2/23/2011

The Lies and Fraud of Michel Couture - Hayworth

A letter I received today is reproduced here in it's entirety:
 
Dear Ms. Gold
Occasionally I stalk your blog, like most collectors I find it a great place to learn more about dolls. I was SHOCKED, STUNNED, and AMAZED to see your post regarding Flavia, Grande-Duchesse, by Michel Couture.

I met Michel at a doll show (IFDC) where he had a display several years ago. What I loved about his presentation was the combination of old Hollywood glamor and a small doll. I am not the biggest fan of all the articulation that is the craze these days. Flavia wasn't beautiful, but reminded me in may ways of the original Barbie, but it was her clothes which were seemingly nice.

What I loved, was Michel, he was so charming and wanted to offer something unique. He promised very small exclusive editions, and explained in great detail how hard it was to compete with the "mega companies" who didn't produce quality.  I knew all that to be true, having followed Doug James and Christina Bougus, I knew that being "little' was hard. He talk so passionately about his dream doll, and that afternoon I wrote a check for almost a $1000, pre-ordering his entire line, and also being promised a special considerations for being a "founding" collector.

He sent me a card on embossed stationary thanking me for my support, the pleasure it was to meet me, and promised a doll in the summer. Summer came and went, then it was the fall. It seemed just when I had had enough waiting he would offer me more. He promised to send sketches, pictures, and went so far as to ask my opinions about the doll, what would I love to see. I felt as if I was part of something amazing. He supplied me with dates that never came into fruition, and many excuses, tho all seemingly legitimate. Productions issues, quality control, anything to dely sending me the doll. Finally after a year and a half, he told me he didn't have enough capitol and offered a refund. This man wanted Flavia to be the next Mdvanni, which I should have known was asked for to much, but that was inspiring. He asked me to be a "benefactress to beauty" and that he was going to create the doll in the states in resin and make the clothes himself, in editions of 10-20. I sent him another $500. He sent me a fashion which was a relabled Dressmakers and I promptly contacted my bank and the police.

The police laughed at me and told me they did not have time for "Dolly Capers". I contacted the coordinators of IFDC with no response. I contacted the Attorney Generals office in CA, and again, nothing. I finally filed a claim in small claims court, and he did not appear, thus defaulted. He still has not paid the judgment against him, or more offered me an explanation. It is not the money that bothers me, it is the lies and fraud.

I never expected to see an actual produced doll, and it bothers me in every way that Mel Odom brought this doll to you. In many ways I feel that you have done Michel the biggest favor in writing about this doll, but reporting on dolls is what you do. The DOTY is a shock....

I wasn't sure I could put all the information on your blog or what you would do with it. If you want I can mail you copies of correspondences, and the judgment, and even the fashion.

I appreciate your blog and look forward to hearing from you.

Elyse-Jacqueline


Second email from the same person:

Hi Terri,
There is a reason that people send you dolls, because consumers value your opinion. You highlight new artist, repainters, and in general give valued opinion. I often won't buy a doll till I've read your review, and know I am not the only one. You have been very non-biased about all of this which is commendable, but for me, even to show the doll and the vehicle to which you received a free doll bothers me. In some ways you have been given stolen merchandise, from Mel Odom of all people. To me it creates a sense of validity that Michel Hayworth (not his real name) needs to be credible. I can write whatever I want, maybe some people will listen, but everyone listens to you. You offered a frank analysis of the doll, which is awesome, and some opinion about the marketing, but I think had I been you, I would have returned the doll to Mel and said that there is to much drama towards this doll maker, and I would rather abstain. Or I would have waited for contact from the maker, and published a blog about the drama and the doll.

Since you are the link to major doll people like Mel Odom, have you had follow-up with him? The way the blog reads to me is that Mel Odom is advocating a new doll and by putting the doll on the blog you are advancing the sale of that doll. Regardless of press, even bad, it is still pres. If you said, don't by "x" the market would feel it, because you have authority and with authority comes responsibility. Granted by publishing stories such as mine, you are offering another side of a story, sadly I am not sure my story is all that effective?

Publish at will. I appreciate your time.
Regards,
Elyse.

