On Monday morning, I pulled into Kloof road and found a lucky parking right outside Carne where I met model and businesswoman Mala Bryan. She wasn’t alone. She had also brought Maisha, Mala, Malina and Mhina with her and we all had a tea party.
Let me introduce you…
Maisha is the darkest doll. Her name means “Life” and Mala says that this is her dream coming to life.Mala, is her namesake and her name means Indian necklace of flowers.Malina, has freckles and her name means calming and soothing.Mhina is the lightest and her name means enjoyable and delightful.Their hair comes natural and big (you’ll see in the pics of them in their boxes below) and you can braid it and play with different styles, just like Mala has done with hers.Mala was born in St. Lucia in the Caribbean. She decided to create brown and black dolls that she could relate to and so the Malaville dolls were “born.”
You know I love hearing people’s stories, so as I sipped on my cappuccino, I was all ears. As a model in Miami, New York and even Cape Town, she used to encounter problems with her hair and make-up. Years ago, there weren’t the right shades of foundation for her skin. Hairstylists weren’t sure what to do with her gorgeous curly, kinky hair. Eventually they made her cut it all off and she felt like she lost a part of herself.
Every woman knows that their hair is a big deal. Years later, the make-up industry has obviously come a long way and her natural hair is celebrated now. It got her thinking about how her own unique beauty was misunderstood. She then looked at the dolls young girls were playing with and what their idea of beauty was that they were being exposed to.
“Children are very sensitive,” she says, “By not having dolls that are relatable, it gives a sense that their own, unique beauty is not acceptable. I wanted to create pretty dolls with darker skin tones and the same crazy, kinky, curly hair. These dolls are also deemed as being beautiful.”
These black, brown dolls are not only for black children, she really encourages everyone to have one.
If I ever have a daughter, I will want her to have dolls in all colours and sizes. A question she gets asked a lot is: Why did she make the Malaville dolls in Barbie size? Her answer is that just like designers have their fashion dolls or mannequins for design, these dolls are a mould. Children don’t have the ability to scale dolls like adults do. If you look at Bratz Dolls they have gigantic feet and massive heads and lips. That doesn’t seem to be a problem. It’s the Barbie shape that causes more problems (and more problems with adults.) The problem with all of this, is children hear adults talking this negative way.
The Malaville dolls do however have wider hips, but at the end of the day, they’re the standard doll mould.
While the dolls are manufactured in China in a small factory that prides themselves on high quality, Mala makes the clothes locally. She makes them personally and has now started hiring ladies to help her. She’s in the process of collaborating with organisations who teach women how to sew and creating job opportunities.
I can only imagine how much fun and also how difficult it must be to make teeny tiny dolls clothes.
The packaging is beautiful. As Mala is obsessed with traveling, the boxes look like suitcases. The dolls stand on a “red carpet” in the box. On the back of the box is each of their stories, their hobbies and their “selfies.” On the sides of the box, they have their own travel tags too.
The dolls retail for R300 and you can buy them online at www.malavilletoys.com or at Carne in Kloof street, Cape Town.
After a morning of playing with the dolls, my inner child was really happy!Which is your favourite?