Willy was a darling of some of the best designers the world has ever seen and worked with iconic photographers during one of the most exciting eras in fashion history. Her face has graced every major fashion magazine on the planet that was in circulation during this time period. This month Willy takes us behind the scene and shares the story of how she became a mannequin! It is sort of funny actually because British Vogue actually ran a story along this lines in their January issue but they did not delve down into how it all actually happened to the girl it actually happened to! You can only find that here though you might not find its the happy ending you are expecting.
Dear friends, wishing you all a healthy and happy 2014, let's make it a year to remember with a smile.
The other day a friend sent me a scan of a double page in the latest UK Vogue (above - from the January 2014 issue) with the pictures I did with Helmut Newton for the UK Vogue in 1968 with my window dolls. These pictures are illustrating a very nice article by Charlotte Sinclair called " Valley of the Dolls". The article has nothing to do with me but I was going to talk to you about my window dolls anyway because that is where we left off in the last post. I think this is a funny coincidence.
2 Pages of the Original Vogue spread by Helmut Newton - 1968
A page from a book about Helmut Newton in which he explains how his fascination with window dolls started
When I did this pictures with Helmut I had specially come down from Morocco, where I was happily living a dream, because they were also going to officially launch my window doll and that was a big thing. As I told you in my last post, Helmut told me later that if I would not have come to London for that shoot, he would have broken the heads of the dolls and photograph them like that. I don't know if he would have because I did go to London and we did the series for Vogue.
In the meantime, I was getting a lot of publicity about my Dolls in newspapers and magazines.
An English paper
From Stern Magazine. Article by Florentine Bapst and pictures by Bockelberg - Hamburg 1968
After the shoot with Helmut, I disappeared and went back to Morocco and from there to Sardinia (Italy) and finally to Milan where I had a lot of bookings and did some nice work for Vogue with Chris von Wangenheim and Barbierri. I also did a lot of work with Oliviero Toscani, who was just starting as a photographer and made the pictures in his small living room that he transformed into his Studio during the day.
While I was in Milan, a Dutch newspaper "De Telegraaf", came to see me and dedicated an entire page to me and my dolls with the head line "Mysterious Willy now Millionaire".
The Dutch newspaper "De Telegraaf"
Yes. I was going to be paid one English pound for every doll sold, as stated in the contract made up by my agency "Peter Lumley", and this would go automatically to a special account I had opened in the Barclay bank and they gave me a lovely little dark red bank book. My window dolls traveled a lot and so did I. After Marbella, where I discovered I was pregnant, we went to Sardenia and than back to Milan, where I was working until I started to show. From Milan we decided to go to South America and we ended up, after a long story, in Brazil, in a magic place called Parati. In Brazil I tried to use my bank book but there was no Barclay bank and believe me banks were much more complicated than they are now and because I was so far away from London I did not want to think of it.
Because my baby was due soon I could not stay in Parati as there was no hospital or doctor to speak of, as a matter of fact I had not seen a doctor anywhere during my entire pregnancy so I was going to LA while my husband, Salvador, stayed in Brazil to do a reportage about the Amazon river for "Paris Match". My time in LA is a fantastic story but will tell that one another time.
At the last minute I ended up going to Vancouver, Canada, where my sisters were living and had the baby there with all the wonderful care one gets in Canada. Then from Canada back to LA with our baby Alejandro and from there to NY ...all adventures for future posts...
I did not think about the window dolls, did see them in NY in the windows and did not think more about it at all. I was doing other things and did not know to whom to turn, could not find my bank book anywhere and except for the few times I had used it in Europe, I had not been able to use it ever. I had, in the end, lost that little book.
It was not till 35 years later that I was reminded of my dolls while I was working in a super wonderful fashion store of a friend in Amsterdam. Apart from making some jewelry for the store and going on the buying trips to Paris for Yōji Yamamoto, Issey Mayake, Comme de Garçons and Galliano and to Milan for Dolce & Gabbana, Romeo Gigli, Marni and some new designers making interesting things. I also made the window displays.
One day I decided to have the make up of the window dolls (not mine) redone and looked for the best known person or company around and went to see them. I rang the bell and an older man opened the door. He stood as if nailed to the ground and said my name! Wow!
He then told me that had painted my face on more than 250,000 of my window dolls! They would come from England, without make up, and he painted all the faces for the ones sold to the BeNeLux. ( Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg).
The man who painted my face more than 250,000 times
Pages from a little photo book by a Dutch photographer -1968
How in the world could he still recognize me? But ....wait a minute, 250,000 in the Benelux alone??
I had seen them in Department stores everywhere else over Europe, in Germany, Spain, Italy, England and who knows where else besides America? All together this could add up to at least half a million or more and a pound for each of them? That's a lot of money which should be there for me if everybody has been honest about it, right?
I started by contacting the Barclay's Bank in London where I used to have my account and after some back and forth it came out that electronically they could not go back more than 30 years and further back it has to be done by hand and is very costly, better to contact a lawyer.
Well, that is exactly what I did in and around 2004 and they wanted money up front and there it gets complicated for me as I don't know if I can trust that person that far away and if that person is really is knowledgeable on that subject.
Salvador in front of the "American Store" in Amsterdam where they still had my window doll - 2005
Voila, my "Valley of the Dolls" story that has no happy ending. The only thing I can think of, (and would be fun - because if it is not fun it is not worth it for me), is to make a documentary and call it "Finding the money" where I am followed to London to try and recover the money that is due to me. That could be a fabulous document I think and even if the money won't get recovered, because of the dishonesty of some people, we can still show the movie and sell it to TV.
What do you think? Maybe the Dutch newspaper "De Telegraaf" could be right after all!
LOVE and PEACE like always.