At this point I, too, am wondering about the DOTY award and how it works.
 
Photo sent to me by a collector who was at the IFDC Event where Michel promoted his doll.

18 comments:

  1. wow.... I am amazed that this "doll creator" is still around, and curious on how Mel was involved into this.

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  2. Terri - Kudos to you for your extremely unbiased and accurate account of the Michel Couture dolls. Just another reason why I anxiously check your blog daily! What a great resource you are.

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  3. thanks you terri
    i always read your reviews
    they are great and i always like your honesty
    it helps me decide what dolls are good and i like your ideas of improvements

    sincelry
    ayukislove

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  4. Would it be possible for someone to contact Doll Reader and ask them the basis how dolls get selected for their award? I wonder if they received a doll similar to you, and used that as their basis, not delving any further into the doll's past.

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  5. A few points I think those of us who are watching this unfold should consider:
    1) More than one person has paid for a doll and outfits and not received them. This constitutes FRAUDULENT sales practices.

    2) The so-called designer has stolen copyrighted merchandise. First the use of Joe Tai's Ingrid sculpt, which belongs to HIS HEIRS.
    Secondly, the theft of a Dressmaker Details fashion by removing Steven's label and rebranding it.

    3) Mel Odom is NO BABE IN THE WOODS!!!! HE KNOWS the doll community like few people do.
    He has to be held accountable for his role in the fraud.

    4) NAME the scam artist. IF you were sent a product and you know the artist's name- then NAME HIM PUBLICLY. As a holder of his or her merchandise, you have the right to state who the person is who made the doll, AKA the person who has stolen money for over 3 years now.

    5) I agree that Doll Reader magazine needs to know about this situation before any info is released to the general public. I believe the person has been extremely well versed in marketing himself. Time to knock him off his self- built pedestal, don't you think?

    6) What do you plan to do with the doll you have been given or loaned? Before you return it, could it be used to prove the cases of non- receipt of identical or similar merchandise in the cases which people have been so brave to post about here?

    In closing, I would like to remind you, as a friend to a friend, that " Knowledge is power".
    NAME THE FRAUDSTER!!!
    I DON'T CARE WHO IT IS!! NAME HIM OR HER/ or THEM.
    The public needs to know so we are not taken in by this person's " Next Best Things".
    Please.
    With the greatest respect always,
    Lilly

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  6. @Lily: I'm fairly certain that his name is in several places. It's Michel Hayworth...as far as anyone knows. I've been told that he goes by other names as well including female names.
    Are you accusing Mel of fraud? Wow. That's pretty strong.
    T

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  7. Implicating Mel Odom in doll fraud is ridiculous. He may "know the doll community like few people do" but remember it is also from the point of view of a doll creator. He was fiercely dedicated to Gene Marshall, her creation, and growth, over the past 15 years. And do you think he really had the time to be patrolling doll conventions and doll boards on the internet? Just because he offers some advice to another aspiring doll creator does not mean he knows anything about this man's business practice.

    If a doll wins an award like DOTY, there is no reason it shouldn't be reviewed by Terri or any other number of doll collector/bloggers good or bad. The doll community has met Princess Flavia and Michel Hayworth, and greeted them both with nothing but vitriolic banter, and judging by the stories circulating about the way he deals with his customers, it is probably justified.

    Every once in a while, I feel like doll collectors need a reality check. Making assumptions that Mel Odom is part of a conspiracy fraud case of stolen merchandise is absurd. This wonderful blog is not investigative journalism, it is doll review. People telling Terri how she should and should not write her blog should probably go write their own.

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  8. Wow, Lilly, those are strong words. I think this Michel, might have gotten over his head, and maybe took a few people for a swindle. Quite possibly wrapped up in his own drama (check out the website!) It would be great to get his side of the story, remember ever tale has two sides!

    What Mel did was be a colleague,and put a designer forward to Terri! The doll won the DOTY, and deserved as a doll, to be review. Terri did her best to comment on the doll, and it was a frank analysis, and isn't that why we love Terri? For the woman who wrote in and all, the responsibility lies within the consumer, it's not "Mel Odom and Terri Gold Present Michel Couture's Flavia!" More like, here is a doll, check it out...
    As for intellectual property, people repaint, resell, and redesign dolls all the time and sell them on eBay. I can't believe I am gonna say this, but I think I might buy one (or buy Terri's if she sells her!) I like her, she is quirky and that can be fun!

