August 12th, 2015

Deconstructing Vita Richards

Who is Vita Richards? A complex question because Vita exists on more than one level, as many of us do in today’s world.

Vita is, of course, a doll who is manufactured by Horsman Ltd. She was sculpted by Dorinda Balanecki and her jointing, unique in the fashion doll world, was designed by Kenneth Young in conjunction with Dorinda Balanecki. Urban® Vita burst on the fashion doll scene with an open and joyful personality at a time when many dolls were pouting and a few even going so far as to snarl! Along with her friendly face, she possessed an ability to assume human poses which delighted the collector market. Her body style allowed her to share clothing with most of the dolls on the market at the time which was a boon to long-time collectors who had amassed lots of fashions. Of course Vita also has her own extensive wardrobe. Shortly after her introduction, she was produced as “Urban® Vita Expressions”. A doll with changeable face plates which allowed her to change expression and added another dimension to her fantastic ability to pose. These additional sculpts also gave an exciting new palette to re-paint artists. Along with the face plates, Urban®Vita could also change her eye color with inset eyes which, due to being held by a small bracket inside the face plate, were easily adjustable giving even more expression to her face for collectors who loved to photograph their dolls. So on one level, this is Urban® Vita. But as true doll lovers know, this is just the vinyl and plastic that covers the real heart of the doll.

So, who IS Vita Richards?

Vita Richards was not always a style trend-setter with an enviable talent for combining the best looks of fashion through the decades. In fact, as a little girl she would have been quite surprised if she could have looked into a crystal ball and seen where she is today. Spending most of her time in t-shirts and jeans, young Vita would have never believed that she’d one day be scooting through New York’s canyons of stone, glass and steel in her Mini-Cooper named “Dolly” while making quite a name for herself in the world of high finance. But I’m jumping ahead.

Born on August 9, 1983 Vita Richards grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the only child of Valentina and Vinton Richards. She was to have a wonderful childhood filled with all the delights of adventures with friends, good times with her family, and plenty of time to dream about what she’d do when she grew up. One of her favorite ways to pass the time when it was too rainy or snowy to play outside with friends was to go up to the attic wonderland of their big Victorian house in which three generations of the Richards family had lived. The house was built by her Great-Grandfather and left to her Dad when his Father died. Over years and generations, the attic had become a treasure trove of elegant old trunks and hat boxes tied with faded ribbon ... all just waiting to be investigated and admired by a young girl. Often Vita would try on gowns and dresses, hats and gloves from generations past and dream that she lived in those days. Looking at the fine handwork and the beautiful fabrics of these pieces instilled what would be a life-long love of vintage fashion in the Vita’s heart. Even as an adult, her parents would tease her that rather than coming home to visit them, she came home to go upstairs and play in her ‘treasure boxes’!

Vita was a good student and showed a surprising aptitude for both math and languages which eventually led her to follow her parents' wishes and study International Economics in college. Her girl-hood dream of living in a city like New York came true when she was hired by the investment firm of Seward-Wilkes to be a junior executive in their international division. So at 21, Vita bid farewell to her home town and moved to the big city!

As good fortune would have it, Vita’s college roommate, Zhonti, was doing an internship with one of the major TV networks in NYC, and they set up their first apartment together. The girls had great fun shopping for furniture and blending their design ideas into a place that was both functional and fabulous. As time passed, Zhonti’s career path would take her into film production and necessitate a move to Los Angeles to be near the heart of the industry. Even though they hated to be a continent apart, it gave both young women a good excuse to practice ‘bi-costal chic’ and visit each other’s home cities as often as they could. By the age of 29 Vita had made a significant mark on the world of international finance and secured her future with Seward-Wilkes while Zhonti had produced an award-winning short and was working on her first feature-length film. Both were well on the way to great success.

That she loved to travel was fortunate because Vita’s work often took her to Europe or Asia for consultations with various financial firms. In each city she would always try to make time to search out unique shopping locations. It was a rare trip that she not come home with several vintage treasures found hidden in quaint dusty stores languishing on a
little-traveled side street in an elegant European capital. Her mixing of fashion decades always gave the outfits that Vita wore a unique style and a more sophisticated flair than most of her contemporaries. When visiting L.A., she always made a point of getting Zhonti to take her to see the fabulous clothing tucked away in the costume rooms at the studio where Zhonti was working. Vita often said that it was good they never left her alone there ... she might have given in to a touch of larceny!

While attending a very high-level convention on International Trade and Economics held in Oslo, Norway, an unexpected snow storm required a postponement of the opening meeting and gave Vita a mini-vacation. Glad that she always arrived a day early for these events, Vita decided to contact a local tourist agency and request a guide who could help her discover all the delights of Oslo and the outlying regions. Vita’s guide was named Ysla Larsen. When Ysla suggested a visit to a small museum which housed a collection of ‘bunander’ which, Vita learned, is the Norwegian name for its many various folk costumes, the two women discovered that they shared a passion for fabric arts. During their travels in the two days before the opening of the conference, Vita discovered that Ysla’s hobby was knitting and that she combined this skill with creating fabric collage using yarn and quilting along with beading and decorative hand stitching. In fact, one of Ysla’s art pieces was on display in a beautiful craft museum which they visited. A great friendship quickly developed between them and Vita promised herself a longer vacation trip to Oslo while issuing a standing invitation for Ysla to come visit her in New York. On her final day in Oslo, Ysla gave Vita a parting gift of one of her smaller art quilts. Vita was touched by this generosity and the quilt, which she cherishes, is now has hanging in her hallway to remind her of her far-away new friend.

No one has yet claimed Vita’s heart, but she has been seen about town on the arm of a screen writer who worked on Zhonti’s latest film. Of course, she’s also been seen having cocktails with an up and coming attorney from one of the city’s top firms, and the paparazzi snapped her dancing with a rather charming cousin of Ysla Larsen’s who deals in Scandinavian furniture and art. Mrs. Richards would like Vita to find a nice young man and settle down, but only time will tell if she’ll get her wish. Meantime, Vita is enjoying every fashionable minute of her life in New York City.
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