Not too long ago, 28-year-old fashion designer and doll artist Alvin Dave Ocampo graced the front page of Manila Standard. His creations have been featured both on print and television. The claim to fame? Alvin accurately turns celebrities’ fashion pieces into miniature replicas.
A frustrated fashion enthusiast in 2014, Alvin started cutting fabrics and dressing up dolls. He always knew he wanted to take a fashion design course but the idea did not sit well with Alvin’s parents years ago. Instead, he ended up finishing a Tourism Management degree with the goal of becoming a flight attendant.
The airline job turned out so elusive that Alvin decided to join the family’s construction company to start earning his keep. The clerical job allowed him to have free time for his doll dressmaking. That was something he has always wanted to do even as a kid but did not get the chance to.
“I remember sweating when I couldn’t find it under my bed,” Alvin recalled describing a sixth grade memory of that moment when his well-kept doll was confiscated at home. “I discreetly bought it with my own money so I really felt sad.”
Alvin’s interest in dolls dates back to his childhood days when gendered beliefs on toys were still prevalent. The old notion that dolls are exclusively for girls hindered him from freely playing with the toys. It was Kuya Allan, his older brother, who became Alvin’s hero.
At a time when the sight of boys playing with dolls was frowned upon, Allan turned his room into a secret play place for Alvin.
“While he was playing video games, I was in one corner happily playing with my doll,” Alvin excitedly shared in the vernacular.
I had to pause and wipe my tears during our interview as I was deeply touched by the genuine sibling love. Alvin added that even now that Allan is based in Qatar, his brother shows support and pushes him to pursue the craft.
The seemingly small act of kindness paved the way for Alvin’s success. His doll versions of local celebrities like Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach, Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray, Kathryn Bernardo, Maja Salvador, Maymay Entrata, Kisses Delavin, Lovi Poe, Rabiya Mateo, Marian Rivera, Enchong Dee, Tony Labrusca, JC Alcantara, and his personal favorite, Heart Evangelista, have gone viral on Instagram. The hard work behind each piece (a single dress could take him three weeks to finish!) earned Alvin a following on social media and opportunities started knocking on his door.
Requests for TV and print features, invitation from a media outfit to produce celebrity-inspired dolls, collaboration with the world’s most iconic doll brand for an exhibit, and inquiries from foreign clients landed on Alvin’s lap in no time. By just doing what he loved, his small projects started getting big. In fact, he is now a couturier creating gowns and dresses for real women.
More than the attention from his celebrity subjects and approval from renowned designers, Alvin said he values his parents’ trust and confidence. His mom eventually bought him a sewing machine so he could level up from hand stitching and his dad encouraging him to enroll at the Fashion Institute of the Philippines to hone his craft are displays of support he truly cherishes to this day. Alvin’s boyfriend Emerson has also become a part of the solid support system.
Asked to give advice to aspiring doll artists and fellow fashion design students, the self-made designer opened up on how he stitched his way to success. He said, “Put a premium on the quality of your work over instant popularity. While it is tempting to track the number of likes you will immediately get when you pounce on trending topics, it is more important to live up to your own standards and monitor your work’s progress.”
“You should not wait for others to believe in you. You have to trust yourself, show up, and do what you have to do,” Alvin concluded.
Follow Alvin’s creative journey on Instagram (@its_me_alvin).
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