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Gloriana Bonillo-Valera Designs For "The Girls Who Carry Dolls"

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Photo: Courtesy of Gloriana Bonillo-Valera

Luxaby Baby & Child, the new boutique on Oak Street, will host a Little Gloriana trunk show tomorrow from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The line features cute, colorful clothes for little girls—and their dolls.

We had to know what it's like to be a designer for dolls (talk about a wee one's dream job), so we asked Gloriana Bonillo-Valera to take us into her world. It's not all tea parties and giggles—but it's close.

What dolls did you play with as a little girl, and what did you dress them up in?
I loved dolls from the get-go. You name it: Cabbage Patch Kids, Carole Dolls, and a brand called Famosa that's in Spain, my country of origin. But my favorite doll was named Pepa. My mother, an artist and a clothing designer, hand-made Pepa. She had a beautifully painted-on face and long black hair. I wanted to take Pepa everywhere. We were a match made in heaven!

My mother, the resident clothing designer [of our household], would sew lots of different ensembles and outfits for Pepa. Thinking back, I realize that I loved everything about Pepa, but I especially loved the opportunity to give her distinct style. She was fashion-ready for every single occasion. That's the main reason why I created the Little Gloriana line, to bring versatility into the wardrobes of these dolls. Because so many of us bond with them from such an early age.

It sounds like your mom—as well as Pepa—had quite the influence on your career path.
My mom started this line of clothing for dolls almost 20 years ago—I think she was drawn into the business by my enthusiasm and all the different doll clothing I asked her to make! All I ever wanted for holidays and birthdays was for her to make me more doll clothes. One day, one of her clients asked for custom clothing that would fit her daughter's American Girl dolls. Nobody really knew what they were in Spain. My mom's first collection of doll clothing that year, for that client, was inspired by Pucci, Chanel, and Missoni. It was all crafted from luxurious materials.

I played with my dolls, secretly, until I was 12. Years later, I followed in my mother's footsteps and became a fashion designer. I started my own resort wear clothing line. Meanwhile, my mother continued to make doll clothes to sell at school fairs and charity events. One day, we agreed to help each other with our different business endeavors, but when I started to help her with the doll line, I was transported back to my childhood. I fell in love again with the world of miniature, and I was so eager to help my mother that I decided to commit to the doll clothing line wholeheartedly.

Would you say you're a kid at heart yourself? If so, how?
A resounding yes! But, I also think that we have a little kid inside each of us— the part of us that stays curious and wants to laugh, play and have fun. So much of this life is about choosing to be happy and enjoying life to the fullest.

What keeps you inspired and keeps your finger on the pulse in terms of what kids love to wear?
Travel. We travel often, and through all the regions of the United States, for our Little Gloriana trunk shows. At every store I stop into, I really enjoy talking to the customers—that is, the 12 and under bracket. I ask them what their favorite doll is, favorite color, and where they love to take their dolls. My clients are the girls who carry dolls! I take my cues in designing from my customers, and the requisite fashion magazines.

You have quite the entertaining client base! What are some of the cutest or funniest comments you've heard from your little fans?
The funniest thing is seeing how natural the kids are at sifting through everything, and pinpointing what they want. I'm in awe of how personal taste and style is developed from the onset of talking. I love seeing what they put together. Once a mom told her daughter she can only pick one outfit because it wasn't her birthday or a holiday. And the little girl responded, "but mom, this is like your bags and shoes. It's an investment. I will have it forever. It's designer clothes for my doll. And you always tell dad your designer stuff is worth a lot. Well this is designer clothes." That's pretty observant!

What inspired the name of your line, Little Gloriana?
Little Gloriana is an anagram of my name and my mom's name. I go by Gloria, and my mom's name is Ana. Together we make Gloriana! Since we have created this business together, it seemed the best. Plus, the "little" gives a sense of the clothing's proportions.

The studio you design has got to be very charming! What does it look like, and what's normally on the playlist while you design?
Charming, yes! It's like a more fashionable, mad-scientist laboratory. The walls are painted bright pink and we have tons of fabric everywhere. So much that you can use the rolls of fabric as benches. For background music, I like mix tapes, but especially love the full albums of Macaco, which is world music with a great beat.

Tell us about your relationship with Luxaby! What pieces are you bringing to the trunk show on Friday? And which pieces are perfect for the Windy City girl?
We love our relationship with Luxaby. As female owners, Molly [Vernon, Luxaby owner] and I feel like kindred spirits in a way. I see how much passion and love has gone into the two stores Molly built from scratch. Her vision for fashion is impeccable, and it's a real honor to be asked to come back and do a trunk show at her new location. We have a new line of holiday dresses that we will be bringing on Friday. Our "Mini & Me" bedtime collection is sweet and comfortable, and inspired by rose gardens. We always use the softest fabrics.

For the little girls of the Windy City, I'm bringing a lot of warm clothes from our winter collection. We have fantastic fleece overcoats in different animal prints, and faux fur shawls to wear as dressy holiday attire. We think our plaid leggings, as well as adorable plaid twirl dresses, will be huge hits.

What makes you giddy about your job?
Seeing how happy the product makes everyone. The thought of bringing our collection to a new city, and hearing the never-ending giggles that come out of all the little girls as they pour over the merchandise. Once they see our collection, the giggling won't stop. It's a delight and warms your heart.

What will you be giving as holiday gifts this year? What's on your own wish list?
For the holidays, Little Gloriana gives back in every way we can. We will be making lots of little girls happy with baskets of our collection to children who are not as fortunate as others. Nobody should be deprived of a companion!

My wish list is to travel back to my hometown of Barcelona, Spain. There is no bigger gift then to spend the holidays with your family. And let's be honest, every women likes to open a gift, and I know what would make me giggle— that's a pair of Valentino Rockstud Leather Caged Ballerina Flats.

Finally, since you'll be in Chicago, are there any local shops, restaurants, or attractions you'll check out while you're here?
I absolutely love Chicago. I look forward to coming to Chicago like I do returning to my hometown in Spain. I have so many close, wonderful friends here, which makes the city so very special to me. In terms of actual places we'll go, I love the Public Hotel. Their brunches are amazing. And nothing beats being able to walk to the beach—ssomething that's harder to get to when I'm in New York City. Oak Street is a favorite street of mine. I love how in such a quaint street you can find Barneys, Jimmy Choo, and now Luxaby!
· Luxaby Baby & Child [Official Site]
· Little Gloriana [Official Site]

Luxaby Baby & Child

59 East Oak Street, Chicago, IL