Fashion Doll Production in Chinese Factories

I recently asked Emilia about the doll factories in China as she is hunting for a quality factory for her own doll fashion line. It is really fascinating to me as a collector to read this information. 

I've been researching the topic for 3 years now and I've found factories of all sorts, most offering so poor quality there is even no point of mentioning them. Usually the companies that have their own designers and doll/clothing line don't offer their factory services to others and I've knowingly also kept away from them as copyright theft is so common in China. Usually you would send your prototype fashion, doll and patterns to a factory, they will make a sample that you pay for and then if you go to production the sample cost is reduced from your total. The problem is most factories are not willing to write any contracts (and written contracts mean very little anyway) in the sampling phase to say they won't just start making this fashion/doll in their own name. I have paid for samples from innumerable factories and found their quality appallingly ill-fitted. It's like they never even tried to make the it snuggly tailored and they either leave so much fabric in the seams the doll looks like a Michelin man; or they leave so little fabric the whole thing unravels to pieces when you put it on a doll. *sigh*

There are many factories that make resin BJDs, but again I haven't asked if they would have sculptors available as I am working on my own wax prototype. I have also contacted factories that mass produce vinyl dolls, but that is something that requires a huge initial investment as one single industrial mold costs around 40,000usd. That means small editions are pretty much impossible. What you would need to do is run enough dolls for several years to come and then give them to another factory to customize with face up, hair and so forth. Most factories also need the money (or at least half of it) in advance and you never know if you'll be getting a container full of dirty wine bottles instead of dolls (that really happened to a lamp company producing products in China and they never got they money back, so they washed the bottles and made new designer lamps from them).

Also, the production costs in China have nearly doubled every year since 2009. We always complain about our dolls getting more expensive (and me among you), but the fact is that now you cannot even produce a simple fashion with the retail price of a fully dressed FR doll in 2005. The profit margins are decreasing rapidly as China changes from a cheap production country to a highly educated consumer market. The textile industry has already moved to India and Thailand.

What comes to hiring sculptors for doll heads or bodies, I'd actually hire a real art sculptor. They have a better understanding of the human body, bones and muscle structure than most toy makers although many are working in the field. For realistic sculpts the best one I know is Yulli working for Hot Toys (responsible for unbelievably real dolls like
the Godfather) or Rainman who is behind all Elfdoll sculpts (see Hazy and Yumi) as well as many realistic action figure sculpts. My hubby also sculpts great zombies and wrinkly old men if you are into that. LOL

I think this has been a long enough rant for now (and I didn't even do into detail). But do feel free to ask more if you like - maybe it should have it's own thread though so we don't hijack this one. 

...I haven't been to the factories in person, just called and emailed with them (many factory representatives didn't even know internet exists so phone is the only option and time difference doesn't make it any easier). The main problem is finding anything, because China doesn't have phone books, Yellow Pages, or internet listings for factories and suppliers, so the only way of finding them is to know someone who knows someone who... Luckily my business partner is Chinese so she and her extended family and friends have some contacts in mainland China.  

Yes, I speak mandarin Chinese, but the dialects do make everything more complicated, especially Cantonese which really has several writing characters unknown to Mandarin, tons used in different meaning, all pronounced differently and even has different grammar and sentence structure. The reason they are even called dialects is the one-great-China policy as giving regions their own languages would soon bring forth ideas of independence, and if the Cantonese area which is the power house producing all the food in China were to become independent the country's economy would collapse.

What comes to internet the great firewall of China complicated things even further. Many sites such as wikipedia, flickr and free email servers are blocked either constantly or most of the time, and internet connections are so dodgy skype and other softwares seldom work. The things are better in Hong Kong, where I hope to move this Summer, but it does mean that I need to learn Cantonese. *sigh*

 By the way, if you wish to follow this thread on Dolly Daily, click here.


  1. Yes, I have heard the same from a few sources. One friend told him how not only did his shipment of clothing (human size) disappear, but he saw copies of them (counterfeit) appear for sale on eBay!

  2. Have been wondering when we'll start looking to ourselves (USA) for manufacturing... we seem to have written ourselves off. :( Lots of things would have to change... very interesting Terri.

    1. I would love to see that. Thanks for your comment.

  3. Hi,

    I wish to start my very own line of Indian Dolls for local market. I am looking at very good, toxic free, cheap forms. May I request you to share your insight on the subject.


    1. Shilpa: I have no information on this topic and I couldn't even begin to tell you where to look. Perhaps you could contact manufacturers of dolls via the internet. Good luck.