Vince Nowell

I was born in New Orleans, Louisiana in June of 1961, and adopted shortly thereafter by the Nowell family, instantly making me the youngest of 9 children!! I received my first doll on Christmas day when I was one year old, a baby doll named Suzy, who I still have to this day. A few years later when I was four, I spotted a doll in the Sears store that would change my life, even though my little brain couldn't comprehend that at the time. There on a display shelf was a brunette swirl ponytail Barbie® doll, and I had to have her! Needless to say, she did come home with us that day, and the minute I got home, I realized she couldn't wear that red swimsuit forever, so I told my mother she had to have a dress. I still remember that dress well, a yellow flannel with purple rick-rack trim. Not the most fashionable ensemble mind you, but the best my mother could do in a short amount of time with trimmings from her fabric scrap box. I grew up over the next few years adding more Barbie® dolls to my collection, and watching my mother sew more and more Barbie clothes, not only for myself, but for the little girls in our family. It never occurred to that some people might find it strange that a little boy like myself would want a doll. When I was twelve years old, I had watched my Mom sew so much that I wanted to learn how as well, and it seemed only natural that she would start me off sewing clothing for my Barbie ® doll.

Flash forward years later. I'm a grown man in 1996, shopping around a local doll show in Southern California where I had relocated in 1990 to go to fashion design school. I'm still collecting Barbie® dolls, and couldn't envision another doll coming into my life. But there in front of me stands another brunette stunner, this time she's much taller than Barbie. Again, I'm like that four year old boy, mesmerized, and I had to have her. She was a "Monaco" Gene® doll, designed by Mel Odom, a graphic artist whose work I had been familiar with. It wasn’t' much longer till I had one of these dolls, and brought her home with me. She would become the next doll to change my life, and soon I was drafting patterns for her, and sewing a wardrobe that not only captured my love for sewing, but my love for old movies, and an era that had long since past us. I was working at FAO Schwarz toy store at the time, and soon began to rally for us to carry the Gene® doll, which the company did indeed start to do soon after (and have had several very successful exclusive Gene® dolls since). Not long after, in February of 1997, I attended the first meeting of the Hollywood Gene Club at Annette & Friends doll shop in Westminster, CA. At this meeting I not only met Annette, who would two months later introduce me to Mel Odom and Joan Greene (to this day Annette remains a supporter of my design work) , but would also meet a group of people who would become very good friends.

This little group of friends would branch off and form their own little group later on, and in 1998 we would invite Joan Greene to a dinner while she was visiting Los Angeles. At this dinner, we all brought show and tell, and let her see how much fun we were having with our Gene® collecting. I brought several of my handmade ensembles. It took me as a huge surprise a month later when Joan contacted me to purchase one of the designs, which would later become "Bridge Club" in the 1999 Gene® collection. This would lead to four years of helping Ashton Drake create one of the most exciting doll wardrobes any fashion doll could wish for.

I ended up working for Joan and Ashton Drake for several years:
1999: Bridge Club, Poolside, and Sunset Celebration.
2000: Don't Fence Me In, Shorts Story, Heart of Hollywood, Meet Me in Paris.
2001: Mad About Mitzi, Little Blessings, Tennis, Anyone?
2002: Midnight Blossoms

Fast forward one last time to the spring of 2002. Life takes another unexpected change when I'm notified that the Gene Team is being disbanded, and I also am notified that I've not been chosen to contribute to the 2003 Gene® collection. This time I go into full gear to move forward with plans for my own website, and make the decision to focus my independent designs on another favorite fashion doll, Robert Tonner's Tyler Wentworth® doll, whose character is a contemporary fashion designer, much like myself. The website is called The Sophisticates, and at first features designs from myself, a friend from Great Britain,Gary Alston, and another friend here in Southern California, Terri Patterson.

Which brings us to the present day. It's been a rollercoaster year getting a new website off the ground, and we've had our share of ups and downs. Gary has branched off to create his own very successful website, House of Retro, and Terri and I remain at The Sophisticates creating fashions and jewelry for Tyler Wentworth®, and soon we will be adding Kitty Collier®, and Cissy® to our fashion lineup. Have I turned my back on Gene®?? Not at all! Now, thanks to Marsha Olson, I'm here at Perfect Patterns starting a whole new phase of designing for Gene®, by contributing to the ever growing selection of Perfect Patterns designed in the size range for Gene®. I've been a fan of Perfect Patterns from the beginning, and it's a pleasure and an honour to now be able to contribute to this wonderful company!!!

Vince Nowell

Please visit my website The Sophisticates!