Tuesday, 29 November 2011


Designer Tilmann Grawe with his doll
Despite the global economic crisis, top fashion designers such as Giorgio Armani, Prada and Sonia Rykiel have again contributed their time to creating attention-grabbing costumes for rag dolls that will be sold to help fund a vaccination programme in war-ravaged Darfur, Sudan.

Now in its ninth year, the "Frimousses de Créateurs" (Designers’ Dolls) venture is coordinated by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). In 2010, sales of the dolls raised a record 286,500 euros, which enabled UNICEF to vaccinate more than two million children in Darfur against measles.

"I’ve been taking part in this project for five years, and it’s very important to me,” Paris-based designer Tilmann Grawe told SWAN, as he showed off a look-alike orange doll. “The money raised helps to save children’s lives and that’s the reason we’re all involved.”

The designers’ dolls went on public display at the Petit Palais fine arts museum in Paris, France, on Nov. 28, attracting hundreds of viewers on opening night. Grawe, whose designs have been worn by American singer Lady Gaga and Indian actress Aishwarya Rai, turned up covered in glitter to talk about his doll and to pose with it for fashion-lovers and UNICEF-supporters. Other designers also wore eye-catching costumes to complement those of their “frimousses”.

A doll by Prada
The dolls will be exhibited free to the public until Dec. 4, after which a certain number will be sold via online auction until Dec. 12.  Auction house Drouot Montaigne will conduct the final sale on Dec. 13 in Paris.

The most expensive doll sold so far was designed by Chanel and raised 23,000 euros, UNICEF said. That sum contributed to the total of 227,000 euros raised in 2008 - which itself was a nearly six-fold increase from 2003, when the project began.

For the first time this year, the “Frimousses” exhibition also includes rag dolls made by schoolchildren. To help fund vaccinations in other countries besides Sudan, thousands of schoolchildren in France take part in a similar but separate venture. They make rag dolls which adults then buy for 20 euros each.

Last year, these dolls raised 64,000 euros, and the amount is expected to be higher in 2011. The sum is enough for a full cycle of childhood vaccinations, says Valerie Metzger, a UNICEF projects coordinator who started the scheme in France, following a similar venture in Italy known as "Pigotta". 

Metzger (right) and intern Nathalie
Metzger says UNICEF provides the body of the doll, and the children bring in bits of fabric, old clothing and other material to create costumes.

Before they start, they are told about children's rights and some of the problems still facing children worldwide. They learn, for instance, that 50 million children are not registered at birth and that some two million die each year because of lack of essential vaccinations.   (Text and photos: A.M.)