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  9. People should understand the Doty and DAE nomination process. Manufacturers pay a fee to have their dolls considered; they are then judged by industry professionals (usually retailers and regular advertisers)...if they win, they are 'nominated' (DOTY's is an 'industry choice' until it goes up for 'people's choice' by popular vote). Hope this helps...

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  10. I just wanted to weigh in on this (again). I understand people being upset over this whole incident, but I feel that the anger is being directed at all the wrong people.
    Yesterday, I facebook freinded Mel Odom, he accepted. Now I, a lowly peon has a way to contact him. He seems incredibly nice so I'm sure if I asked him a doll making related question, he would try his best to respond. Michel asked him for a person he could contact in order to get a review of his product out to the public. Mel recommended Terri, simply as that. It sounds like he has nothing to do with this man businessly speaking.
    Terri in turn reviewed the product, very fairly I believe, pointing out the pros and cons of the entire product. While she didn't focus directly on the bad business practices of the creator, she did mention them. If someone was interested in what she what she hinted at but not directly stated, they could have easily found that information out on their own. It was Terri's integrity as a reviewer to do it, she was asked to review the product, not ask about her feelings about the creator. Yes, she could have sent the doll back, but I just think that Michel would have just sent it to another person, who might have been a little more "starstruck" and might give it a glowing review, fooling more people into giving their money to this man.
    It's similar with Doll Reader(I assume). The more I hear about how their awards are managed it seems like they were just sent a doll and judged it based off their knowledge of the doll in hand, not the sordid history behind it.
    So really, I agree you should be angry over what happened, but at the right person. Mel, Terri, and Doll Reader are victims in this too, he didn't take any of their money, but certainly a lot of people have questioned their integrity. To me it just sounds like this conman tried to use them to make himself look legitimate.

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  11. I've been following this topic on your blog recently, and have found it fascinating. I have to say, I'm quite surprised anyone would like that doll. It's clearly a Joe Tai doll knock-off, and with all due respect to Joe Tai, a really bad one.
    The outfit is okay, but far from extraordinary. The bar has been set much higher than this and at a lower price point. I visited the Hayworth website. It's a lot of sickeningly, flowery, text describing the doll's "ancestry" along with some pretty average shots of the doll's cartoon face. Is this Michael Couture a savvy con-artist or some poor deluded guy who will go to some low points (taking people's money, stealing Joe Tai's doll, false promises, etc) in a desperate attempt to bring his doll line to fruition? Who knows.

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  12. After reading all of the above I believe I must comment.
    I personally knew Michel "Hayworth" Delhiver in New York many years ago. He was a design student @ FIT.
    I can confirm that he is indeed a fraud. He has fabricated a completely false identity for himself.
    He is of African descent claiming to be of French aristocracy. His family were in actuality corrupt African politicians who departed their country with their illgotten gains to France & created new identities for themselves.
    While his business may not have operating capital, I am aware that he personally is independantely wealthy & his business very simply a "vanity" business.
    I would strongly advise anyone to think twice prior to doing any form of business with this person.

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    1. How many years ago did you know him at FIT? I think I might now the same guy but goes by a different name and claims that he is only 31.

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  13. Does anyone have a photo of michel Hayworth, I recently meet someone under a different name that claims to be the designer of the Flavia doll.

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  14. We think we know him, he is currently in Los Angeles under a different name. He is working in the fashion district. Does anyone know the real story. He is claiming that he is 31 years old and is the designer of the flavia doll.

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  15. I knew him in 1991-1992. At that time he was 28 years old. I know this to have been his correct age as I saw his identification. His legal name is Michel De Liver (in English "De Winter"). He would actually be 49 now. I can understand removing a few years from one's age, but lying by 18 years is ludicrous! However, consiider the source. This individual is a fraud, therefore, this is not too suprising.

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    Replies
    1. De Hiver not De Liver. Perhaps you have the rest wrong, too?

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