idea of making the dolls locally without realizing how costly things became even with the prototype process. Most of all, it was extremely difficult to find the right materials since we had such a limited supply here in North America. We had a lot more options when we sourced directly overseas to suppliers. But still, it was difficult to find the right one that would partner with us to understand our needs and reach our vision.
Here’s a quick look back at the history of our prototypes in the last two years.