I have been designing and making things since I was 6 years old, when my parents gave me a little sewing kit to make a felt squirrel. They had discovered a way to keep me happy for hours, days and weeks!

Many animal sewing kits later, with a wardrobe full of all the clothes I had made, and 4 grade ‘A’s at A level, I went to Bristol University to do a sensible degree in French and History of Art. I immediately started designing and making costumes for all the plays the French department put on.

I emerged from the University with my Joint Honours degree and with a passion for a world of colour and creativity that was only to grow as time passed. I spent several years designing and making costumes for theatre productions, comedies, dramas, short films, cabaret acts, carnivals, and events.

An opportunity to work as a fashion designer for Sindy doll came up at Hasbro that was to take me back to the world of toys and dolls. Intensive training in manufacturing techniques followed, along with all the requirements of successful product development for a large multinational toy company. I designed and created concepts for new features, made prototypes of garments, mock-ups of complete products and created final garment patterns for manufacture, all on the tiny scale of Sindy.

From Sindy I went on to become Product Director for Alberon Designs, a well-established collectible porcelain doll company and household name for all doll collectors in the UK. My role as Product Director was intensely varied and wonderfully rewarding. I developed hundreds of products each year, and travelled extensively. I visited Taiwan, China and Thailand regularly to work with our suppliers and appeared many times on TV in the UK, Germany and Australia to promote our dolls.

This led me, a few years later, to take up the position of Product Director for Pleasant Company International, the UK based branch of a flourishing American historical doll and publishing company whose ethos was to combine learning with play. I was in charge of product development for all doll-related merchandise, which included the clothing, accessories and furniture. The products were not only beautiful, they were made from the heart.

The rise and fall of large company fortunes took its toll, however, and with financial problems in parent-company Mattel that were unrelated to Pleasant Company, our branch was closed down.

From this point, and with the knowledge and experience I had gained, I became self-employed as a soft goods designer, maker and product developer for the toy industry. I now fulfil a variety of roles for my commissioning clients, and according to their wishes I create concepts or completed designs, carry out product development to final production, source fabrics, or make patterns and samples as required.

Through my work I have established strong connections with other design and development professionals, and can call on excellent people to work in a wide variety of media according to the needs of the job in hand.

In order to develop further my network of high-calibre associates and colleagues, I became a member of Mensa in 2004. I have also pursued many other interests, ranging from languages, international trade developments, to dance and music, which all help to inform in some way the requirements of the market and my clients.

My special area of expertise is an ability to create plush licensed characters and their clothing, many of which are featured on my website, including Doctor Who, Everything’s Rosie, the 2010 World Cup mascot and the 2012 Olympic mascot.

I will always love fabric, colour and detail, and enjoy a technical challenge. For example, though unconnected to the toy industry, it was a great privilege to make jackets for Sir Paul McCartney’s Sergeant Pepper characters for Live 8!

If you have a special project you think I may be interested in go ahead and ask me – it’s very likely I’ll say yes.







Alison Mills